“Our twins are one year old, but they are still waking up a lot at night, and it usually falls to me to deal with them. What can I do before I go out of my mind with sleep deprivation?”

Loss of sleep is a major reason why many parents of young children feel depleted; besides wearing you out, sleep deprivation robs the brain of certain substances you need for health and well-being.

Some suggestions:

  • Make sure your kids don’t have any health problems, like allergies, that could be waking them up.
  • Explore approaches that help your infants or toddlers stay asleep for longer periods or go back to sleep more easily and quickly. Different methods work for different children and families, and don’t let yourself be pressured into something that doesn’t seem good for your children and doesn’t feel right for you. To put this topic in perspective, for hundreds of thousands of years and until the last few decades, all children and their parents slept close together.
  • If you’re home with the babies, take naps during the day when they do instead of turning to housework. Your health is more important than a tidy home!
  • Negotiate with your partner to take over more of the night-time parenting. With expressed breastmilk or formula, there is no reason your partner can’t handle at least half of those duties. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, your day-time job is at least as hard and as important as your partner’s is, and the same is obviously true if you go off to work.
  • See if your partner can go to bed earlier and then get up with the kids in the morning while you get an extra hour’s sleep.
  • Adjust partners’ sleep schedules so one goes to bed earlier with the babies and then can get up with the kids in the morning when they’re typically easier to handle, while the other partner gets an extra hour’s sleep.

If you stick with it, you’ll definitely get more sleep!

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This is an article adapted from the book Mother Nurture (2002) by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Jan Hanson, M.S. and Ricki Pollycove, M.D.