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8 Step Sleep Deprivation Survival Guide: Written By Dad

Sleep deprivation is classed by the U.N. as a cruel and unusual punishment. Unless you have young kids, in which case you just have to get on with it. Our Resident Dad, Pat Fitzpatrick, his 8 top tips to help you through the pain.

1. Coffee 

Parenting is mainly about looking forward to your next cup of coffee. This is the one that’s going to save the day, says you, hoping against hope. And sometimes it works. One minute you’re wondering if it’s possible to put your kids up on eBay. Three sips of espresso later, and you suddenly feel something approaching affection for the little mites. Two more sips and you’ve upgraded that feeling to full-on love. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. You know nothing about despair until you have experienced a coffee hangover. This is where you lose the run of yourself and have two double espressos in a row. Ten minutes later, you have a weird feeling you are going to puke out through your toes. Ten minutes after that you pay a visit to the toilet that registers on the Richter Scale. In China. So, keep it to two coffees a day, at least four hours apart. 

2. Go to Bed

Sorry for being so obvious. But first-time parents often resist going to bed at 9 pm, because it would make them feel old. Here is how that pans out. You stick with an 11 pm bedtime for three months. At which point you take stock of your face in the mirror. You look 73 years of age. (Unless you are in fact 73, in which case hello Mick Jagger, and thanks for reading.)  Here’s the lowdown. Go to bed at 9 pm, there is an outside chance you will feel up for a quickie and manage to guilt herself into doing it before she falls asleep. Or failing that, make the case that a quickie will help her get to sleep. If you reckon wrecked parents have sex for a reason other than guilt and ‘it will help you sleep’, then I have some bad news for you.

3. Game of Snores

Here’s how things worked for your parents. There was nothing good on telly after 10 pm, so they went to bed and made your baby brother. It’s much harder to drag yourself off the couch these days. This is because of what people call box sets, even though we all know it is, in fact, a dodgy android box you bought off Dave at work. (Not his real name. The whole thing is very dodgy.) These ‘boxsets’ are usually put on ten minutes after the last cry from the cot, and left on until someone cries enough. They are bad news on the sleep front, as you end up going to bed shortly before Chloe wakes up. As they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Except an army of the dead has nothing on Chloe when you have only had three hours’ sleep.  So, here’s the golden rule for ‘boxsets’ - two episodes, then bed.

4. Wine O’Clock

You are probably familiar with Wine O’Clock. This is the time every evening when you can start drinking wine, without people saying you’re an alcoholic. Some parents swear by it, as a means to unwind and get to sleep. In case you are wondering, Wine O’Clock in Ireland is 7 pm on a Tuesday because if you start back on the booze on a Monday, your family might stage an intervention. (That’s not all bad – while they’re all there you should be able to strong-arm one of them to take the kids, so you can both go to Palma for a long weekend. Loads of booze in Palma.) Here is another important time for new parents who plan to cut loose at Wine O’Clock. It’s called Whine O’Clock. That’s where little Jack wakes up at 6 am and starts whining about a lost teddy or some other catastrophe. You only realise you have a hangover when you hear him shouting “I won’t mention teddy again Dad, just unlock the door and let me out of the hot press.” Whine O’Clock is never worth it. So go for a one glass maximum at Wine O’Clock.  

5. Show me a Sign

There’s no easy way to put this – kids give you early onset dementia. Here is how it manifests itself. It’s yet another morning after a sleepless night. You find yourself standing in a random room, with no idea why you went in there. In an attempt to maintain their dignity, some parents will pick up a random item and pretend that’s what they were looking for all along. It’s why, when you call over to see people with small kids, you’ll often find one parent ambling around the house with a packet of wipes, a onesie and toilet brush. There isn’t a whole lot of dignity in that.  So here’s my advice, Dads, because you are the ones being sent around to get stuff. The trick is to place memory jolt posters in appropriate rooms. So, for example, put “It’s probably a thermometer” by the medicine cabinet. And in the kid’s bedroom, try “Bring one each of onesie, vest, socks, nappy, indoor hat, outdoor hat and pick up a treat-size pack of Maltesers in the kitchen for herself. That should cover it.” 

6. The Power Nap

The best thing about being a man is you are genetically programmed to take a power nap. Some say this is because we had to reboot ourselves when we were out on a hunt, but really it’s just because we’re lazy. Anyway, you’d be amazed how ten minutes of kip can change your day. Not that you’ll ever get to find out. Unless you can sleep through your partner going, “Are you for real, and don’t be giving me that bullshit about hunting with your cavemen friends?” The message here is simple. Don’t try this at home. Volunteer for any job that involves driving and grab ten minutes in the car-park by Aldi. Or more, if there’s a match on the radio. 

7. Chocolate

Research shows that 98% of chocolate sales are driven by parents trying to fill the gap where their life used to be. It also tends to fill a gap around where their abs used to be, but that’s only half the problem. The real issue is that a well-earned chocolate reward at 8 pm turns into a staring at the ceiling-staring problem at 3 am. And it’s also a substitute for sex, so you don’t even feel like waking your partner to ‘discuss’ your issues. Not that any guy would seriously consider interrupting his partner’s sleep. Unless you are doing research for a movie called SheWolf 7 – This Time You are Sleeping on the Couch. 

8. Hypnosis

A lot of parents swear by these sleep apps, where you listen to a woman with a soothing voice telling you to go to sleep. I’ve tried a few of these, but I’ve no idea if they work because I fell asleep before the end. So maybe give them a try.

Got another tip to add? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork city with his wife and two small kids. He gave up a decent job in I.T. in 2008 to head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. Pat is a regular on the on the RTE Today show with Maura Derrane and Daithí O’Sé and pops up frequently on radio shows such as the Right Hook. All of this is a bit too much like hard work, so he has started writing novels which will hopefully fund an early retirement to a hammock in the back garden. His first novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris, is available online and in shops outlined here http://www.patfitzpatrick.ie/novels/. Pat’s kids are both under two, so if you don’t mind, he is now going for a quick lie down.

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