One thing is certain when you become a parent, life will never be the same again. On the top of the list of things that change for many parents is not being able to sleep when you choose to. When pregnant with your first child, your expectation may be confined to having to night feed for the first six weeks or so. After this, babies are supposed to 'sleep through' the night and you can then get back to your 'normal' sleep routine. Even six weeks can seem like a long time to contemplate when you are used to eight hours, or more, of unbroken sleep each night!
The reality can be far from this. As many of us have experienced, babies can feed during the night for anything from six weeks to 18 months, or longer. Even when you get past the night feeding stage, babies can wake for many other different reasons, from teething to illness to insecurity. Some babies just don't seem to need as much sleep as others. Some sleep lightly and find it difficult to return to sleep once woken.
Toddlers and older children can also continue to wake regularly. A small child who has had a nightmare or wets their bed is unlikely to be able to settle themselves back to sleep easily. And then there are the parents who have had to drag themselves off the couch or out of bed to go and pick up their 16-year-old from a friend's party at midnight?
Accepting that parenting involves a fair few night-time duties can help. You may soon, in fact, be able to boast you did get eight hours sleep last night. One hour from 8 o'clock till 9 o'clock when you fell asleep watching TV, two hours from 10 o'clock till midnight after feeding the baby, one hour from 1 a.m. till 2 a.m. after changing a wet bed, two hours from 3 a.m. till 5 a.m. after feeding again and two hours from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. after persuading your three-year-old that it was not actually morning yet!
Many mums give up some of their evening adult time and go to bed earlier than they did before children. It can be tempting to start all sorts of chores and activities once the children are asleep. At last some time to get a few things done! However, going to bed an hour or two earlier might pay off more the next day.