Working parents of crap sleepers. How do you do it???

(62 Posts)
DrMcDreamysWife Mon 05-Aug-13 21:31:09

Dd has been a crap sleeper forever, never slept through, never got close. She is now 11 months and we occasionally get a 4 hour stint. Last night she woke every 2 hours.

I'm back to work next week. I'm dreading it, for all the obvious reasons of leaving dd at nursery for first time etc,

But seriously how do you work on so little sleep?!

flipflopson5thavenue Tue 06-Aug-13 01:25:13

Interested to see what people say. DS will be 13 mo when I go back to work in a few weeks. Never slept through. Wakes every few hours and needs boob to go back to sleep otherwise he screams. Also takes 1.5hrs to get him to sleep at bedtime so not getting much of an evening at the moment either. At nursery he'll get one nap per day. Last time he skipped his second nap - he woke up every 1hr at night. All. Night. Long.

gaelicsheep Tue 06-Aug-13 01:33:00

Honestly? With difficulty. DD was a dreadful sleeper until very recently. I'd be awake 4 or 5 times a night with her waking up screaming. DH doesn't "do" night time, never has, although I'm the one working full time. I don't resent it though, I rather like having the main parenting role at night - it makes up for everything I miss during the day, and it's frankly much more important than work anyway. It won't last forever and you'll never have the time back again, so you may as well embrace it and try and enjoy the cuddles.

Right now DD is much better and it's me who's the crap sleeper.

takeaway2 Tue 06-Aug-13 01:37:48

Co-sleep. Both mine didn't sleep through till past 2 years. DS is now 5.5 and dd nearly 3...! I went back ft at 6 months each time.

gaelicsheep Tue 06-Aug-13 01:39:37

Yes, that is a very good point. While we didn't co-sleep full time (bed too small!) I did resort to bringing both of mine into bed on many many occasions. Most nights with DD for at least some of the night. It didn't make for a restful sleep for me (bed too small, as I said) but it was more restful than the constant up and downs.

redspottydress Tue 06-Aug-13 01:41:59

My twins were terrible sleepers. The only way for us was to co-sleep.. it still took it's toll health wise.

trolleycoin Tue 06-Aug-13 01:45:52

By falling asleep in a toilet cubicle

gaelicsheep Tue 06-Aug-13 01:46:38

Ha, yes that has been known here too!

Susieloo Tue 06-Aug-13 01:50:08

Ds is 13 months and still wakes at least twice with morning being anytime from 4 onwards and I went back to work in April-the only advice I can give is to don't leave it too long until you take a week or even a long weekend or some time off-I'm on leave this week and was really struggling the last two to four weeks with the lack of sleep and work commitments-I also had to stop multi tasking and slow down a bit to compensate for my brain not working at full capacity - I called someone by the wrong name all the way through a meetingblush. On really tough mornings I would try and find some positives to wanting to get out of bed and get moving-i.e and I know it sounds trivial but I would sometimes think 'there will have coffee at work-I can drink it in peace.

Fwiw and i mean on an emotional level rather than physically - the anticipation of going back to work was worse than the reality.

Good luck!!

FixItUpChappie Tue 06-Aug-13 03:27:25

DS1 didn't start consistently sleeping through until 2.5 yrs ( even now really it's unpredictable). We just gave up on what we were 'supposed' to do and let him sleep with us if he wouldn't settle back to sleep or I'd put the couch cushions on his floor and sleep in his room (because he rolls around and drives us nuts in our bed).

take lots of showers and try to just get on with it. I would also take the occasional day off and send him to daycare so I could rest.

I empathize...the tiredness just settles into your bones at times.

ToffeePenny Tue 06-Aug-13 03:35:53

Foods containing sugar

repeat as required to enable 'normal' ability to function until too fat then

Diet coke
lots of diet coke

ipswichwitch Tue 06-Aug-13 03:40:54

Ds is 22 months and at the min waking every 2 hours (possibly teething related). We did have a spell where he slept through a couple of months ago, when we stupidly thought maybe his sleep issues were finally sorted (hollow laugh).
Trouble is, he only wants me at night and gets hysterical if DH tries to settle him, which is weird as he's so clingy for his dad through the day. I just look and feel like death since I'm pregnant and can't even mainline on coffee to get through the day (sob!)

