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Sleepless in Suburbia. Tuesday September 22, 2015

Did you sleep well last night? What does sleeping 'well' mean to you? Either way, sleep is essential for both mental and physical wellbeing. Arguably also vice versa.

A regular bedtime routine helps. My 3 year old, for example, woke in the twilight hours recently demanding his usual bedtime story. Why? Because I put him straight to bed from the car (story-less) after he nodded off one evening. But such was the power of our routine his little brain was still holding out for one!

Recently, mild psychotic symptoms returned for me during one night. On reflection, a period of intense, broken sleep (my younger son is teething) was a key factor. Lack of self-care was another.

My sleep will be interrupted for the foreseeable future (my youngest can wake up to every 2 hours nightly). So how to cope?

I can't abandon the (breastfeeding) nightshift. I have to get up each night, wake up each day, operate heavy machinery and be a responsible adult for two demanding, yet delightful, boys. One thing I can focus on is my routine. Go to bed at similar times, read a few pages of my book etc. Whatever works for me. Whatever works for you?

Another focus? Become a better 'fall-back-to-sleeper' than ever before. I have to drop off quickly after my baby settles (although when I drop off, may not be when he does!). It is a disorienting, exhausting, overwhelming and yet beautiful time in my life (and should there ever be a Sleep Olympics, I'd be capable of at least Bronze now!).

Staying off my mobile phone in the twilight hours helps. Cutting sugary bedtime treats helps. Limiting caffeine in the day helps. Not engaging with negative thoughts, difficult but helpful. Focussing on breathing in the darkness. Feeling comfortable. Stilling myself. It's not easy. It's a real life skill I think. I hope it stays with my eldest. I hope it grows in my youngest.

What aids sleeping well for you? What small thing might you change?

A Moodscope user.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Bearofliddlebrain Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 5:51am

Ah, to sleep, per chance to dream....
I've been awoken several times this last night. I finally got up, made a cuppa and have been crocheting a blanket. Husband has night terrors and shouts, screams, kicks and I got up and out of the way.
Here I am three hours and many rows of blankie later and I'm ready for bed. I know I will have to be kind and take things easy today or else I will get low.
I can hear gentle noises from Little Snoring, upstairs...I may go and try again soon.
Oh Jen, sleeplessness is so difficult and feeding babies through the night is kind to yourself and sleep during the day to catch up, if you can.
Sleepy Bear x

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:05pm

Hi Bear, sorry for such a late reply. I hope you've caught up on some sleep by now. Your husband's night wakings sound very traumatic. I know very little about them and am just wondering how much he remembers on waking. Your blanket sounds a very comforting undertaking. I tend not to sleep in the day (as it is always playtime with my three year old around!) only sometimes on a weekend if my husband is around at an opportune time can I grab a quick cat nap. Bliss when you can though, even just one of them every few weeks charges me up no end for the weeks ahead! Best wishes, Jen x

the room above the garage Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 6:17am

Ah Jen, full empathy on night disruption. Disorientating is the word. And adrenalin surges when you know you have to Swing into action before the household is woken. I could sleep for 9 hours a night and still be exhausted, I've yet to work it out. Morning Bear! Peaceful days everyone. Love ratg x.

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:12pm

Thanks RATG, yes my husband (when awake, which isn't often as he's a Grand Master Sleeper) says I'm rocket-like in my reactions to my son at night, such is the power of adrenalin hey. Could also be why he prefers mum as a pillow rather than his own bed as I'm too quick to respond, always pick him up etc?! We are getting there though...just enjoying the closeness while it lasts really. Not babies for long x

Bearofliddlebrain Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 7:07am

Mawning, RATG! x x x

Christine Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 7:40am

Jen, sometimes I have trouble getting off to sleep, I try to slow my breathing and be more aware of it, if I'm still awake after 30 mins I get up and have a drink of water, then back to bed and try again, but not force it, just relax, trouble with me is my mind wanders and in the dark I terrify myself with all these thoughts, that only come to the fore in the dark and quiet. anyway, great blog got me thinking, thanks take care, Christine

