At 3:20 Elana screams again. "What's wrong?" I ask. "I'm hungry," she responds. She's never tried this one before, and at this point I am too tired to argue so I toss her a slice of wheat bread and shuffle back to bed.
At 3:48 Elana crawls in bed with me. She tosses and turns for 20 minutes then announces that my bed is too lumpy and she needs to go back to her own bed where she starts to sing "Clementine" loudly, very loudly.
At 4:35 I make a deal with God: If you help Elana to go back to sleep I will cut off my left pinkie. God doesn't believe me.
At 4:50 in the morning I begin to really hate my child. I'm having a hard time distinguishing between her face and that of Heath Ledger as The Joker. I contemplate giving her a tranquilizer, then decide that Ted wouldn't like that idea very much.
At 5:05 I get tough and firmly tell her that she has to go back to bed, or else! She calls my bluff.
At 5:45 I promise her a new princess doll in the morning if she goes back to sleep. She pretends to, but then bangs her feet on the wall connecting our rooms for emphasis.
At 7 AM she is ready to go to Target, but I was still in a slight coma with only 3.5 hours of sleep; definitely not in a state to operate heavy machinery. Aren't these sleep issues supposed to be over now? She's 3 and a half for god's sake!
I am a firm believer that each parent needs to do what is right for him/her with regards to sleep training. If co-sleeping with your child until they head to college works for you, great. However, if you are like me, and need every minute of that precious sleep, sleep training (cry-it-out) isn't a bad option either.
Ted and I sleep trained both of our children. When Elana was 9 and a half months old we reluctantly started the training after a pediatrician told us to do it before they gain "will power" at 10 months. But, with Maisy I was counting down the hours until she was 6-months old (the arbitrary age I felt would be socially appropriate). As the sun set on the 180th day of her existence, so did Maisy's option to feed in the night. With a kiss and a hug, I laid her in her bed and told her that I would see her in the morning. She nestled into bed with her lambie.
It was during our first attempt to sleep train Elana that I had an idea for a new service for parents, I call it "The Sleep Trainer." He is a 40 something male with no children, and a belly that is an obvious byproduct of a six-pack a day. During the first few days of sleep training he camps outside of the baby's room with a can of Budweiser and a Sports Illustrated or two. He monitors the cries, and is trained to know when something is really wrong, like if the baby is choking on her own spit, or she has flung herself out of the crib. Only during these dire circumstances does he intervene. The parents, on the other hand, find a restful place to sleep (the neighbor's house, a hotel, in their own room with a portable fan on high and earplugs). I would have paid a pretty penny for this guy, and I am sure I could have marketed him to my new mommy's group.
It's no new idea that parents of young children lose sleep. One study showed that parents lose an average of 6 months of sleep during the first 2 years of a child's life. By this report, Ted and I have lost more than 10 months of sleep between Elana and Maisy. And, this only accounts for the kids, what about all the pregnancy insomnia we had while we were nurturing them inside our bodies.
Sleep deprivation is torture- really, truly torture. The military has been using it for years as an intelligence gathering tool, after a few nights of no sleep I will confess to killing JFK. Not only does it make you drowsy during the drive to preschool, but it affects both your physical and mental health. Here are some of the documented side effects of not getting your beauty sleep-
- Weight gain! Researchers have found that less sleep results in a slower metabolic rate and you know what that means- that pregnancy weight gain won't be going anywhere, anytime soon.
- Increase in the aging process. You see all those fine lines and wrinkles that now give your face "character"? Well, that is just people finding a nice way to say- "You look tired (and old)." Before I had children i used to be mistaken for a good five years younger than my true age. Now, people guess somewhere a few years above my age; I try not to slap them too hard.
- Depression. Are you irritable and overly sensitive? Although you have every right to be, you are after all parenting young kids, unfortunately sleep deprivation leads to depression and depression can lead to more sleep deprivation. It's a truly heinous cycle.
So now I turn to Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I just finished reading his chapter on preschool age children and have learned that Elana's daytime tantrums are a result of her lack of night sleep (big shocker!). To curb Elana's night time waking he suggests the following:
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Well, we have been doing that for 42 months now.
- Reduce parent involvement, in other words ignore her. We have repeatedly tried this one, but Elana has the lungs of a banshee and the determination of a cheetah stocking its prey. Literally, she could wake up the neighbor's dead grandfather, not to mention Maisy.
- Lock the child in her room. This is a fabulous idea, and long ago we switched the doorknobs on Elana's door to keep her in. Lately we have found her trying to jimmy the lock with a credit card.
- Bribery- although he refers to these as "sleep rewards". Weissbluth suggests putting a piece of candy under her pillow once she falls back asleep, or rewarding her with a special pastry for breakfast if she sleeps through the night. Hmm... Maybe tonight I will offer her a pony?