Tag Archives: sleep deprivation

I must spend more time with my children

I don’t spend enough time with my children, despite the fact that I mostly work from home.  I am always busy and when I’m not busy,  I’m so knackered that I’m no good to anyone.  I know that a lot of this has to do with the recent house move (added to the previous three)  and a very, very stressful few years, but a) this is not going to get any better and b) that will be no comfort to me when they’re suddenly eighteen and have left home or simply don’t want to hang around with me anymore.

Boy the Elder spent most of this weekend with a friend (at the Cosby Air Show) and after we had dropped him off, Boy the Younger and I decided to go for a walk at Foxton Locks.  On a whim, we popped in and took one of his friends along as well.  We had a lovely time but as we drove back BTY asked if this friend could come back for a sleepover.

Now, I am ashamed to admit that I absolutely hate having my children’s friends over for sleepovers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their friends, but particularly with the younger ones, I resent the extra responsibility of another child.  Isn’t that awful?  And particularly at the moment, when there is still so much work to be done in the house before it will be as I want it, the additional pressure leaves me feeling absolutely drained.

The boy sleeping over was fine but I couldn’t wait for him to be collected, mostly because I could feel a massive headache coming on of the kind that requires a day in bed with hot water bottles on the back of my neck.

I’m also not very good at being spontaneous.  I used to be spontaneous years ago, renowned for it in fact, but not anymore.  Spontaneity suggests large chunks of free time that have been unaccounted for and I rarely have those.  When they boys are at their dad’s, I usually spend my time catching up on jobs or asleep.  By Sunday evening, I’m starting to relax a bit but then Monday comes again all too soon.

A basic 8884 Sponge Cake mix with a lot of food colouring *

But after the friend had gone and BTY and I were on our own, I felt far too guilty to go to bed and leave him downstairs alone, so I suggested that we bake a cake together.  This was extremely well received and although he got a bit silly and messy, he eventually produced a multi-coloured cake decorated with bright yellow buttercream and Smarties.  He declared that it was a Happy Cake and couldn’t wait for Boy the Elder to come home and have a slice.  My heart melted a usual.

While we were waiting for the cake to cool, I suggested that we get a jigsaw and we returned to an old favourite depicting three Spitfires against a stormy sky.  We got the straight edges out and did the outline first and then he got to work on the Spitfires.  He was so thrilled when he managed to get pieces in the right places and we really enjoyed doing the puzzle together.

When Boy the Elder came home, the dynamic changed, but it brought it home to me very strongly that I have to make more time for them.  When BTE was little, he didn’t have an older brother muscling in on his time, telling him what to do or generally being a git.  I also had the time to do creative things with him on a regular basis.  BTY has always had to share his time and I have not been in the position to do lots of creative stuff with him.  He needs to spend quiet periods with me, just being together and having a bit of fun.

Must try harder.  Otherwise I’ll live to regret it.

* Click here for basic sponge cake mix


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure

Sleeper – Part 2

Now today we’re going to talk about sleep and children.  Before we say anything else, let’s establish one thing.  Children need a lot of sleep.  Babies need around 17 hours, young children between 10 and 12 hours.  Teenagers, it would appear, genuinely need more sleep than adults at around 9.5 hours per night.

So.  How many children are actually getting enough sleep to function properly?  According to The Independent newspaper, up to two thirds of British children are not getting enough sleep and have missed as much as 4,500 hours by their 7th birthday.  Blimey.

An increasing number of children are chronically sleep deprived.  This leads them to be bad-tempered, unable to concentrate at school, have poor memory, reduced creativity, have cognitive impairment, they are more clumsy, have lower immunity, behavioural problems and a wide variety of health problems including obesity, diabetes and depression.

Good sleeping habits have to be taught like everything else.  Babies can be taught from a very early age that there are times for feeding and times for sleeping and this should continue into childhood.  Babies and young children are exhausting, particularly if you have more than one and, as a parent, you owe it to yourself to train your child to go to bed at a sensible time, not only for their sake, but for your own.  Parents need child free time and time to rest and be with their partners, even if it’s only for a short time.  Children must not be allowed to dictate the timetable of an entire household.

