I am a wimp when it comes to sleep deprivation. Because of my increasing work responsibilities, even prior to Asher’s arrival I was often faced with multiple encroachments on my usual seven or eight hours of sleep each night, whether because of networking events, client calls, or report deadlines keeping me up well past my usual bedtime. And once I get to consecutive nights of condensed sleep, I deteriorate in happiness and brain function, even if what counts as condensed to me is par for the course for most busy people.
Now of course a newborn will wreak havoc on the volume and uninterrupted nature of one’s usual sleep patterns. Indeed, since his arrival into this world, Asher has tended to last no more than three consecutive hours sleeping before he awakes and needs a diaper change, a feeding, or both. And, since his arrival into this world, Asher has tended to need more time getting back to sleep during the night hours than during the day hours.
Needless to say, getting sleep in two-ish hour increments is a formula for going insane, particularly given my relatively weak constitution on this front. To be sure, parents have dealt with this since the beginning of time, and eventually it gets better. But eventually feels so long from now.
Starting this week, Amy and I have hatched a plan, and I’m happy to report that it’s working so far. Let me start by listing Asher’s schedule for a typical night:
· * 6:30p-7p diaper change, eat
· * 7p-9:30p sleep
· * 9:30p-10p diaper change, eat
· * 10p-12:30a sleep
· * 12:30a-1a diaper change, eat
· * 1a-3:30a sleep
· * 3:30a-4a diaper change, eat
· * 4a-6:30a sleep
· * 6:30a-7a diaper change, eat
· * 7a-9:30a sleep
· * 9:30a-10a diaper change
I’m rounding to simplify things, although Asher’s actual behavior is not actually that far from this. He tends to sleep in 2 ½ hour increments. And he tends to need about 30 minutes to get through the routine of diaper change, eat, burp, and cuddle in order to get back to sleep.
What Amy and I determined is that I would do the 6:30p feeding and then shortly after putting Asher back to sleep at 7p, I would begin my own bedtime routine, which means that after tying up my day and doing a little reading I was asleep by 8p. (By the way, this is not actually that much different from my pre-Asher existence on days I had no meetings, events, or work to do in the evening.)
This means that Amy stays up with Asher until his 12:30a-1a feeding and then goes to sleep after that. I can get a good 7 hours in between when I fall asleep at 8p and when Asher wakes me up at 3a (again, not that different from my pre-Asher existence), while Amy can get a good 7 hours in between her last Asher feeding and when the kids and I leave the house around 8a.
Additionally, since Amy and I are both introverts, there’s some good me-time built into this game plan. Amy has that 10p-12:30a slot while Asher’s sleeping to relax and/or do chores. I have that 4a-6:30a slot while Asher’s sleeping to take care of my usual morning routines: pray, exercise, catch up on email/Facebook/sports. (The only limitation there is that my exercise usually involves running outside the house and going to the Y, so for now I am relegated to the treadmill or bike in our basement.)
Boxing legend Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan to beat him until they get punched in the face. My paraphrase is that every parent has a plan to survive the schedule of a newborn until they have to actually deal with it. Metaphorically, we’ve taken some punches to the face, but we are off the canvas and working our game plan. I could use more sleep, to be sure, but I’m pretty pleased at how things are going so far.