Want2bSupermum Tue 06-Aug-13 03:52:50

Honestly. I went back much earlier than the times you are talking about. I got DS and DD both on strict schedules of 4hr feeds from when they hit 12lbs. I didn't bf for medical reasons for DD and through choice with DS (it made me crazy tired and very hormonal). At around 14/15 wks both of mine were sleeping through the night (11pm-6am).

If the babies are teething (DD is 24 months and DS is 5 months) I give them calpol to get them to sleep. Nothing else cuts the mustard.

Drink coffee - I now understand why the coffee market is so huge.

CountryMama Tue 06-Aug-13 04:04:13

I think you just have to be super human and get on with it somedays. My ds ( I have 3 under 4 ) was waking 10 times a night at 1 when I was 9 months pregnant and working. I ended up resorting to bottles of milk and co sleeping but it was not great. I asked my health visitor for advice and read alot of articles. But to be honest I think often you just have to float through the day, knowing that it will improve eventually. Now I'm not working but on maternity leave I get up around 4 times a night for one or other of the children. I sometimes nap in the day if I can but I always go to bed as soon as I can in the evenings - always before 9.

MillionPramMiles Tue 06-Aug-13 14:17:25

It's hard but to be honest I actually find it easier to go to work after a disturbed night than stay at home and look after a grisly toddler. If you're used to not getting much rest in the day when you're at home then it might not feel any harder.

Dp and I tried hard to get dd to sleep better before I returned to work (she now sleeps through around 50% of the time. The other 50% she wakes a few times but we only go in once or twice). We also take it in turns to do the night shift - would recommend that.

If you reach the point where it's affecting your performance at work (and assuming you need to keep your job) that might be a sign you need to try more formal sleep training.

flipflopson5thavenue Tue 06-Aug-13 15:08:52

also, and this has happened to my cousin and an NCT friend, so its not just an urban myth... both their bad sleepers started sleeping better once they went back to work. It all just sort of clicked. The babies were getting older, and eating more and doing more during the day and were just plain exhausted enough. We live in hope....

Mine didn't sleep through til 14mo and 19mo. I went back to work 3 days a week when each was 6mo. I drank loads of sugary tea and ate lots of biscuits.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Tue 06-Aug-13 15:14:33

It's less tiring being at work than at home with kids. At least you get some head space. I went back at 13 weeks ( not uk so v short mat leave) was dreading it as dd such a bad sleeper. She still is but weirdly my work days are the least tiring days.

blueshoes Tue 06-Aug-13 16:08:34

Co-sleeping with bf-ing to sleep. The rule is I do everything I can to get baby to sleep without getting out of bed. If the baby is inconsolable, then dh gets out of bed to intervene.

It is tiring at night but at work, perfectly functional. Don't assume you will be tired. It was when my dc started sleeping reliably through the night that I was more tired if I was woken up at night. If I was woken up lots (sometimes a few times an hour), my body was somehow able to cope better with night wakings. The theory is that you never go into deep sleep so rousings are less disruptive.

DrMcDreamysWife Tue 06-Aug-13 19:03:33

Some reassuring reads here. I love the idea she will just know I'm working and it suddenly clicks. Sugary tea and biscuits will hopefully help. And yes there is a possibility that work will seem easier than looking after a fearless endlessly risk taking active nearly toddler. Although I am a secondary school teacher so 30 teenagers surely can't be easier??!

I'm still bf and we she does part of the night in the cot and part co-sleeping. I don't find it easy to cosleep anymore. We did it for months but she's really wriggly now. Usually I give in around four and she snuggles in/remains attached to boob till half six.

I am sort of used to the lack of sleep and we havr fairly busy days but its just hard to imagine working I guess!

TheDoctrineOfAllan Tue 06-Aug-13 19:10:01

Take it in turns.

One lie in each at the weekend. Switch over at 5:30am or so.

Proper extra bed in bad sleeper's room so whoever has the turn goes in there from the first cry so the other hopefully is less disturbed.