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:26pm

Thanks Christine for sharing. Yes recently I'd begun to really dislike being alone in the dark (which I was a lot with my son!) for those very reasons. Terror is something I knew well at the height of my episode. I felt powerless to stop where my thoughts went. But in recent weeks/months I've had to face my fears I think and using some of the Moodscope skills, grow my confidence. Still a way to go but getting there. Best wishes for your journey x

Petal Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 7:45am

Yes routine makes a big difference. I like the smell of eucalyptus on my pillow even when I don't have a cold! I also put on somone to listen to with a calming voice, some spiritual guidance and I'm out! Oh I remember those nights of disrupted sleep! Thanks for the tips Jen!

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:29pm

Thanks Petal for your tips as well! Although not recently, I have used Lavender in the past and enjoyed that, lovely smells are a real treat to the senses. Best wishes Jen x

Petal Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 7:52am

Bear, what a night you've had. Hope you have a relaxing day and manage to catch up. Xx

Lynne Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 7:55am

xx Lavender and imaginary black velvet box to dump running thoughts in and put a lid on. You sound like a lovely mum! When eventually a full nights sleep comes OH BLISS! I'm sure it will x

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:34pm

Hi Lynne, yes love Lavender! I had three lovely bushes of it (bought cheaply on a market) in my old garden that must have loved the position as they thrived and grew HUGE. It was more good luck than good planning! Aw, I have my moments Lynne (!) but like most Mums I just try to do my best and hope that's enough to set my sons up well for their futures. Yes my eldest sleeps 10 hours a night now so will have to see with my littlest. I've never slept well before I had children, but who knows, maybe once they grow I will become better myself with all these Moodscope tips and newly practiced skills!? Jen x

Lex Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 9:22am

Dear Jen, I think your 3 year old has a useful lesson for us all. For him sleepy-time,in part, means story-time. I also think you've picked this up beautifully in your blog: there are activities and sensory stimuli that our brain learns to interpret as: time for bed! It's a friendly ritual that can help us.
Love "Zebedee"

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:37pm

Evening Lex, yes I'm working on these rituals. My husband (an ace sleeper) is proof they work I think.I'm getting better, slowly! Jen x

Mary Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 9:32am

Camomile and spiced apple tea. I seem to drink a lot of that at 2.30am. I re-read a favourite story and cuddle one of my cats, and after an hour or so, I can go back to sleep. I've stopped worrying about it: insomnia is just one of the symptoms of the low times.

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:40pm

Hi Mary, a few months back someone suggested the Camomile tea. My first thought was ewk, tried it before, hated it. Glad I gave it another go, have it most nights now :)

Sal Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 9:46am

Really useful blog Jen, thanks. I especially liked your question 'What small thing might (I) change?' - I'll reflect on that.

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:42pm

Hi Sal, aw thanks. Hope your reflecting was useful. I am guilty of reflecting too much, helps to start small I think so as not to get overwhelmed x

Frankie Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 11:02am

Morning all!

Timely blog Jen, thank-you! We ignore the importance of sleep at our peril ... and I suffered the consequences big time when I was regularly existing on a mere 5 - 6 hours a night.

I have just heard a trailer for Radio 3's world premiere of Max Richter's 8 hour epic piece sleep this Saturday starting at midnight ...

Just a thought


Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:44pm

Evening Frankie, yes although I know of people who say 5/6 is all they need. We are all so different. Yes I've heard of that music, will look into it again. Thanks x

Brum Mum Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 11:03am

Jen, lots of good tips. I vaguely remember that stage of parenthood, mine are now 7 and 10. Sleeplessness and post natal depression were not fun.....but it does get better. My kids are not brilliant at going to bed but once there they sleep through. There is light at the end of the tunnel.....and not using my iPad in bed is my personal rule which helps a lot.

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:48pm

Thanks BM, my eldest goes to sleep well and generally is a ten hours a night lad now. Will see with my youngest! Generally, I expect very little sleep each night and anything above that a bonus! Plus if I'm sensible at the moment my body seems to be adapting ok regardless most days (apart from the blip mentioned those few weeks back but have learnt from that). Love to your family x

the room above the garage Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 11:09am

The reply button isn't always working for me either. Just a blip. As we see our lows! Lex, thank you for zebedee. Made me laugh. Also, on a challenging morning regards parenting, it sent me back to when life was straight and has given me a fresh aim. Onwards, onwards, onwards, love ratg x.

