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Can’t Get No Sleep
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Can’t Get No Sleep
October 18, 2018
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Family Family
Can’t Get No Sleep
October 18, 2018
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The other week while I was scrolling through Instagram, I saw a post stating that the average new mother loses about 700 hours of sleep in the first year. I immediately tried to start doing the calculations. “So if I times that by two for two children, then add all the additional hours of sleep lost in the last year, then…. um….” Ironically it seemed that I was so sleep deprived that my addled brain now couldn’t work out how deprived of sleep I actually was.

“So if I times that by two for two children, then add all the additional hours of sleep lost in the last year, then…. um….”

I thought I knew what extreme tiredness felt like. I had been through the newborn stage twice and endured broken sleep for three years due to the simple fact of having two young children. That was until last summer. One night, just after she turned one, my youngest daughter Isla woke up in the middle of the night and started screaming. Nothing seemed to soothe her until hours later, she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. From that point on she continued to wake up in the early morning and cry for hours. Every. Single. Night.

We lived in a small two-bedroom terrace house. There was no escape. There was no spare bedroom and even from the couch in the living room downstairs you could hear Isla’s wailing. Judging from the forced smiles of our neighbours when they chanced upon us in the street, it would seem it even reverberated through the walls. Isla’s night-time antics became so bad we ended up moving our eldest daughter Violet, who had previously shared a room with Isla, into our (not particularly spacious) bedroom. ‘Let me get this straight… You, Tom and Violet are all sharing a room, while Isla has a room all to herself?”, my friend asked one day when I was explaining the situation. I didn’t realise how ridiculous it sounded until then.

‘Let me get this straight… You, Tom and Violet are all sharing a room, while Isla has a room all to herself?”

Yet here’s the thing, we were so desperate for sleep we would have done anything if it made Isla stop waking in the night. I would have bought her a bed gilded with gold-leaf if I thought it would have made a difference. We had even put our house on the market as we thought having another bedroom or two might help. We had tried almost everything: controlled crying, sleep training, more milk, less milk, no milk, co-sleeping (she hated it) and even different weights of clothing and bedding. Nothing made a difference.

After being told by countless doctors that it was probably just teething, or the result of poor ‘sleep hygiene’ (yes, I’m still trying to figure out what that means too) we decided to take matters into our own hands. We firmly asked for a referral to a paediatrician, and shortly after Isla’s first appointment, she was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. It was the answer we had been looking for. We put her on a strict gluten-free diet and it had an almost immediate effect. It wasn’t a miracle cure, she still had her bad nights, but we didn’t go to bed in the evening dreading the next eight hours like we used to. We also finally moved house and Isla at last had her own space, tucked away down the hallway, which also helped settle her.

My husband and I took a while longer to recover from our zombie state. Surviving on only two to four hours sleep every night for over six months straight meant we had been literally sleepwalking through each day. However, like every difficult phase with children, the memory of those seemingly endless stretch of sleepless nights is starting to now ebb away and feel like, well just a bad dream.

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