MrsOakenshield Tue 06-Aug-13 19:29:01

I have to take issue with the poster who says, rather blythly, work isn't the most important thing. It may not be to you, but it is to your employer and your colleagues. If you go back to work you have a responsibility to them too - why should you employer pay you otherwise? Why should your colleagues have pick up the slack?

We sleep trained DD from quite an early age - I cannot function as a parent or a worker on lack of sleep. Not fair to my colleagues, not fair to my child.

Please get your DP involved. The amount of women I read about whose partners don't seem to get that once the mother starts back at work, they have to get involved a bit more. Totally unfair otherwise.

Andcake Tue 06-Aug-13 20:09:00

Co-slept. We took the side off the to and attached it to my side of bed so we have more room. He sleeps better I sleep better and tbh I love being able to spend time cuddling him at night. I couldn't bare to do cc etc we tried put up put down - no joy 2 hours later all I had was a sore back!

I'm a secondary school teacher too OP. Some mornings I'd have been up at 4.45 for the day and go and teach a double A2 lesson. It still is less demanding and relentless, I'd say! grin

Pixielady83 Tue 06-Aug-13 20:39:00

I sympathise, I was a complete zombie when I went back to work because it coincided with dd staying awake for hours in the middle of the night struggling with teething sad

We have had 3 stretches of DD sleeping through- 4-9mths, followed by a year of bad sleep due to teething, then 18-25 months, followed by 6mths of anxiety related night wakings (triggered by move to bed). At 2.5 yrs she is now sleeping through most of the time. Can't emphasize enough to get DP involved as much as possible in managing night wakings. I used to do it all, but after getting pg DP started to do more and DD immediately became more settled. I don't know if it is an age thing as well though, as there have been times in the past when she became catatonic at DP going to her. Other than that, coffee and very early nights - I used to go to bed as soon as I had put DD down and loaded the dishwasher! good luck smile

BikeRunSki Tue 06-Aug-13 20:42:21

Red Bull as I am allergic to coffee.
Napping at lunchtime (me, not DD).
Going to bed extremely early.
I have been known to look at emails in the middle of the night as I was up anyway.

Cravingdairy Tue 06-Aug-13 20:46:53

My boss is a mum, that helps a lot! Don't expect too much of yourself at first - you don't want to burn out.

hermioneweasley Tue 06-Aug-13 20:48:11

I was pretty crap at work. I relied on coffee and twixes

VinegarDrinker Tue 06-Aug-13 20:52:48


I went back to a high stress job with night shifts, weekends and 13 hour days when DS was 6m and still feeding at least 3x overnight. He didn't get near sleeping through til 16 months. Looking back I have no idea how I coped.

gaelicsheep Tue 06-Aug-13 22:31:09

I have to take issue with MrsOakenshield who rather arrogantly presumes that just because I don't think work is or should be the most important thing in anyone's life, I would be happy to let my colleagues down. Perhaps MrsOakenshield would let people down just because she personally doesn't value what she's doing, I would not and do not.

My meaning was that no one should allow themselves to regret the sleeping problems of their LO, but should find a way to be positive about it if at all possible. It isn't forever and those midnight cuddles can be the most precious of all.

Want2bSupermum Wed 07-Aug-13 03:40:47

I think MrsOakenshield makes a very good point about sharing responsibilities. In our house we talk about who has what going on. Last week DH was up late neigoiating a large order so I was doing the heavy lifting. This week I am in training while attending to my clients so it is now 10.30pm and I have just finished my work for the day. I will be at work for 7am tomorrow and expect an equally long days tomorrow and Thursday. DH is up with DS this week.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Wed 07-Aug-13 05:04:05

Agree. I don't 'do' men who don't 'do' nights. Dh is just as capable of dealing with night wakings as me. Typically we split it- I deal with dd and he deals with ds, but as supermum says, if one of us is having a crazy week, the other one picks up the night stuff.

LoveBeingItsABoy Wed 07-Aug-13 05:17:16

As my dh has a job that could kill him or members of the public if he did not have enough sleep, with prison being a definiate if there were an incident. I deal with my bad sleepers and have a strong sense of responsibility for my obligations as an employee.

