The Sleep Plan

Filed under: MiscErika at 10:52AM on April 21, 2012 printer friendly
So here's what Andrew and I have learned over years of parenting non-sleepers:

To keep yourself and your relationship healthy, you need a plan. A specific, negotiated, agreed-to-by-both-parties, Sleep Plan. Since anything less than "I go to bed, sleep for 6-8 hours, and then wake up in the morning" is not natural, not what your body wants, anything else will not come naturally to you. You will end up crying, weeping, gnashing teeth, sniping, yelling, and all together being unloving in the wee hours.
You need a Plan.

A successful Sleep Plan will have the following elements:
1. Both parties need to agree to the Plan in the daytime, on a day they are not desperate for sleep. Sleepy is okay. After a rough night is okay. About to fall asleep at the negotiating table is not okay, and neither is trying to hammer this out at 2am with a crying baby in one hand and a stimming autistic kid in the other.

2. Both parties must, at their most selfish, basic, egotistic level think this is a fair and reasonable deal. Since there are an odd number of days to the week, and an inconsistent number of days in a month, it is important to make sure you're getting a fair shake overall. What seems doable on an altruistic level in the daytime ("he works so hard, I'll do a little more...she does so much, I'll do this for her...") quickly becomes untenable in the dark, sleep-deprived hours. Help your partner by being a little selfish, so you can actually do what you say you're going to do.

3. Know thyself. If you can do something, do it. If you cannot, don't say you can. On a related note: know thy partner. If they can't do something, don't get angry that they're not doing it. See number 2 - you took care of yourself too.

4. Allow for the nuclear option. There are nights when the best Sleep Plans go awry, and your mind, body, and delicate psyche lose it and you just need to SLEEP and it is unsafe for yourself, your kids, and your relationship for you to do your part of the Sleep Plan. Thus, if your partner says, "nuclear option" to you, step up no questions asked, knowing they will do the same for you.

5. But use the nuclear option sparingly. It is called the nuclear option for a reason - it destroys the Sleep Plan, the tenuous balance you and your partner have worked out, the regular routine the kids are used to, the foundation for civilization itself. It is a red button not to be pushed without extreme cause.

If this all sounds very harsh and militaristic - well, it is. You love your kids and your partner in the daytime, or in the rare, sweet, night waking. The consistent yet unpredictably non-sleeping kid is torture, and torture is part of wartime, and you and your partner are doing cold-war non-proliferation treaties here to avoid letting the stress of the one situation seep into your relationship. It's dead serious.

Andrew came home from his travels to a new sleep environment, and we had to nail down a new Sleep Plan yesterday accordingly. While he was gone, Kai began to sleep a little better - less waking, and sleeping in to 6:30 or even 7:00. Isaac, on the other hand, took advantage of Andrew's absence to play on my sleep-deprived weakness - he started getting up at 5am, and I let him crash in bed with me, and we all got to sleep a little later. Then it was 4:30. Then 4:00. Then he started getting up the in the 3 o'clock hour. I was just in survival mode - I couldn't consistently get him back in his bed over and over and over and still function the next day alone, so I let him just crash in bed with me.
Well, with Andrew back, that wasn't an option. Conveniently, the clock arrived around the same time Andrew did (the color-changing clock to let Isaac know when to come upstairs) and we started that two nights ago.

We had fingers crossed. 1 time of out 10, we implement a new behavior protocol and Isaac just picks it up like it's nothing. It's as if he says, "oh, I didn't realize this is what you wanted - hey, no problem!" and there we go. So, we always just try and see the first time.
This was not one of those times. He did not want to check the clock color first, and got angry, and Andrew and he ended up yelling at each other at 4am, and I had a panic attack about 3am because Kai was teething and I'd been up with him from 1am to 3am, and it was "my" morning to get up with the boys which meant if Isaac didn't' go back to sleep, I would have to function the next day having only slept from 11am to 1am so I was all weepy and angsty and...bad. Bad night.

So, to the summit table.
The plan here-to-fore -
Erika does all Kai night wakings (which are getting fewer and fewer). Whoever is "on" the next morning (scheduled to get up with the boys) is responsible for Isaac wakings the night before. In theory, this meant that on your "sleep in" morning, you also had more sleep the night before, giving you the strength to handle your next "on call" night and morning.
Erika's days to be "on": Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun
Andrew's days to be "on": Tues/Thurs/Sat
On Sunday, Andrew can sleep in all the way to church time. In exchange, he watches kids while I go to church on Sunday, and Jazzercise on Saturday (although I usually take Kai with, I have the option of leaving him if need be).

The new "post-clock" plan -
Erika does all Kai night wakings. Erika does the clock behavior protocal (consistantly walking Isaac to clock, pointing out the color, putting him in bed. Over and over and over and over).
Andrew is up with Isaac every morning once the clock turns yellow (currently set to 5:30am) while Erika goes back to bed.
"On" mornings now means your morning to get up with Kai.
On Erika's days (still Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun) Erika gets up with Kai, and Andrew goes back to bed if he wants.
On Andrew's days (still Tues/Thurs/Sat) Andrew is up already, and just gets Kai when he wakes up.
The Sunday "deal" is still in effect.

We'll have to renegotiate when Isaac gets on track with the clock, and when we creep the "daytime" color later (we're going to move it to 6am eventually), but for now, this is our Plan.