Monday 27 June 2016

5 ways to get sleep when you are kept awake

Autism bedroom at night
I've spoken to so many new parents, parents of children with additional needs and carers, whose primary issue of the day is that they are exhausted. Every mother reads about 'baby brain' as the baby keeps you up at night but no two kids are the same. Some babies sleep through from a few weeks, others a few months and despite efforts some kids need help for years through their life.

Many children on the autistic spectrum have difficulties with sleep.  This can include getting to sleep or maybe settling during the night.  Our eldest son can be kept awake due to anxiety so we stay up late. My younger son wakes up nearly every night. Trust me, we've tried everything to help him stay asleep. He is currently taking melatonin and awaiting an appointment at a specialist sleep clinic at St Thomas' in London. Sometimes his melatonin dose means he goes to sleep again, sometimes he's up for hours and every now and again like last night he wakes at 2am and doesn't go back to sleep.

I can't leave either of them on their own at night so I need to stay up.  This means I've had to learn to cope with a lack of sleep.  Here are some of the things I do to cope with this that might help see you through sleep deprived times.

1. Be ready for your bed
"Shall we get ready for bed?"  Honestly it can be an hour after I've said this before the lights go out. Ok, we all need to brush our teeth and get undressed but before I've spent 10 minutes looking for the iPads and 20 minutes by the dryer making sure the children's clothes are dry enough. Whenever you can, try to get tasks out of the way before you are getting ready for bed.

2. Minimise worry
Ok, so now I've found the iPads I think I can go to bed.  Did I lock the car, where did I put my keys? How is my son going to cope with his therapy tomorrow? Did I tell my husband about Sports Day - has he fallen asleep or should I wake him? Everyone has their 'list'.  But if like me you know you have to get up again shortly, this needs to be short.  Where I can I create routines that deal with my questions so I don't need to worry about them.  I try and look at what's coming up in the week ahead earlier in the day so I deal with worries before bedtime.

3. Short activities
Half the problem seems to be getting time to sleep.  Everyone needs some adult only time and this is often when the children have (finally) gone to bed. I have no sooner sat down on the sofa than I'm wondering if I should also be in bed. A short recorded programme allows me to relax without keeping me up late.  My iPhone has the blue filter on after 6pm as there have been several studies that 'blue light' like the light from tablets, phones and most televisions can disrupt your sleep.  You may prefer to read a chapter of a book.  But by making the activity short and achievable, I feel like I've had some time to myself and it's ok to think about going to bed. 

4. Get sleep when you can
So, if half the problem seems to be getting time to sleep then getting sleep when you can seems logical.  In reality though it is difficult. I was never the mum who slept when the baby slept as there never seemed to be time. Nowadays I have three children between three and eight years old so I've definitely missed the baby sleeping opportunity. But I top up my sleep when I can. 

An early night here, a (slightly) later start there, when the schedule allows.  I can't leave my son alone in the night but if you can create a safe environment for your child you may be able to sleep through some of their night waking.

I have a 15 minute timer set on my phone so I can grab 15 minutes sleep when it's possible - when I'm sat waiting in the car, when Grandparents are over playing with the kids.  15 minutes allows my body to rest but avoids going into deep sleep.  Napping too long and drifting into deep sleep means I'll wake up feeling groggy and often more tired.   

5. Avoid caffeine in the evening
If you are a new mum, you may just have got caffeine back.  Everyone knows it's not good in the evenings, but I can't seem to stop drinking tea and coffee.  It takes two hours to get out of your system so I have decaffeinated available when I want a drink in the evening (and often throughout the day). This way I get a mental boost but I'm not kept awake by it at night.

What works for you - what tips can you pass on?

Our blog - Our melatonin mission
Our blog - Sleeping through: The miracle of light through the curtain
As listed on:
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday You Baby Me Mummy


  1. Sleep deprivation is so unbelievably tough. I really feel for you. The days at work after a sleepless night are horrendous. I have been sitting at my desk at work and have fallen asleep. thanks for this post. Pen x #KCACOLS

  2. I don't dare drink caffeine past 1pm, worry is my biggest thing but a few pages of a good book help me forget most things #KCACOLS

    1. Very wise, I don't manage that early. Big worrier here too

  3. These are great tips, it can be so difficult to function on little sleep. I totally agree about the short naps can help to recharge you a little #KCACOLS

    1. Rarely do this one, but it's always a possibility. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Great tips and I'm the worst at dragging our bedtime out. I start getting ready for bed at around 9, then get sucked into some silly task and don't get tucked into bed until 11. By then I'm wide awake. It's no wonder I'm walking around half asleep! #kcacols

    1. Me too, we say shall we go to bed but other half is always in bed before me!!

  5. Lack of sleep has by far been the hardest part of being a new Mom. I never used to "sleep when the baby sleeps" but after 2 years I have learned that the other stuff I feel like I have to get done when he is napping can just wait. Mom is gonna rest, even if I don't completely fall asleep rest does a body good! #KCACOLS

  6. We've got a no tv, laptop, tablets, etc, in bed rule which has made a big difference. That and if I'm tired I just admit defeat these days and go to bed the same time as the toddler! x #KCACOLS

    1. That's a good rule. All to easy to be on social media when I'm just supposed to be checking I've set my alarm!

  7. sleep deprivation is, I believe, something your body learns to adapt to in time. It doesn't necessarily make it any easier to deal with. But a full night's sleep - wow that feels amazing! #kcacols

  8. Sleep deprivation truly is a strange thing. I remember how utterly IMPOSSIBLE it was to deal with in the early days. Some days, I don't know how I managed to keep my eyes open at all. I do think I have adapted a bit to it, and am able to deal with sleeplessness better than I could. Having said that though, 15 minute naps are lifesavers! I've read something about looking at electronics (the blue light) and sleeplessness. We've thought about cutting out all screen time an hour or two before bed, but, it's easier said than done! Thanks for sharing <3 #KCACOLS

  9. Great tips Ann, ones that are bound to come in useful for many sleep deprived parents! I myself feel like a walking zombie these day and the late night wind down time isn't helping lol.Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.xx

  10. This is all really good advice - where I fail is that I have never been able to nap which is a huge problem. Even in the early stages... so I am currently bloody tired lol. I have trouble switching off my head so maybe I need to do something about that!

    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  11. Its a good list and I think when you're suffering or functioning on lack of sleep then it's good to see that you're not alone. Its such a tough job and all tips are welcome:) I grab sleep where I can even now as I know that the evening battle to sleep takes it out of me.

    mainy - myrealfairy



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