Five sanity-saving things to do when your kids won’t sleep

Does this sound familiar? Just when you think you’ve finally cracked the night-time routine, your child decides they can’t go to sleep on their own – and demand you sit with them in semi-darkness until they nod off.

And like some kind of ruthless sleep terrorist, if you refuse their demands, they retaliate by ransacking their room or rampaging around your home. So what do you do?

After spending several nights bound to her son’s bedroom at night recently, Senior Product Manager, blogger and mum of two Laura Sands has come up with five sanity-saving things you can do to make the most of the time.

Back to the twilight zone of bedtime antics

After an extended period of reasonable bedtime behaviour, our home has been plunged back into the twilight zone of naughty toddler bedtime antics.

In fairness, we probably invited it. What’s the saying about if something ain’t broke? Well the other night, we took the sides off our youngest’s cot – big mistake.

The resulting behaviour now involves rampaging around the upstairs of the house emptying cupboards, playing with his brother’s toys, and trying to flush entire toilet rolls down the loo.

The only way to stop him is to sit in his room with him waiting for his little eyes to close. He is unmoved by repeated pleas to return to his room, unaffected by parental rage, and delighted by the game of ‘back to bed’.

So I find myself yet again sitting in the nursery in semi-darkness waiting for sleep.

What else could I be doing?

This time all adds up, and I can’t help my mind wandering. What else could I be doing? I have ironing and cooking to do, and emails and birthday cards to write – none of which I can get done while I’m interred in a baby’s bedroom. (I tried to do some online banking yesterday – he was delighted and wanted to join in.)

So instead I came up with a list of things us mums can do to use this otherwise-wasted opportunity – ways we can treat our toddler-imposed imprisonment as enforced me-time.

Sure, the timing really isn’t ideal, but then again when was the last time you actually made a conscious choice about what you wanted to do? I’ll bet it was pre-labour…

Five sanity-saving things to do when your kids won’t sleep

So here it is. My list of five sanity-saving things you can do in a semi-darkened room when your kids won’t sleep!

1) Hobbies

If you have a chink of light, then why not take up a spot of crochet or knitting? Keep the kit in your child’s room and pull it out when you need to while away 30 minutes of sitting.

Or how about sketching, or even poetry? If you used to do this sort of stuff pre-kids, then this is quite possibly the only chance you’ll have nowadays. Not keen? Then how about…

2) Read

Ooh, the luxury. Nothing too gripping of course. Or erotic. That would be distracting/plain wrong. But a touch of Jane Austen or PD James would go down a treat surely.

If you have enough light to read in the dark, great. If not, invest in one of the newer Kindles or other electronic device (keep the screen brightness down low though so you don’t distract your hopefully-dozing child).

3) Exercise

I have two specific suggestions here. Neck and shoulder, and pelvic floor – both of which (if you’re anything like me) have been singularly decimated by motherhood.

You don’t need any equipment, and it’s good for your health. What’s to lose? This article is a particularly good example of why it is very important to do the latter, and here is a good link for ways to stretch out that beaten up neck and shoulders.

4) Upskill

This could be the best chance for self-improvement that you have, so use  it to learn something new.

Study a new language or practice one that you let slip, research the best way to kill slugs (our garden is over-run this year), or swot up on first aid – there’s a world of knowledge you could soak up in half an hour.

Another alternative is to sneak in a bit of work. Got a job interview coming up? Trying to work out a business problem? Need to think of ideas for your freelance business?

While you may not have a full desk in front of you, you can certainly use this otherwise dead time to brainstorm solutions for problems and come up with ideas to drive your career forward. Keep a notebook and pen or electronic device handy to make any notes.

5) Sleep

If all else fails/you just can’t be bothered, then get into bed with them and set a good example by going to sleep yourself. (I tried that this evening and was treated to a small finger in each of my nostrils. Little bugger!)

It won’t last forever

If like me, it can sometimes feel dishearteningly like you’ll be trapped for eternity in semi-darkness waiting for a small child to sleep, take heart in the knowledge that it really won’t last forever.

There will come a day when your child will take them off happily to sleep themselves – and you can go back to spending your evenings exactly as you wish, without trying to squint at a page or screen in semi-darkness.

 You can find out more about Laura’s experiences as a working mum on her blog