The Gardener Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 11:48am

Dear Jen - I could fill a book-shop with all the literature I have about beating insomnia. I came out of hospital after a 'manic' attack - and was prescribed Mogadon for a week. Came out of that with the hangover of the century, on a 'low', naturally, and having to catch up and deal with three young boys. My husband sleeps well (I'm lucky, comparing notes with other 'carers') but if he wakes in the night he thinks he has not slept at all and demands pills, any pills. 4 a.m is worst time to wake, enough sleep to stop immediate falling back to sleep, and due to body clock it's 'worry' time. (If you let it). Too early to get up and work - but computers never sleep. I have one fool-proof sleep inducer. Lectures. Give me a warm, darkened hall and the whirr of a projector and I'm off - but you can't put that in a pill. I've spent a fortune sleeping in the cinema - I even slept through the musical 'Ipi Tombi' no mean feat. Memories of child-feeding, Jen - mother and child both asleep in a happy heap. I would never accept 'company' when breast-feeding, not prudish, just that glorious 20 plus minutes, comfortable chair, feet up, warm young bundle and a good book. Those were the days, enjoy.

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:55pm

Hi, thanks for sharing your experiences here, I suppose it is some comfort that he can sleep well. Yes, being alone with my son in the early days was at times terror inducing. Makes time all the more special now. The softness of his hair under my chin when I hold him, the smell of his skin under my nose. It's an exhausting time but I know how lucky I am. 'Warm young bundle' - yes very much so. Even on cold days both my boys are always lovely and warm! I know in the future I will look back and miss these times no matter the sleeplessness. Thanks G x

The Gardener Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 11:51am

Add on to Mary - worrying about insomnia just provokes worse insomnia - the times I've said 'I MUST sleep' long drive next day, important decisions, overload situation - they all get worse.

The Gardener Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 1:11pm

Nothing to do with today's blog - but something I HAVE to share. Just listened to Radio 4 You and Yours, on can you learn to be happy (following the Dalai Lama announcement of courses). The experts said that CBT was a proven aid to help with happiness/contentment. It's only a few weeks since I started writing blogs, and only a few days since I started answering. There is a bit of 'open-heart' surgery, to be sure, and some I find a bit esoteric. But instead of thinking 'Oh blast, I've got to do the kitchen' I mull over the latest responses while washing up. I also broke a glass, so, perhaps, less mulling (or, perhaps, it was the small glass of wine I allow myself on 'respite' days).

Bearofliddlebrain Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 5:39pm

Hi Gardener, I just came in to the kitchen at the near end of You and Yours and tried to email them about Moodscope and Moodnudges...but was too late. :(

Mind the bits of glass in the bottom of the bowl...but hope you enjoyed the relaxing glass of vino need treats on your respite days, whilst you are going through so much every minute of every other day.

Bear x

Jen Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 8:57pm

Thanks again all, really appreciate the reminders and insights. Wishing you all a calm and restful evening. Love Jen x

Anonymous Tue, Sep 22nd 2015 @ 9:09pm

i've got into a bad habit, i need to listen to music or a podcast etc every night now to help me off to sleep. i can't lie with my racing mind. i'll sleep until maybe 4 or 5 and wake up on cue. get back to sleep and then wake an hr before my alarm. i'll have to put the radio on low as again i can't lie with my brooding thoughts in silence. but i'm also too tired to get up and do something that hr earlier.
the one thing i am trying to do is get to bed a little earlier. maybe only half and hr or 15mins even but it might let me get that little bit extra sleep

Frankie Wed, Sep 23rd 2015 @ 12:33am

Hi Anonymous 9:09pm;
Often I find it easier to sleep with the radio on (sometimes music, sometimes speech) and I think that's ok. There is no right or wrong way - just whatever works for you ...
It takes time to change a bad habit so good luck with getting to bed a little earlier ...

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