Another area where chronic sleep deprivation seems to have an impact is children with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and inadequate sleep appears to be a contributing factor.  In a study in  Finland, children between 7 and 8 who got less than 7.7 hours of sleep per night were significantly more likely to be hyperactive or inattentive than the children who had 9.4 hours sleep or more.

Now this would appear to be common sense surely.  Our parents’ generation sent us off to bed early as a matter of course, so what’s happened?   I think it’s a combination of several things:

Too much television and time on computers:  although we think TV is soporific and that we’re veg-ing out, it actually stimulates brainwaves but not in a way that aids brain development.  The fast pace in the editing of many children’s programmes leads to difficulties with attention and hyperstimulation.

Not enough fresh air and exercise: not only will this prevent them from becoming overweight which can cause sleep difficulties in itself, but it helps with respiration and a healthy heart.  They will also be tired for the right reasons, all of which promote healthy sleep.

Poor diet: Sugar and refined carbohydrates create fluctuating blood sugar levels that can disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. Another side effect of excessive sugar consumption is insulin rebound, in which the body is overwhelmed with an influx of simple sugars and as a result cannot digest food properly. This condition causes a stress reaction in the body that prevents sleep.

Lack of parental control:  As a parent we have a responsibility to make sure our children go to bed at the right time.  It’s our job.  We have to set boundaries; 8 o’clock must mean 8 o’clock and when you say one story, only read one story.  If they’re getting enough sleep, there’s a reasonable chance their behaviour will be better and therefore cause fewer disruptions, making you less stressed and therefore better able to cope with enforcing a routine.

Lack of routine:  Children need routine – it makes them feel safe – and this ties in with the paragraph above.  Do the same things every night; warm milky drink, wash, teeth, bed, story, goodnight.  It’s not always possible to stick to it, but do try.

Many children are sent off to bed with no supervision whatsoever.  Many parents don’t read bedtime stories, don’t supervise washing and teeth cleaning, don’t tuck their children up, and let them fall asleep in front of television of computer games.  There’s no security in this.  To be tucked up in bed with a warm kiss goodnight, is sometimes all a child needs to settle.  In my opinion, young children shouldn’t have computers or televisions in their rooms in the first place.  How can you monitor what and when they’re watching?

As adults, we know that when we are chronically tired we cope less well with stress, so why should our children be any different?  Will a permanently tired child turn into a permanently tired adult who can’t cope with the vicissitudes of modern life.  We can’t risk it.

Children do suffer from stress and even if you have a good bedtime routine, life events can cause children to become anxious and not sleep.  Talk to your child and listen to what they have to say.  If it persists, take them to the doctor in case they need some counselling or treatment for a physical problem.

So to recap:

  • Make sure your child has fresh air and exercise every day
  • Set your routine and stick to it
  • Remove televisions, computers and mobile ‘phones from the bedroom
  • Have soft lighting in the bedroom
  • Don’t have dinner too close to bedtime – a milky drink and a biscuit or a banana should be sufficient
  • Have half an hour’s ‘wind down’ before going up to bed
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Supervise bedtime, tuck them in, read them a story, then leave the room
  • Make sure they know you’re pleased when they stay in bed – maybe keep a star chart so they can earn a treat

I understand that this is sometimes difficult.  Boy the Elder needs 23 ½ hours sleep a night and Boy the Younger needs 9 or 10.  When they shared a room it was horrendous as Boy the Elder was getting massive sleep deprivation and in the end he would often have to come in with me.  It is much better now they have separate rooms and, combined with a stricter regime, star charts really do help because they can see immediate evidence of their successes.

I’ve just realised that we haven’t even started on babies, so I shall have to do a Sleeper Part 3, but don’t worry, it won’t be as long as the first two!

