Last month, yet another sleep study came out. Every time I read an article on getting better sleep, I can’t decide if I should roll my eyes, laugh, or cry. I mean, really. Do they not know that the majority of the population is trying every conceivable tip, trick, and old wives’ tale to get their children to JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY?
Adding insult to injury, the newest study claims that six hours of sleep is as bad as no sleep at all. So let’s raise our coffee cups for a passive aggressive toast, moms, because apparently we are all doomed. If you’re like me, you’ve already researched and tried a million different approaches to getting your children to sleep better, sleep longer, or just sleep at all. Let’s all save some time and follow these six easy steps to almost solving your sleep problems.
- Lower your expectations. You will not solve all your sleep problems. You will also never sleep as much or as soundly as you did before kids. You just won’t. Accept this, and try not to dwell on it as you drag your exhausted, cranky self out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday.
- Sleep when the baby/toddler/preschooler is sleeping. Just do it. I know you want to do important things like feed yourself, shower, send emails, or clean the house. Save yourself some sanity. Sleep now. Everything else later.
- Read something, not everything. Pick maybe one or two experts to reference as you decide how to handle sleep in your home. You can read as many books and blogs as you want, but ultimately your child, your family, and how you want to approach healthy sleep habits are entirely unique to your situation.
- Pick a schedule that works for your family, and guard it with your life. Children (and most humans) are comfortable with routine. Create one that doesn’t cause your family to rush or stress, and stick with it. Do not concern yourself with other people’s schedules or sleep preferences, because believe it or not, every child and family is different.
- Give up on guessing. Is it teething? Are they sick? Is their circadian rhythm off? The answer to all of these is easy – probably sometimes, maybe. Teething is a vicious, continuous cycle that will dominate your first year of parenting. In Wisconsin, you can expect year-round runny noses. Do whatever works to help your little ones sleep, and remember everything is temporary.
- Don’t judge. Did you see that your previous co-worker’s sister-in-law posted on Facebook about the cry it out method!? Who cares! Send your fellow exhausted parents happy thoughts, get off Facebook and go to bed.
In all honesty, sleep deprivation is a serious and unavoidable issue. While parents cannot prevent experiencing it, we each have the power to reduce the added stress we take on in fighting the universal truth that parenting is exhausting, and kids aren’t perfect sleepers. I have published exactly zero sleep studies and am by no means an expert, but my best advice is to smile through these glorious, exhausting years. Life moves quickly, and before we know it we will relish the sweet, sweet payback that comes with waking our teenagers up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.