Sleep deprivation through the ages and stages

Sleep deprivation is not just something for parents of young children as teenagers, cats and technology conspire to keep you awake.

Tired woman pouring coffee


In a world of sleep deprivation life can seem slightly surreal at times and designed only to frustrate sleep further. You think you are over the worst when your kids reach a certain age and supposedly sleep through the night. You don’t count on certain small people having immense imaginations and yelling for you at 3am when they wake up and need the toilet. No amount of night lights make a difference. “It’s the bit outside the light bit that I’m worried about, mum,” only son explained helpfully.

Teenagers do sleep – in fact it can be hard to wake them up, but they tend to stay up very late and no amount of bribery or appealing to logic seems to work. The trouble is they go out till late too which means their parents have to stay alert. I have been trying to cut down on caffeine of late, but it’s perhaps not perfect timing. I spend my life glued to my phone tracking people.

Pets don’t help. I used to make up stories for the kids about the cat disco, the place I said the cats went at night. Our cat would put on his sparkly vest and head down to the disco where he would meet up with Simba, Bagpuss, Top Cat and all the other celebrity cats and have a party, so the story went. Unfortunately, there appears to be no cat disco where we now live. It is more like a cat war zone, with all the associated blood-curdling screeching.

And then there are moths. We recently got a car which is way more technological than anything we have ever had in the past. It has GPS and stuff. It has a car phone system and you can connect to Bluetooth to stream music or some such. The latter is not necessarily a plus because daughters two and three monopolise it and force everyone to listen to BTS on every single journey. They even volunteer to come on short trips to pick people up from the station just so they can blast out BTS all the way there. I miss the CD player. Mainly, though, the car is supersophisticated.

Except. I have not been able to figure out how to turn off the internal alarm system so I cannot lock the car when someone is inside if I need to go to the shops and small people don’t want to get out. Only son looked fairly traumatised when I did it once outside a petrol station and the alarm went bananas. Anyway, we have since figured out a way around this so everything was fine. Until last week.

I came home from a family visit in the evening, locked the car and went inside. Around three hours later when I was trying to finish some work, the alarm went off. Had I not shut the car door properly? I went out and re-shut the door and went inside. Five minutes later the alarm went off again. I went and shut all the doors just to be on the safe side. Five minutes later the alarm went off again. I went inside the car. There was a moth fluttering around. I opened the doors to let it out, but it went and hid down the ultra-modern curved sides of the windscreen. I tried to tempt it out. It had burrowed deep. I went inside, hoping it would not emerge. Ten minutes later the alarm went off. I went back. The moth was on the windscreen and decided to hide once again down the side. My partner got up and brought a torch.

The moth was not coming out any time soon. So I stuffed some paper down the side of the windscreen.  It felt bad. Humans are killing all the world’s species and I am adding to it, but the need to sleep can drive you down a bad path. Four hours later I got up to do the school run. At least it was Friday, but only son had a sleepover and daughter two was going out late. A sleep catch-up looked a distant prospect.

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