Raw confessions of a sleep consultant
Raw confessions of a sleep consultant, AKA me (Kim Corley) was not what I had in mind for one of my early blogs. Maybe people wouldn’t want to hear the real story. The raw story that I can still remember. The time I felt like I had failed as a Mum, how the sleep deprivation that befell our family almost broke up our marriage. How I spent more time crying than laughing. How I didn’t want to parent anymore. This is the tame version, at least until I’m ready to go back to that bad bad place, but it will give you some idea. And maybe you can relate?
I’VE BEEN THROUGH A LOT
I keep thinking back to a quote someone once told me. “If you’re going to scale Mt Everest, you want to do it with someone who’s been there. Not just someone who’s read about it in a book and not experienced it.” One thing I can tell you is that I am more likely to understand your situation because I have been though a lot in regards to sleep (much more than I go into here). I have had children who didn’t sleep well, I corrected a lot of things early on, but i still didn’t “get” how important sleep was, even then. And then it got worse!
So I’m going to confess that I am not, and have never been, a super Mum (I tried though, I really tried). And I’m going to let you know that I am a real person, I am fallible. I even have foibles (although that sounds like some kind of new fan-dangled fidget spinner now that I mention it).
I have made mistakes – BUT I have learnt from them. And I’d like to share some of those mistakes with you, so you don’t have to go through them yourself. Or, if you are doing what I did, at least you know you’re not alone!
I have quite a list, so please don’t judge me harshly.
MY CHILDREN DIDN’T SLEEP WELL
Yes, you read right. My children didn’t sleep well when they were young. I mean almost NEVER slept through the entire night. I bought in to societal expectations that that’s just what parenting was all about. Sleep deprivation. Both my children were premature, so they spent more time in hospital than most, early on at least. Then there was colic, silent reflux, and (now that I know about it) a lip tie that caused issues…
I use to joke that doing shift work would prepare me for having kids (night shifts in particular – come on, those shifts can be tough!). BUT OOH NOO, nightshift with NO KIDS is a dream deal compared to UP ALL NIGHT when you have two little ones who tag-team you! (AND you still can’t stop during the day).
I MADE EXCUSES FOR MY CHILDREN’S BAD SLEEP HABITS
I had a long list of excuses for why my children didn’t sleep well (colic, reflux, a dairy intolerance, feeding issues). And yes, these are all valid, legitimate concerns – up until a certain age. They ARE associated with children who don’t sleep well, because these children are harder to settle when they are younger, and they cry more, so it’s MUCH easier to fall into bad habits.
I know NOW that you can instil healthy sleep habits in these children too – but it takes a little longer and it really helps to have support through this so you know you’re on the right track. Trying to do it alone is oh so hard. Because quite simply, you’re sleep deprived too!
But when your child should be getting better at sleep (surely), what should you do if they backslide? What should you do with a daughter who doesn’t sleep well at 3.5 years of age? By now she had outgrown the dairy intolerance (enough to give up the tummy aches at least)…
Well then a Mum like me has a certain ability to keep justifying poor sleep. There will be other reasons for why her child won’t sleep through the night.
At 4 years of age it was anxiety. I was working away from home ALOT and I never saw my daughter – of course this will affect her sleep, right!? – and then there were the dreams about the “bad guys”. Yes, all legitimate excuses, but really, they could have been solved with better sleep skills much earlier on. But, yes, I bought into the “they’ll grow out of it” myth. Sigh. Quick heads up. It may get a little better in the preschool years, but if you don’t change something…. then nothing changes.
I WENT TO WORK ON VERY LITTLE SLEEP
If you use to be my boss and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. Yes, there are days, weeks even, that I turned up to work on 3 – 4 hrs sleep a night. I’m not sure work cottoned on (yes, I was that good at my job). But think how much BETTER I would have performed with more sleep!
Let me say that your body is amazing, it is adaptable and can adjust to lots of things. Little sleep being one of them. Yes I thought I was OK. Yes, your body can adjust to feel “normal” after little sleep. Did you know that studies have shown that while your brain thinks you’re doing OK, your performance actually continues to decline? Poor sleep seriously affects your judgement (and your mood, health, hormones…).
