Well, it’s all gone horribly wrong. My little baby girl, who was such a champion sleeper, has turned into the terror of my nights. She wakes up every 2 hours and ONLY a feed will get her back off to sleep again. This means I sleep in fits of one and a half hours. She is coming up to 8 months, so according to the experts (my sisters) she is too young to try out sleep training, which is actually a relief as I can’t stand the crying-it-out technique or anything vaguely resembling it. However, if this goes on for another 2 months, apparently I will eventually break down and end up letting her cry for hours at a time as I kip down in the cellar with industrial size earplugs squished into my ears and a bucket on my head. In any case, it’s the summer, which means we’ve had streams of friends coming through and more are coming right up until next week when we go on holiday. Having people to stay and visiting other people’s homes is definitely not the right moment to try and shift a baby’s sleep patterns. This means I’m going to have to hold on until September when we’re home just the four of us and can give Léonie a nice, structured routine to her days, and thus hopefully to her nights too. But September is five weeks away. I don’t know if I can survive until then on such little sleep. In a panic I phoned up Sister One.
“You have no choice” she replied. “You have to change your mindset. You have to stop obsessing about your lack of sleep, you have to stop counting the hours of kip you actually get, and decide that you DON’T ACTUALLY NEED THAT MUCH SLEEP TO SURVIVE. Tell yourself that 5 hours of interrupted, broken, dashed and smashed sleep is just fine. Believe it. Bung some earphones on and listen to Radio 4 while you’re up all night. You’ll be okay. You’ll make it though. Just don’t do any long car drives, operate machinery or high-speed blenders over the next few weeks … erm, months. May the Force be with you.”
So I decided to go looking for some scientific research on the matter that might help me persuade myself that sleeping so little won’t harm me one little smidgen. One of the great things about internet is that you can always find a scientific study to back up a theory, no matter how ludicrous it might be. I even found that sleeping between five and six-and-a-half hours a night can actually help you to live longer. That is, if you’re a middle-aged or elderly woman. Maybe I am middle-aged though … is 38 middle-aged? I have no idea. Whatever, I was pleased to read the findings of Doc Kripke (who, with that name, could also be a crisp):
“Daniel Kripke, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, said: “The surprise was that when sleep was measured objectively, the best survival was observed among women who slept five to 6.5 hours.” ”
Hoorah. So I’m now off to bed to sleep exactly that amount of time and thus increase my chances of survival.