Royal College of Psychiatrists
The Sleep Disorders Centre, Sacre-Coeur Hospital, Paris
British Medical Association Journal August 2000
Paediatrics – April 2009
The Sleep Apnoea Trust
The Independent newspaper – May 2003
The Times newspaper – November 2009
Loughborough University, England
The University of Montreal, Canada
The University of Helsinki, Finland
The Good Night Guide for Children booklet


Filed under Children, Health and Fitness, Medical

Sleeper – Part 1

Aha, you thought this was going to be another post banging on about railways didn’t you? (or earrings or Woody Allan).  But no!  It is a proper article about sleep and the importance thereof.  Today I’m going to talk about adults and tomorrow, children.

Firstly, let’s establish a bit of information about sleep.  Sleep is the regular period in every 24 hours when we are unconscious and unaware of our surroundings. There are two main types of sleep:

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep: This comes and goes throughout the night and makes up about one fifth of our sleep. The brain is very active, our eyes move quickly from side to side and we dream, but our muscles are very relaxed.

Non-REM sleep:  The brain is quiet, but the body may move around. Hormones are released into the bloodstream and the body repairs itself after the wear and tear of the day. There are 4 stages of non-REM sleep:

1.      The muscles relax, the heart beats slower and body temperature falls – ‘pre-sleep’.
2.      Light sleep – you can still be woken easily without feeling confused.
3.      Slow wave sleep – our blood pressure falls, you may talk in your sleep or sleep walk.
4.      Deep slow wave sleep – you are very hard to wake. If somebody does wake you, you feel confused.

We all complain about loss of sleep or feeling tired (I know I do) but I wonder how many of us realise just how much lack of sleep can affect us, not just our cognitive functions but on a physical level as well.   Cutting back on sleep is an understandable response to the stress of modern life.  In 1910 an average night’s sleep was nine hours.  By 1975 it had reduced to seven and a half hours and the trend is continuing downwards with some shift workers rarely getting more than five. 

Most adults need eight hours sleep per night.  Some people get by with much less, but it has been demonstrated that these people often have tiny cat naps during the day or have a massive lie-in once a week to compensate.

Sleep deprivation caused tiredness (yeah), lack of concentration, cognitive impairment and behavioural changes.  More road accidents happen because of tiredness than speeding.

It is now known that continued lack of sleep can cause significant physiological problems as well, including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, alteration of hormone production and … erm … oh yes, memory loss. 

A recent study on eleven healthy young men (no it wasn’t me, it was done by proper scientists) monitored their physical well being over 16 nights where they were allowed varying amounts of sleep. The results were interesting but long and complex, so I will summarise thus:-

During periods of sleep deprivation:

  • Their glucose levels resembled those of people with Type 2 diabetes and their glucose metabolism was reduced by 40%.
  • The production and action of thyroid stimulating hormone was suppressed
  • Blood contained increased levels of cortisol later in the day.  This is typical of much older subjects and thought to be significant in age related problems such as insulin resistance and memory impairment
  • All these abnormalities returned to normal after the subjects had had twelve hours of sleep

The primary function of sleep may well be to give your brain a rest, but this study suggests that chronic sleep loss could have long term adverse health implications.

Snoring and Sleep Apnoea are also a big problem, not just for the sleeper but also for the person who sleeps with them.  Sleep apnoea is caused by the increased narrowing of the throat during sleep. Anything that makes the throat narrower to start with (for example enlarged tonsils or a set-back lower jaw) means that it is easy for the throat to close off a bit more and block the airway. A partially blocked nose generates lower pressures in the throat whilst taking a breath in, which tends to suck the walls of the throat together. 

Sufferers of sleep apnoea not only suffer from the normal symptoms of sleep deprivation. Heart problems can be caused or exacerbated because of the pauses in breathing during the night. If you imagine your body is being starved of its much needed oxygen, the heart is going to have to work even harder to pump blood around your body faster, to keep your oxygen levels at the required level. Equally, your blood will begin to contain higher levels of carbon dioxide, as less oxygen is present, which can make your blood more acidic and consequently cause irregular heart-beats.