I COPED … UNTIL I DIDN’T
Yes, I coped (I was Super Mum remember) I worked full time on little sleep, I learnt how to decorate flash birthday cakes, I organised theme parties and made the decorations by hand. I kept going. Maybe not quite energiser bunny material (far from it), but I kept going!
UNTIL I BURNT OUT. One day I started crying on the drive to work, and I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop in the car park, I didn’t stop in the office, I kept crying for the Welfare officer, and I kept going after I was sent home.
You know what, I could see it coming, I could tell that I was stressed before I broke down. But I still didn’t blame it on the lack of sleep. So, I dealt with it and carried on…. for over a year more. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the universe was getting pretty pissed at me for ignoring the signs – so I got a VERY heavy dose of sleep deprivation after that.
How did the Universe made me stop and take notice? Well, my daughter went into hospital for over a week (where she didn’t sleep then or on her return home) and my son flat out REFUSED to close his eyes at night due to anxiety. THEN I started to take notice (some of us really are a bit slow on the update).
I BOUGHT A DOG
I bought a dog to help my son sleep better. You’re either going to nod your head and think this is valid thing to try, or you’ve already started rolling your eyes and muttering that I’m crazy…
Did I think it would work? Well, yes. My son needed someone to sleep with him before he would relax enough to close his eyes, so surely if I got another warm living creature to lie with him (and guard him during the night), we, his parents, could leave his room.
With a puppy, my son would feel better and sleep. Right? WRONG! It didn’t work. And it meant I now had a puppy, a very cute, tiny well-behaved puppy, but still something that needed huge amounts of attention – from me. I now have a surrogate dog-child to look after
I DRUGGED MY CHILD
Have I got your attention with that one? It’s not actually as bad as the heading sounds (and I do have a pharmacology degree, so I know what I’m doing). But I tried Phenergan to encourage sleep when my daughter came home from hospital. It WAS prescribed. She had a rash and it was prescribed for the itch (being an antihistamine with sedating properties). But I may have asked specifically for it. I hoped it would work. It didn’t. She was still up numerous times during the night and needed me to be with her.
BUT (FINALLY) I SORTED IT
I went though something similar to what you may be considering. I had to change things to correct poor sleep.
You may also like to know that because I set my daughter up with good sleep skills as a baby (even though I later let those good skills slide), when we did work to get back on track, it was my daughter who made amazing progress within a few days! She remembered what I’d taught her at a young age and picked it up again very very easily! Those good skills really will last a lifetime.
My son, well, he was my first child – and we struggled much more with him – his personality also dictates that we still need to keep tight reins on sleep to this day…
I CONSIDERED THE JET LAG RESEARCH TOO
The sleep deprivation derived from TWO children that stopped sleeping at the same time (that life shattering, soul destroying experience) gave me the push I needed to study further overseas (which was more expensive than studying here, but I needed to go with a certification company and mentor I trusted).
So, I traveled through numerous time zones to get firsthand experience in sleep deprivation via jet lag. There is good science behind what I do now. And it’s science that wasn’t around 20 years ago! Oh, the sleep deprivation came back during those midnight webinar sessions I needed to “attend” to certify too. More experience to help me understand the devastating effects of too little sleep. But I did it to help you (you can thank me when you hire me). I think it was worth it – I LOVE helping families and effectively changing lives! And I am getting results! So many results!
For years (and years, OK decades, maybe even for more than a quarter of a century), I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. But I can now say I am where I want to be. That’s here to help you and your family gain better sleep. It IS that important and it IS worth it!
I’ve been there so you don’t have to. And as I said at the beginning of this blog, please don’t judge me too harshly for that.
Because everyone needs a good night’s sleep!
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***Update as at December 2018***
I’m now working with adults… because those habits you pick up as a child can stay with you into adulthood. And adults need sleep help too. If you’re interested in teen or adult sleep, then you can also contact me or book in a free initial call.