I have found varies things that make me feel better: certain drinks, eating food earlier helps lots too (although I don't want to), sleeping at the weekend if possible. Also havi g something nice to do at the weekends to give you something to look forward too. Going to bed earlier (not that I really have a choice!) preparation the night before for the next day.

At times it will be tough but you can get tgrough it.

LoveBeingItsABoy Wed 07-Aug-13 05:20:28

Also sometimes there are ways to get them to sleep that you wouldn't choose but allow you too sleep, ie your bed, the soda and for some reason my baby would sleep in the travel cot in the living room so we would often transfer there for the night.

lotsofcheese Wed 07-Aug-13 05:29:27

I'm an NHS worker & have struggled with staying awake at work & on the drive home. After trying every trick in the book eg CC we finally relented & bought DS into bed. He starts off in his own bed but wanders through at some point. We all get more sleep.

Sleep is the bottom line - do what you need to do to be able to function.

redwellybluewelly Wed 07-Aug-13 06:39:28

Our DC1 suffered major brain damage at birth and a side effect of that is poor sleep - awake for long stretches of night and when she did fall asleep it laated just 45minutes before she needed resettling.

We co-slept.

I went back to a new job when she was just six months old, I was utterly exhausted. I couldn't even touch caffeine as it made her sick! Her sleeping nearly destroyed our marriage, we were both so completely exhausted and never got anytime off.

Keep weekends for catching up on sleep, one lie in each. Don't overdo it at the weekend, save it for resting, get a cleaner!

The solution was time. Developmentally she just wasn't ready and at 2yo we got in a sleep psychologist who showd us a gradual withdrawal method and a routine (morning and afternoon) tighter than a knats arse. Also saw an improvement when she ate very well in a day, plenty of carbs before bed!

WhisperingShadow Wed 07-Aug-13 06:50:39

DD 20 months has sleep apnea. Been back for 7 months. She is up several times a night, then from 0430-0500.

This morning I feel sick and have a mega headache. I find it far harder going to work. I have 5 hours of driving to another office tomorrow, do on call, and work all my hours in 4 days. I am exhausted and am not having fun.

EMS23 Wed 07-Aug-13 07:04:56

I rely on frequent fresh air breaks, lists so I don't forget stuff and lots of snacks throughout the day.

Daisy17 Wed 07-Aug-13 07:10:40

I second those posters who say that a day at work after a disturbed night is better than a day looking after a grumpy baby/toddler, and I'm a teacher too! I found maternity leave much harder because the nights and days were the same and it just felt so relentless. My colleagues would say "how do you do it AND work as well?" and I used to say that escaping to work was what made it possible! Sounds callous, but after a long night it was a relief to hand DS over to people who would look after him for me and go and talk to adults and bustle about doing a job I knew I was good at! It breaks the emotional intensity which helps enormously. Best of luck!

Daisy17 Wed 07-Aug-13 07:12:17

I also ate a lot, got quite fat, and now he's sleeping through am managing to gradually shed it. Not a bad price for sanity!

BikeRunSki Wed 07-Aug-13 07:32:15

Is it worth trying to address the cause of the sleeping problems? DD did not slee more than 3 or 4 hours for 18 months ; I returned to work when whevwad 14 months. We tried cranial osteopathy, after one session she was keeping better and after 3 she wad sleeping 7 pm - 6.30 am and has done fairly consistently since.

bigkidsdidit Wed 07-Aug-13 08:19:53

I night weaned and did gentle sleep training so DS slept all night before I went back. I need to concentrate at work and it would have been impossibly hard otherwise.

peteypiranha Wed 07-Aug-13 08:24:41

Energy drinks. I get up in morning and feel like death then have one energy drink and I can take on the world. I feel like I could run the London Marathon and cant sit still! Probably not that healthy, but when the children are young a neccessary evil. Of course dh should be supporting you to, and get him on the energy drinks. wink

sameoldIggi Wed 07-Aug-13 08:37:01

It can be hard to get the fathers fully on board when you've been dealing with more during your maternity leave - it does seem to set a pattern. Especially if bf or co-sleeping, it can seem at night that no-one but mummy will do hmm
Not sure how to bring dh more into our routine while ds is still such a milk monster at night.

peteypiranha Wed 07-Aug-13 08:42:44

DH did everything from day 1 so we didnt get in to bad habits. He did it with dc1 by getting up everytime I did. Its more tiring but she never got used to just me so we were 100% the same, and interchangeable

Meglet Wed 07-Aug-13 08:48:47

Badly. The DC's were good sleepers as babies and young toddlers, but it all went downhill when they reached about 3.

