A Scheduling Nightmare

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Last Wednesday, writing about difficulties with my toddler daughter's remaining asleep at night, I speculated/hoped, "that the problems are due to her missing Momma and some circadian-rhythm-disrupting combination of me getting her to sleep earlier and daylight savings time". Too bad for us: the problems have persisted ever since, including for the two nights since Momma Van Horn returned. We still entertain some faint hope that the night wakings will cease after about a week, but they may not, given the nature of the problem: Our daughter has started having nightmares. We have known for only a couple of days because it took us that long to ask the question in a way she could understand/at a good time. (At least she has some idea of what a dream is!) The hope is that these are triggered by the recent upheaval in her routine, but that isn't necessarily the case. So we're getting by -- and doing something like the right thing as far as I can tell at my current level of understanding -- and reading up on the subject as the opportunity arises.

In the meantime, her monitor, which I take at night, has effectively become the Alarm Clock from Hell. It can go off any time from 1:00 to 6:00 a.m., based on my experience so far. (I typically rise at 3:00 a.m., so anything before this is lost sleep and anything after is lost work.) Luckily, nightmares are most common in the second half of the night, at which point I am usually awake anyway. (This morning was only the second time I have had to wake up early. Most troublesome was another morning, when she woke while I was in the middle of my shower.) The upshot of all of this is that, until this stops (or at least becomes infrequent), she wakes at some random time in the morning, and I have consoling/checking in on her to do for some unpredictable duration, anywhere between ten minutes and two hours. (Or more! As I write this, she is working on breaking the record for not going back to sleep. At least she is not distraught... And, yes, I think there is more than one problem going on, but that may be a post for another day.)

Normally, before the nightmares started, I'd wake, shower, dress, and set up supplies for the upcoming day, and then also monitor the baby boy or bring him downstairs if he was having a bad night. Once that was done, I could blog and do other mental work that would be difficult or impossible to do while watching active children. Now, I have Pumpkin from when she wakes and Mrs. Van Horn keeps the baby. (If he has a really bad night, we might have to swap duties or do shifts.) Although this was not optimal for creative work, it was at least becoming somewhat predictable as Little Man matured and his sleeping and feeding patterns became more regular. Now, it's back to Square One.

Forget about a "maker's schedule": I don't have that luxury. I'd long ago realized that I have to work with what fragments of writing time I can get. That said, I'd far prefer a single, solid hour that I could depend on than what I've had to deal with every day for over a week now: thirty minutes to four hours, starting at random and ending at random (but never past a certain point), and with interruptions and the prospect of more hanging over my head the entire time. I can do different tasks with different amounts (and quality) of time, but optimizing my productivity depends on some element of predictability. I now realize that "predictability" includes having a decent chance that, if today's time is short or broken up, tomorrow's might be longer or in fewer pieces. There are only so many short, relatively mindless tasks one can do. Here's hoping for more predictability soon -- as I get ready to read more about nightmares in toddlers.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

As one father-of-a-toddler-that-has-sleeping-problems to another father-of-a-toddler-that-has-sleeping-problems: Good luck, and I wish you well. At the very least, it is interesting to observe the effects of sleep deprivation on productivity.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. Oh, and, while you would think the tiredness would catch up with her, it never does. She was up for three hours last night, so you would think that (a) getting her to nap would be a cinch, and (b), she'd be out at least a couple of hours, and maybe as long as three. Nope. One and a half hours after twenty minutes of having to tell her it's "quiet time". (I am usually somewhat hamstrung by the fact that I am having to help an infant sleep around the same time. When I have just her, I get her to take "big girl naps" in her own room.)

Oh, and thanks for not offering concrete advice out of the blue as if it were gospel. That's the other half of the annoyance, as I am sure you know. (This reminds me of something a famous comedian friend of mine after a party we and a bunch of other old friends attended: He thanked us for not inundating him with "ideas for his act".)

Gus Van Horn said...

To clarify my last comment, which makes me sound like I dislike advice: have gotten a fair amount of advice on this by well-meaning people, and offered in the sense of, "It worked for me, maybe you'd like to try this." I have no objection to this. (That said, people who know me well, know that I can become impatient if I hear enough of this.)

Moving on, and updating, my strategy, which is to help my daughter see her room as a safe, comfortable place to sleep, seems to have led to an improvement already. I had a 1:30 awakening, followed by her going to sleep in her own bed within minutes and staying asleep for a couple of hours so far. Still reading, but I might have a decent strategy already...