Probably the most important factor in snoring and sleep apnoea is being overweight with a big neck. Extra fat in the neck squashes the throat from outside, particularly when the throat muscles become floppier with sleep.  Anyone over a size 17 collar is a prime candidate.  Yes really.  If you are a snorer get it sorted – not just for your own health but for your partner as well.

Many adults suffer from varying degrees of insomnia and the reasons for this are as diverse as the sufferers themselves.  Short term sleep difficulties are often associated with anxiety, emotional problems, physical illness or a life event such as bereavement.  Sometimes it can simply be that the insomniac has got into bad habits and needs to ‘re-train’, in the same way that children need to be trained, to sleep at an appropriate time.  Sleeping pills can be helpful for short-term problems but it is vital that the root cause of poor sleep patterns is found, and treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be very effective for some people.

Some hints for healthy sleep:

  • Keep a window open or turn down the heat in your bedroom
  • Make sure your curtains shut out the light
  • Try to have some winding down time before you go to bed – read or listen to soothing music
  • Have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil
  • Don’t put the TV on in the bedroom – it is a proven stimulant (not in a good way)
  • Have a warm milky drink
  • Get regular fresh air eg. a good walk – but not within 3 hours of bedtime

Good night and sleep well.

Science Daily: October 1999
Royal College of Psychiatrists
The Sleep Disorders Centre, Sacre-Coeur Hospital, Paris
British Medical Association Journal August 2000
The Sleep Apnoea Trust


Filed under Health and Fitness, Medical

We are not invincible (a serious one I’m afraid).

The reason I’ve put this on is because it’s likely that many other people feel like this from time to time, or, heaven forbid, all the time, and think they are the only ones.  They are not.

The first week of the holiday has been a real ‘settling down’ week.  At the end of last week I was undeniably exhausted but I hadn’t realized quite how bad it was. The only way I can describe it is to make a comparison with a mobile ‘phone battery that has run down.  If you only charge it up by one bar, it only takes one ‘phone call for the battery to run out again.

The last week of term had undeniably been a struggle although I thought that the psychological effect of the holidays would cure that, but no.  Every single thing I did completely wore me out again; trip to the shops – knackered, bit of light weeding – knackered, couple of difficult ‘phone calls – knackered.  At lunchtime on Friday I started crying and I just could not stop. I went to bed as soon as I got home from the school run, Boy the Elder made me a cup of tea (that universal panacea) and brought me some chocolate (he’s learning fast) after which I fell asleep.  I got up to feed them then went back to sleep again. 

Sister the Second was arriving on Saturday morning, after I had taken the boys to their father, and I didn’t even have the strength to clean or tidy the house.  I changed the bed – knackered.  I spent the entire two days at the Festival of History (which I’m dying to tell you about but it needs illustrating with photos so you’ll have to wait).  The first day was communal with The Boys, their father, father’s girlfriend and my sister which was lovely.  In the evening StS and I got a Chinese, drank a bottle of fizz, talked bollocks – perfect.  The second day was spent wandering around by myself, looking at things, talking to incredibly knowledgeable re-enactment bods, taking my time and generally chilling out.

But I had only charged up one bar and by Tuesday I was seriously beginning to think that chemical intervention might be necessary.  Mrs Cromarty, who had popped round during the day, had certainly sensed something was awry and the following day brought me a little present (which I will share with you on the installation of Photoshop) and a lovely poem she had written herself (which I won’t). It was so thoughtful and supportive, but I still found it hard to stop crying.  And do any of you get that thing where you have words or phrases running obsessively through your head that won’t go away? 

Then, to top it all, last night I suddenly noticed that a picture that was waiting to be put up (that had been moved from its safe place in order for a glazier to mend the front door) had all the glass smashed, evidently by a sharp blow from someone or something.  It was an original pen and ink drawing by my quite famous great-grandfather – not priceless but extremely precious.  The Boys are adamant that they don’t know who did it (I believe them, but I have my suspicions).  However, they saw something in my face which resulted in them going straight to bed without being told, washed, teeth, lights out, no talking.  It was definitely a tipping point and I lay on the sofa, mindlessly watching Dave, breathing deeply and thinking ‘I will see how I am in the morning’.

