I had a rough night last night. My son was very difficult at bedtime. I got paged twice by my work, an hour and a half apart, for two different problems. My daughter woke up just as I was finishing up, so I went in to lay down with her since I was awake anyway. Of course by the time I did get sleepy, she was wide awake and bouncing off the walls. Eventually I gave up and just got up and got ready for work. I had to get up early anyway, since it was my day to be in the office.
I have a very long commute on Thursdays. The good thing is that I only have to do it once a week. The rest of the time my commute is from the bed to the chair. (I usually take the scenic route through the house to get breakfast and such.) I was tired enough on the way down to Cincinnati this morning that I stopped at a rest stop and took about a 15 minute nap. That was actually enough to get me through the day.
It sounds like a bad day. It was a bit of a bad day. But oddly enough I feel good.
I feel good because it reminded me that days like this used to be a regular occurence. There was a time when days like this would have been welcome.
We knew having twins would be hard, especially at first. And boy, was it. One baby waking up every 3-4 hours, and one baby being awakened every 3 hours. You do the math. You know how you feel when you have to get up way earlier than usual, like if you've got to get to the airport for a very early flight or something? You force your body to get up even though every fiber of your being is screaming "Sleep!" And anybody who's ever had an infant child hospitalized (twice in our case) can tell you that it's nearly impossible to get any sleep under those circumstances.
But you expect that period of sleepless nights to end after several months. Along the way, or maybe from the beginning, my daughter developed sleep problems. For about the first two-and-a-half years of her life, her sleep habits were very nearly random. We tried to find patterns, we tried a variety of techniques and read every book on infant and toddler sleep patterns we could find. We renamed the "No Cry Sleep Solution" "The No Sleep Cry Solution." Everybody had advice. None of it worked. We felt pretty incompetent.
She would stay up until 2am. We'd get her up at 7:30am. She'd nap for an hour. The next night, you'd think she'd crash from lack of sleep. She'd stay up until 4am. My wife and I would take turns crashing on the couch while she charged around the living room making raspberry noises while the "Finding Nemo" DVD (her favorite) played in the background. A week later, she'd sleep 12 hours straight and still try to take two naps.
We spent weeks charting her sleep habits, coloring in boxes to represent the hours when she slept, marking whether she woke up on her own or we woke her up, marking mealtimes, etc. Instead of finding a pattern, we had created a crossword puzzle, with darkened boxes all over the place.
With some help from a sleep clinic, and some experimenting on our own, we finally found that the combination of adjusting her medication schedule, giving her melatonin at bedtime (autism spectrum often includes melatonin deficiency), and strictly regulating her sleep schedule does the trick. Sort of. She still has one or two nights a week where she's wide awake in the middle of the night. Sometimes she turns her light on. Sometimes she stares out the window. Sometimes she just giggles to herself.
But it's soooo
much better than before. She often just needs one of us to come in for a few minutes and let her know we're around, and then she entertains herself in her room while we sleep. She generally goes back to sleep within an hour or two. This arrangement is unusual, but certainly manageable.
While we were struggling to figure out a solution to this problem, I transferred to a new department with my employer. I'm a database adminstrator, and part of that job means getting up in the middle of the night when things break. It's not a fun part, but it comes with the territory. It's one reason the job pays well. It also encourages lots of preventative maintenance.
The problem I ran into was that the department I moved into had many, many more databases, many, many more inconsistencies, and many, many more reasons to send out pages in the middle of the night. Once every fourth or fifth week, I was on call. That meant getting up whenever things went bump in the night. It was pretty bad to start with, and got gradually worse over time. The department's high turnover rate meant that there were constantly new people to break things. The new department also had and "all hands" policy that meant that if something was broken and you got paged for it, you had to join a conference call and stay on it until the problem was resolved... even if you could not fix the problem or contribute to the solution!
By the time I left that department in March, the on-call person was getting an average of about 12 pages per day, for 7 straight days. The record was 140 pages in a week. Fortunately, I escaped that Hell, and I'm back with my old department.
Between my daughter and my job, I was a mess. A good night's sleep used to be an extreme rarity. It was not uncommon for me to have to go into the office on two hours of sleep, only to look forward to five hours of broken sleep the next night. I think I hit bottom when we were living in a tiny apartment with half our things in storage and no relief in sight. That was one of the hardest stretches of my life.
Now, despite being on call all every single day, I get paged about 3 times per week, and they are during daylight hours more often than evening hours.
Thankfully, it appears that both of my sleep problems are essentially solved. Last night was a reminder of how it used to be all the time. Odds are very good that I will get a solid eight hours of sleep six nights out of seven. Maybe more. And if I do stay up late, it's because I just feel like staying up late. Sleep is no longer the rarest luxury.
I can't tell you how happy that makes me...