Sleep deprivation comes with the territory when you’re a mum. How many types of sleepless nights have you experienced from the list below?
1) The sick child sleepless night
Sickness always seems to strike at the worst possible time – just hours before you have a busy day at work or when you’re supposed to leave early for a family holiday. But you know it’s not your little one’s fault so you muster the energy to clean up the vomit or diarrhoea, change their pyjamas and give them some medicine and water.
Often you can’t go back to sleep because their temperature is really high and you need to monitor them, keep them hydrated and make a dash for the hospital if things don’t improve. As bad as other nights can be, these types of sleepless nights are by far the worst ones you can have.
2) The sleep-is-not-going-to-happen sleepless night
Of course babies wake up to eat when they’re infants, but usually they go back to sleep. However there are some nights when babies seem to wake up for a feed and want to play. And on these nights it doesn’t matter how much you try, your child has no intention of going back to sleep.
They might be extra hungry because they’re going through a growth spurt, or out of sorts after immunisations or because of teething. You feed them, offer the dummy, rock them, sing to them, change their nappy and even put them in your bed. You try literally everything but nothing works. So you just give up and turn on Nick Jnr or the Disney Channel and hope that they’ll fall asleep on the couch. But they don’t and you realise you’re now up for the day and have the theme song from Doc McStuffins stuck in your head.
3) The mummy-I-had-a-nightmare sleepless night
It’s an instant wake up when you hear your child shrieking in their bedroom, and it makes you instinctually sprint down the hallway prepared to confront a robber, a murderer or anything to protect your child – but it turns out to be just a bad dream. Once you’ve comforted your hysterical child who is mumbling incoherent things about mean monsters, you’re so wide awake from the adrenaline racing through you, it’s impossible to go back to sleep.
If your little one asks to get into bed with you, you’re also likely to be kept awake by their movements or tendency to sleep on top of you. The only good thing about being awake is that if gives you time to plot your revenge against the person who thought it was a good idea to show your child the scary movie or book that caused their nightmare.
4) The anxiety-insomnia sleepless night
On nights like this, it’s inevitable that your child will be sleeping perfectly and you can’t. Every worry you have is swirling around in your head and then it gets so late you switch to worrying about how tired you’ll be the next day. You make a mental to do list that includes every task you need to do for the next decade, but you can't remember any of these things the next morning because you're too exhausted.
5) The creative project sleepless night
This type of all-nighter usually happens when you've promised your child you'll make them a complicated costume or cake and hugely underestimated the time it would take, and find yourself scrambling to complete it in the wee hours of the morning on the day it's needed. Or maybe you're up late trying to recover a deleted homework assignment on the family computer with a distraught child. You may not go to bed at all. And while you’re working, you'll remind yourself that you actually used to stay up all night by choice in your early twenties and wonder how you did it and why the hell you ever thought it was fun.
6) The bedwetting sleepless night
This type of night also involves changing sheets and pyjamas. It’s bound to happen when you’ve moved into the second phase of toilet training, when your child is accident free during the day, but isn’t fully trained at night. Sometimes you think about putting your toddler in a pull-up pants before you go to bed, but either you forget or decide it will be okay and you can risk it. At best, you’ll have a plastic mattress protector and minimal mess. At worst you’ll find yourself flipping the mattress at 4am.
I will admit to having been so tired on some nights that I have laid a towel down on the wet spot and put my daughter back to bed (after a quick underwear change). This has only happened once or twice when it’s very close to morning and I really can’t be bothered trying to find the right size fitted sheet in the messy linen cupboard.
7) The butterfly effect sleepless night
These types of sleepless nights are incredibly frustrating. They go something like this: the baby wakes up crying for a feed, which startles the toddler. The toddler needs to be resettled. Then the baby wakes up again and so on, and so on. These nights are more likely to happen when kids share a room and you end up playing musical beds where the baby moves into the bedroom with Mum while Dad goes into the spare room. Everyone moves around, but nobody really goes back to sleep.
Sometimes it isn’t the kids that get woken up – it’s you. Dad may have promised to do the middle of the night bottle feed so Mum can sleep, but it’s 3am and he’s shuffling around the kitchen and not making the bottle fast enough and the baby’s cries are getting louder and you’re worried the toddler is going to wake up and it’s just easier to get up and take over. Because you’ll do it faster and you’ve been woken up by all the noise anyway.
8) The I-have-a-teenager sleepless night
My children aren’t old enough for me to have gone through this yet, but I’ve heard parents of older children say they lost sleep when their kids started going out and staying out late. This type of sleepless night is a variation on number 4 except it involves staying up waiting for a call from the teenager to be picked up so they don’t have to catch public transport, and then driving in your slippers to get them (and several of their friends).
Depending on what type of your night your teenager has had, there may also be vomit in this scenario as well. However by this time, you’ll probably have already experienced the other 7 types of sleepless nights and it won’t phase you at all.
#4 is so relatable! "He's asleep so I should be asleep, why can't I sleep? If I don't sleep I'll be a wreck in the morning. If I'm a wreck in the morning he won't get the attention he deserves and he'll grow up feeling unloved and I'll have to pay for the therapy he needs to cope so he can come off the drugs and it'll all be because I didn't get any sleep tonight!!!"
(Yes, I actually did suffer this train of thought while Little C slept peacefully through the night)