On Friday I slept until eleven o’clock and we all had breakfast in our pyjamas, curled up on the sofa.  Then we went to East Carlton Park and had a long, long walk.  Boy the Younger had a massive tantrum and I dealt with it brilliantly.  We had a late lunch and then I sat reading a book while they frollicked in the play area and where they unexpectedly found some chums from school. 

By the time we got home, I knew that something had shifted.  Whether it was finally catching up on lost sleep, or fresh air and exercise or what, I don’t know. Boy the Elder broke one of the china cups with violets on which I bought at the Antique Market the other week and I neither cried nor exploded.  A good sign.

This weekend we are going to tackle the house, because this has also been a source of great distress to me.  I am going to put up many shelves and a bathroom cabinet, do filing, help The Boys to sort out their rooms once and for all.  I know that it will clear a space in my head and I might even like the house a little better.

The lessons are these, and they apply to all of us I suspect:

I am not Superwoman
There are no medals for doing everything
It is perfectly alright to say ‘No’ to people
I cannot manage without an average of 7.5 hours of sleep a night
I need to learn to ask for help without it feeling like an admission of failure
I need to get out more
I probably need to eat less cake and have the odd gin and tonic in the evening

Chin up and chin chin!


Filed under Family and Friends, Health and Fitness, Life in general

I have finally Lost the Will to Live

Boy the Elder was given an iPod for Christmas.  Lucky boy.  But I already have an iPod which is linked to my PC.  Therefore I had to open a separate account for the boy so that he could do his own thing with his own iPod.  After all, how much Andrews Sisters can a 12-year old take? Except that I couldn’t work out how to do it.

The Wartime Housewife is not afraid of technology; I embrace it whenever it makes my life better (eg, iTunes, Amazon, ebay, blogging, email).  But I am hampered by two things.  Firstly, my PC is running on 1/4 of the RAM it needs to anything at all (this is in hand) and secondly, I’m just a bit crap.

So at 4pm today, after school. I began the process of Sorting Out the iPod.  I tried to contact Apple to find out how I could run two separate accounts on one computer but after an hour, I gave up and rang the Apple shop in Leicester.  The chap was terribly helpful and emailed me an information sheet telling me how to get started.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make clear which area of the PC I needed to be in, in order to accomplish the first task.  The Apple help menus just kept sending me round and round, but I didn’t understand where they wanted me to go or what information I would need when I got there.

Eventually  I worked out that I needed to establish Boy the Elder as another user on the PC itself and it made sense to make sure that he had all the relevant icons on the screen to do whatever 12-year olds do.  (I have excercised my parental controls by banning Rap Music and Drum & Bass but allowing Porn.  Was that wrong?)  And of course, it was all so gut-wrenchingly slow and at one point the whole thing stopped and I had to unplug everything at the mains and start again. 

I returned to iTunes only to discover that if he wanted to actually buy anything, he had to have a separate email account as well.  Right then, back to TalkTalk except that nowhere did it tell you how to open another email account.  It kept telling you that you could, but not how.  After another hour and a half of trying to get through to them, it transpired that Talktalk was down for maintenace and all accounts were inaccessible.  When I finally got through to the right menu, it made me log on for email bills rather than paper ones and complete a survey before it would let me go any further.  Did it.  Moved on.  Got an email account.

Boy the Elder bought his first track at 11.23 tonight.  Other than a break to drive into Harborough for fish and chips, then eat the fish and chips, it has taken me approximately seven hours to add one MP3 player to one PC.

I’m going to have another glass of Sloe Sherry followed by a mug of Ovaltine and then bed.    I tried to have an early night last night, but a recently bereaved friend rang me at 11.30 and stayed on for 2 hours and then Boy the Younger woke me up at 5am, because he’d had a nightmare about a scary blue man, and he didn’t go back to sleep until 6am.  Up again at 7am.

You will forgive me if I don’t do a blog tonight, won’t you?


Filed under Children, Technology