Reading through magazines, there seems to be few problems that can't be solved by more sleep. Want to look younger? Sleep more. Need more energy? It's all yours providing you get a good eight hours. Trying to lose weight? Well, it's easier if your head's on the pillow before 10pm. Now, I want, need and am trying to do all of the above but two things seem to be scuppering my plans. Those two 'things' happen to be two and four years old, gorgeously cheeky, full of entertainment but not all that generous when it comes to letting their parents get an uninterrupted night of shut-eye.
Individually, they're not all that bad, but as a twosome, they're terrible. They're a veritable tag team of sleep stealing naughtiness. Getting them in to their beds is not a problem. Falling asleep is also not a issue. We have a great routine of dinner, bath, book and bed, and they're generally eyes-closed, flat out and snoring by 7pm. But around 11pm, the fun starts. Firstly, the littlest needs his mama. A cuddle and a drink and then he falls back to sleep. Then we have the 3am alarm call where he decides that he can't be in his bed alone. In the past, this meant bringing him in to our bed but we bought bunk beds from Room to Grow last week and he loves his new big bed and sharing with his brother so much that my presence is requested under his blankets instead. By 4am, we're all normally back to sleep only for the clock to tick 5.30am and my eldest to insist that it's morning and he needs breakfast RIGHT NOW or he's going to STARVE. By 6am, we've all given up and decided that the day has started.
This 'phase' started at Christmas. So yes, it's close to six months since I had a full night's sleep. And it shows. I look tired and I feel tired. While we've seen some improvement over the past week since the boys started sharing a room (the littlest is waking up less and the eldest is sleeping later), we're still far from the much coveted eight hours so looking and feeling tired is something that I'll have to live with for a touch longer. It does make the days somewhat harder but I have ways of coping and I wanted to share them with you in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. They're not tips for helping your children sleep (I think it's safe to say that I'm no expert in that area), but tips for getting you through the day when all you want to do is crawl up in a ball and hide under the nearest blanket.
1. Go outdoors! I know it's hard when the weather is dismal but everything is better and easier in the fresh air. They can tire themselves out, they're not making a huge mess at home, and you may even get a few minutes to think your own thoughts without being interrupted.
2. However, don't feel guilty if all you can manage is to drag yourself downstairs and press play on the DVD player and hand out colouring books. The days do seem longer when you don't go out but we all need a duvet day from time to time.
3. Check out the facilities at your local garden centre. Ours has a little play area alongside a fab cafe which means the boys are content for an hour while I sit and have a coffee and do the weekly shop online (another top tip).
4. If they're adamant that it's time to get up and show absolutely no signs of going back to sleep, don't fight it, just get up. Falling in and out of sleep while trying to persuade them to do the same just ends up adding to the stress and making you more tired. There's only so many times that I can stand my face being used as a road for Lightning McQueen so I find it easier to get out of bed to make the boys breakfast and then have a quick shower and a cup of tea. I feel better and am ready to get their wellies on and get them outdoors.
5. Try to understand what makes your brain tick or come alive. I adore creative home projects and am always looking for inspiration. Spending five minutes browsing Pinterest thoroughly cheers me up and fills me with ideas and enthusiasm. It gives me a little lift even when I'm exhausted.
6. Exercise! I know, I know. It's so hard when you're already shattered but I assure you, it really does work. I maybe don't stick to this tip as often as I should but every time I go out for a run, I immediately feel better and have an extra spring in my step.
7. Go to bed earlier. I've included this tip because it's sensible and proven to work. However, it's also one that I refuse to put in to practice. For me, an extra hour in the evening to work on little projects or enjoy another chapter of my book is so good for my soul that I refuse to spend it in the land of nod. I may be my own worst enemy but I don't intend to change any time soon.
8. Use social media. Twitter is a lovely, friendly and sympathetic community for a sleep-deprived parent. Not only that, there's an awful lot of funny people on there too and laughter really is invigorating.
9. This is another one that I'm probably not the best follower of. Eat better snacks. I'm the worst for reaching for the cake and biscuits when I'm tired but after the initial sugar high comes a huge low. I'm on the countdown to my summer holidays so will be making more of these healthier versions from Deliciously Ella instead.
10. Know that it will pass. One day, I don't know when, they will start to sleep better and for longer. And then you will quite possibly moan about them not getting up in time for school.
I attempted to make a time-lapse video of us (mainly my husband) putting the bunk beds together but my littlest dude discovered the camera half way through. I thought I'd share it with you anyway as it's quite funny. Excuse the fact that we are all pyjama-clad and there's a fair amount of boxer short flashing going on whenever Paul bends down.
If you have any more tips for conquering sleep deprivation, do let me know. I'd love to hear them.
This post was written in collaboration with the fabulous Room to Grow.