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While I Lay Awake At Night…

Sleep is not optional—regardless of how little we think we need, our performance in every area of life is affected in a big way by how well we sleep. Parents often have to grab sleep while they can. In between power-naps, Brendon Smith recalls the days when the kids were small and sleep was a big issue.

I thought that the best preparation for parenthood was all those late nights, chasing parties as a young adult, probably running on empty, but catching up with a Sunday sleep in. The only problem is, as your children get up early, sleeping in becomes a thing of the past.

Sleep first became an issue in my parenting life while my wife was still pregnant and I was working a 4am – 2-3pm shift. My wake and departure, no matter how careful I was, must have disturbed her at least a little.
In order to see through my shift, I had to be adept at the art of the ‘power-nap’.

This, according to my memory of a corporate training day, means to lie down, especially keep your neck straight, your eyes closed and either clear your mind or breathe deeply.

I also liked their guide on clearing your mind, to imagine you are looking at a night sky, the thoughts are stars and clouds, there may be many at first, but they can be made to go away. They may each deserve a moment’s thought, but then it has to be lights out.

Remember, for a power-nap to be effective, you don’t have to actually fall asleep – just resting your eyes and neck are usually enough, especially if you have been slaving at a screen or driving for long hours. Part of my key to ending any rest, is to get up slowly.

My wife’s sleep became a real concern to me after our first baby was born. As my mother had, and I understand many mothers, sleep with one eye open and one ear hearing, so too was my wife, also putting her housework or baby chores ahead of any rest for herself.

As I worked even longer hours in that first few months, thinking that I’d catch up maybe when the child was older, I know my wife was almost completely on her own at times, without a driving license, only able to walk to local shops or parks and library. If I asked her why she didn’t nap while Madeleine slept, she’d say ‘…but who would be there for her?’

Gradually, in part as my early starts meant we both became ‘early to bed’ types, this developed into a good period of sleep and recuperation. My wife was able to recover a lot of her previous fitness and energy levels when Madeleine was three to six months old,.

Helping a baby to get regular, quality sleep can be another matter. As we lived on a busy main road, and our baby’s room was on the noisy road side, I was always relieved that she would sleep through loud trucks and buses roaring by and to this day she sleeps well.

The big worry in those days was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot-death as it had previously been known. As most instances seemed to occur when the baby was understood to be sleeping, it is hard for any New Zealand parent to ignore. Dr Sprott pointed out in his research work, that plastic mattress surrounds made a big difference.

Body position while sleeping was also in the spotlight.

Next: Special Needs – Special Children

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