The only qualification I have for writing on the subject of sleep is the fact that I get very little unbroken stretches. And seeing as how most of my dear, close friends also have small children and also struggle with sleep issues, I am writing about the few things that have helped us. Hopefully, you will add more ideas to the discussion as I always am in need of fresh ideas.
With Andrea, I didn't sleep and she didn't sleep for 18 months. We finally took her to the chiropractor (because of birth and other trauma - 3 spinal taps at 6 weeks old) I believe that the gentle adjustments helped her sleep. Finally, I did too! Until Nathan was born and our youth group student/dear friend, Joe moved in. Then, we played musical rooms between our room and Andrea's. Because Nathan talked in his sleep, Joe came in late from work, Kurt worked nights, everyone was up all night. It was a mess! Now, enter wonderful sleeping third baby! Ha! No, not entirely but significantly better. Ethan loves his brother and sister and refuses to go to bed unless THEY are going to bed. Smart kid! These are just a few of our sleep issues. And I never knew that how we sleep would become such a divisive issue, but it has unfortunately impacted even our extended family as strong opinions do come out on this issue. Very strong.
So obviously my first idea is to help meet the children's needs to AVOID sleep deprivation in the first place. BUT, since those sleepless nights WILL come for one reason or another, here's what we've tried.
1. We lower our standards.
I cancel everything. Use paper plates. Unplug the phone (I don't want to talk to anyone else who has actually slept!).
2. We get horizontal.
Even if I can't sleep due to safety reasons, I try to be flat. Read lots of books with older children and teach new baby to nurse lying down were my first priorities.
3. We call for help.
This is an "if possible one"...doesn't always work because help is not always available or affordable, but if we can, we do!
4.We keep our routine.
Even if it takes us until 4 pm to do what we normally accomplish by 8:30 am, we still keep the routine. Especially at night-time.
5. We avoid TV.
This is probably my strongest recommendation and the hardest to do when we are tired. The children's behavior improves dramatically when NO television is watched and I feel more rested. Future posts will include the neurological information on why this important especially vital to young children but I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are tired, avoid the TV. It will NOT help you. Replace it with worship music or even classic music such as Chopin or Bahms. I recently spoke with a new mom who got up and watched TV while feeding the baby but then couldn't understand why he wouldn't go back to sleep. Newborns are light and sound sensitive and they especially should not be exposed to any television. When they are in the same room, they are adversely impacted and it can impact their sleep cycles (note: this last part is completely experiential on my part but the neurological research leads this direction.).
I hope this helps my other sleepy mother-friends as you care for the needs of your small people in the night and the following day. I find myself understanding the Lord's perspective so much better when my children and I are tired and I say to them "I need you to obey even when you're tired." God has said that to me lately a TON. I need to be obedient and patient even when I'm tired so that His strength will work through me to care for these precious gifts running around my house. May you all walk in His strength and may you find rest for your tired eyes as well! Blessings!
Postscript: Please forgive the choppy grammar and not well worded things - I'm more than a little tired!