Ugh, sleep regressions!
It is common knowledge that babies don’t sleep well. They wake up for milk. They have inverted sleep cycles. And sometimes just want to explore the world when everyone else has their eyes closed. If you’re a parent, you know that sleep regressions are definitely not fun! However, how you approach them can be the difference between preserving your sanity and losing your marbles. I am not a pro when it comes to raising children, so I’ll leave the tips on keeping your toddler asleep to the professionals. What most parents tend to forget about is their own sanity – that’s what we’ll focus on today.
As your friendly, neighbourhood, girl-mom, I’d like to share some tips for the parents struggling to remain afloat because they just aren’t getting enough sleep. I mean, let’s face it, raising a young child isn’t the easiest on one’s mental health. Since I have successfully survived all of the sleep regressions, I thought it only fitting to impart my knowledge on any new parents out there before the terrible twos kick in and do away with your sanity.
Hide away all of the knives!
This is obviously a joke, but I cannot lie that sometimes lack of sleep really brings out the monster in anyone regardless of how docile they may be otherwise. In my case, my colleagues and husband have been the unlucky few who experienced the dragon-like diva that I can be when I’ve spent the majority of the night tossing and turning. You can already imagine how compounded the reaction is when such a night involves trying to put an active toddler back to bed.
I have not yet fully mastered the art of controlling my emotions, but it has always been important to prepare in advance for those groggy days. For me, that means having a special breakfast, giving myself something sweet after lunch or even stealing a few minutes to watch silly videos on Youtube. My treats work for me because they are things that I don’t always manage to do for myself, but for anyone else it could be as simple as saving little treats in your desk or having a ‘pick me up’ play list you can listen to as you go about your day.
Run away from the sleep regressions!
Again, don’t take it literally. As tempting as it may sound, you can’t just abandon your little one and come back for their graduation. You can’t, right? What you can do is set aside some time to escape into a world of your own – preferably when your baby is fed, changed and in the care of a capable adult. Many people say you should ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ and that is not always practical. Think about it like this; when baby is awake you can’t get anything done around the house, but when they are finally down for a nap can you really just step over the dirt on the floor and make your way to your bed for some shut eye?
Let’s be realistic here, the best you can do for yourself is to use every spare second you have to get all of the chores done, but try to allocate some of that the time to disappear into your own world even if it is just for ten minutes. I know a lot of moms who value a 10 minute bubble bath once the kids are in bed, before they call it a night. Some don’t even have that luxury so it is absolutely okay to sit on the loo and watch a YouTube video or two.
Throwing in the towel doesn’t mean that the sleep regression won…
… it just means that you are flexible! My advice to all parents dealing with toddler sleep regressions; don’t fight it, your baby is not broken. Sleep regressions happen to everyone and while they can’t be prevented, they can be fixed by setting new routines.
A lot of my mom like to stick with the same routines until the baby transitions into a toddler bed. This, however, never quite worked for Spawn. One minute she would fall asleep during a feeding session before I could even start the goodnight song. Other times we needed to go through everything a few times just so that she could fall asleep. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were blessed with longer night wakings that lasted for what felt like decades. A lot of people say that consistency is key when raising a child, but I have to disagree slightly. I am of the school of thought that flexibility and adaptability are much better tactics in the long run.
Ask for help
This is a no brainer, after all, it takes a village to raise a child! What I’m referring to isn’t the obvious “can you watch the baby while I run some errands” kind of help. No, we’re talking about professional help. I mentioned in other posts that my husband and I both suffer from trouble sleeping. Mine being anxiety induced insomnia, whereas my husband is narcoleptic. Add toddler sleep regressions and you have the perfect recipe for the zombie apocalypse!
Before being able to care for our child, we need to ensure that our mental health is in check. Sometimes requires getting extra help to deal with the side effects brought on by the lack of sleep! If you’ve been following my site for a while, you know that I preach about mental health on the regular. Nope, I don’t get paid by any psychiatrists, I just happen to be a product of their work! I am definitely not ashamed to say that sometimes I just need to see a psychologist to deal with life. My view is, rather deal with it than let it deal with you!
This is going to sound a little weird for many, but because I personally struggle with my own sleep hygiene, getting past a sleep regression means that I need to get back to square one in my sleep training cycle. Yep, you’ve figured it out, I’m not talking about training the baba. I’m talking about retraining yourself to sleep so that you aren’t still waking up in the middle of the night even after your little one has overcome the regression. Human beings are creatures of habit, so just a few weeks of night wakings can throw off your circadian rhythm. It is therefore pertinent to reestablish the basics of sleep hygiene to keep all in check.
I remember how frustrated I used to get when I’d find myself staring at the ceiling at 2am each morning. What bothered me was that I was lying next to a soundly sleeping toddler! Since she had been waking up at that time each night in the recent past, my body clock was thrown off. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t fun! In order to get back to a regular sleeping pattern, I had to get back to the basics of sleep hygiene to retrain my brain to sleep. That meant no electronics in bed. No exercise within two hours of going to bed. And obviously, no caffeine after noon each day. Whatever that looks like for you, do it and thank me later.
Take care of yourself!
Spawn has pretty much been the textbook baby when it comes to everything else. But being an overachiever like her dad, she decided to bless us with an ‘every month’ regression. My husband and I have our fair share of issues and one particularly frustrating thing we have in common is difficulty sleeping. Based on that, you can imagine how ‘happy’ we have felt heading into each developmental leap. That the the screaming, tears and sleepless nights. Taking the time to bring normalcy into our lives before, during and after, was the key to surviving the regressions. And I am certain this would be beneficial for any other parent experiencing similar struggles.