I'm not sure I do cope, I'm quite foul tempered and forgetful. The dyson hasn't been picked up recently and my home admin pile is huge. I wing it at work and don't take on extra work.

I can't co-sleep as I'm weird and their breathing disturbs me. My GP let's me have the odd diazepam so I can relax and get an early night at weekends, although I still wake when they do.

sameoldIggi Wed 07-Aug-13 09:03:32

Peter you're just not interchangeable if you are bfeeding though.

redwellybluewelly Wed 07-Aug-13 10:57:11

I night weaned DC1 at 19months, and again after a rough illness at 23months. That time I had the backing of medical staff to do it and DH had to step in. Until then he got up anytime she woke from 6 and dealt with her until midnight while I slept.

So we dealt with night weaning first, then the co sleeping connection, I was pregnant and so we alternated nights and by the time I was five months she was staying in her own bed almost all night, DH did all the night shifts and my productivity at work shot up despite being heavily pregnant!

Chesterado Wed 07-Aug-13 11:17:41

You basically need to avoid getting totally exhausted and run down. make life as easy as possible so you can focus on work at work and the children at home.

Things that worked for us were taking turns so we were only up every other night, lies in and catching up on sleep at weekends. Get the food shopping delivered and if you can stretch to a cleaner do. Try ad stay healthy take vitamins and berocca and eat well.
In terms of tackling the sleep issue itself co sleeping helped at first and ultimately putting her into a bed rather than a cot seemed to help, but she was quite a lot older at that stage...
I also found myself going to random work conferences and events simply because it involved a night in a hotel every now and then

frogwatcher42 Wed 07-Aug-13 11:21:42

Eat loads and lots of sugar.
Lots of caffeine.
Take turns to get two or three hours good sleep a night.
Take turns to get sleep at the weekend during the day while dh/dw looks after the dc.
Remember it will only last a few years.

peteypiranha Wed 07-Aug-13 11:35:04

I breastfedfor a year with dc2 but dh still did loads, and could always put some expressed milk in a bottle. He also did nappies and all the out of bed moving around stuff. I just got to lay there and feed. I had it easier tbh.

comixminx Thu 08-Aug-13 08:40:59

I asked this same question on my journal, and a couple of insomniac (non-parent) friends had useful tips:
* Strong smelling pulse point perfume at work. I'm pretty sure I used to use this one or similar -- the smell sort of crawls up your nose and stops you sleeping.
* A fragrant and fancy black tea, without sugar, and topped up constantly all day. This constant mild caffeine drip means you can still break out a strong tea with sugar/proper coffee when needed and still notice it. If you drink strong all the time, you just acclimatize.
* Power nap. Fifteen to twenty minutes only, and somewhere safe where you are not in the slightest bit worried about dropping off.
* Power walk. Get natural light on your head, walk fast round the block. Will not work if mizzling, you just get tireder.
* Doughnuts or Flapjacks. Buy "for colleagues" and eat three yourself. Anything with a big hit of fat and a strong flavour should do the trick (samosas, bhajis, English breakfast sandwiches, Eccles cakes).
* Eat citrus fruit. Slowly. Sharper the better.
* Gossip with colleague about pretty much anything. The social stimulation jolts you awake.

* Daylight spectrum lighting. I made myself a S.A.D. lamp out of an ordinary desk light and a daylight spectrum bulb - total cost was less than a tenner. It can really help with staying awake.
* I don't hold myself to my usual standards when I feel like a zombie. As long as I get anything that has to be done, done - and don't fall asleep at my desk/burst into tears (sadly a side-effect for me of being 'over tired') - it's a win. Anything else is a bonus.

My own suggestions / ways of coping included:
* exercise - I cycle to & from work and I know that helps.
* having a laugh - fun lunchtimes with nice colleagues does help
* getting an early night - if at all possible, ho ho
* having the odd day off here and there
* looking for unexciting but non-brain-challenging tasks to do at work - things that need you to plough through things rather than thinking hard (at the level of filing)

Hope some of this is useful!

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Thu 08-Aug-13 12:48:36

It's weird how different things work for different people- I found a carb/sugar heavy diet made me even tireder. My solution was lots of coffee, no midday carbs and a very light diet generally.

comixminx Thu 08-Aug-13 12:59:12

Yeah, RichMan: I don't go for that bit of my friend's advice personally, but I guess it works for her! I do eat cakes / croissant / desserts at work in any case just because I like them, but I do find that they weigh me down and make me a bit tireder on the days when I'm already tired, in which case fruit works better for me.

blossombath Thu 08-Aug-13 13:11:43

High sugar and caffeine diet seems to make me more prone to mistakes, perhaps its the blood sugar fluctuations. So I try to have high protein breakfast and snacks like cheese with fruit instead of pure chocolate. Keeps my mood more stable, saves chocolate and coffee for the really bad days....

Agree that work can be easier than toddler chasing when exhausted, bur on days which require me to be creative or focus on details I try to take fresh air breaks when i listen to upbeat music

Lower standards at home and accept help wherever you can.

And yy a thousand times to taking turns for a lie in on weekends

CeilingThomas Thu 08-Aug-13 14:52:29

My son is 17months old and for the first 5-6 months was a dream sleeper, 7pm-7am every night with 10min for feeds until he dropped them at around 4-5 months then slept through.

Since August of last year he has got progressively worse, so that he now wakes 3-4 times a night (every 3hrs on average from going to bed to waking in the morning). He's just been referred to a sleep clinic with possible sleep apnoea due to large adenoids/tonsils though, so it's not behavioural wakings and all the usual meds haven't made a blind bit of difference. (but I knew it wasn't behavioural anyway because he pushes us away and points to his cot when we do go in when he cries).

Anyway, until we get the diagnosis and he has the op to fix it, our strategies are similar to the ones already mentioned. I cannot stress the importance of a weekend lie in and if possible on your 'get-up day', try to get a nap yourself in the afternoon whilst your OH looks after the kids. Because our DS sleeps so badly he has 2-2.5 hr naps during the day, we go to bed then as well! Grab sleep when you can, everything else can wait.

Caffeine, regular small meals so your blood sugar is even, and let people know that you're really tired. I found that once my colleagues realised I haven't slept for more than 3-4 hrs in a row since Christmas they were a lot more forgiving of my many cock ups.

good luck!

WhisperingShadow Thu 08-Aug-13 20:48:14

Ceiling, we are seeing a surgeon in a few weeks for the same thing. But I wanted an oxygen trace done first. Just finished work and I feel like crying I am so tired. I'm back on Red Bull but I think they make things worse.

DragonsAreReal Thu 08-Aug-13 20:54:00

I would stock up on allergy medicine... and every now and again give them a dose and get a good 6hrs sleep.

<disclaimer I have never done this and both mine were bottle fed and sleeping 10 till 6 by 6 weeks (apart from the stage ds went through only sleeping in his bouncy chair or on me which killed me and I wasn't back to work then)>

redwellybluewelly Thu 08-Aug-13 21:59:50

Just remembered something else. DH works away every year for ten days, when he went I was solo parenting and working and all our family seemed too busy to help.

So for that week I moved to baby time. I went to bed with her, I got up when she got up and I snatched food whenever I could same with showering. At the end of the week I was still tired but I wasn't totally exhausted as I had expected to be. Going to bed early really helped.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 09-Aug-13 02:56:10

Well DD has started sleeping through this week (please dont hate me- probably wont last anyway). I feel like I've been hit by a truck, so I feel worse with more sleep. How is this possible????

LooplaLoopy Fri 09-Aug-13 04:42:18

Controversial, but controlled crying. After 3 days, normal sleep again. smile

bigkidsdidit Fri 09-Aug-13 07:46:37

Rich man I was like that when mine starting sleeping through. You need go go to bed at 8 a fw nights a week till you've caught up your massive sleep debt!

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