Tuesday, January 6, 2009

jet lag

I don't appreciate the biological mystery of the internal body clock, until it gets completely out of whack. Adult humans were not really designed to travel between time zones, and babies and toddlers even less so. South Africa is 10 hours ahead of US Pacific time, which is basically completely topsy turvey. Night is day. Babies and toddlers don't understand. It is clear in our house that our two kids have very different internal clock biology, and science is starting to show us that the control of our circadian rhythms has a strong genetic component. I think our two got a very different set of sleep genes.

I'm probably stark raving bonkers from the lack of decent sleep, as instead of tearing my hair out, I'm using this recovery period as an opportunity to ponder on the biology of sleep. Actually, being the parent of two small kids is like having jet lag all the time, so though my mental processes feel like wading through treacle today, I am have become quite accustomed to functioning in this state. I'm so used to coping without sleep, that when I finally get geekybaby sleeping through the night (his new years resolution, though he does not know it yet), and have all my mental capacities back (well assuming there is no permanent damage, which is optimistic) I will probably be able to cure diabetes, HIV and cancer with my brilliance.

Helping the geekykids through the jetlag is an interesting challenge. Geekygirl is a sleeper. She likes to sleep and will even put herself to bed if she feels tired. I will sometimes wonder where she is only to find she has decided to get in bed and take her nap. This normally fantastic quality makes dealing with Jet lag very hard. Being forced to stay awake during the new "day", is torture for her. She goes down for her nap and getting her up again is like waking the dead. At the best of times she is grumpy after nap time, right now she takes ages to wake up, and complains of being cold, her core body temperature having cooled since her body clock is saying "nightime". In the mornings she is normally a great waker, springing out of bed full of chatter. This is now happening in the middle of the night. I have lost count of the number of times last night I heard "Is it wake up time mummy? (over and over at 9.30pm, 11.00pm, 2.00am, 4.00am....). She is also starving when she wakes, a huge consumer of breakfast, so is now ravenous in the middle of the night. Last night I resorted to giving her dry cheerios in bed and letting her play in her room at 2.00am.

Geekybaby however is a very light sleeper. I don't think he has ever in his 11 months of life slept more than about 8hrs at a stretch. Actually I think his sleep on the flight from San Francisco to London was one of his longest ever! He takes his naps happily, and goes to sleep easily, but is also easily roused. He is one of those babies that though he falls asleep in the car, he wakes as soon as it stops and can never be moved, sleeping, from car to stroller and stroller to bed, like geekygirl can. However he always wakes happy, and can function on less sleep. So at the moment he is waking every 2 hrs at night, which is more often than usual, but not much, and he is reasonably cheerful during the daytime, even though he is clearly tired. It is his bowels that are causing the most problems though, we had to change two poopy diapers between the hours of 10pm and 4.00am last night.

With the striking differences in sleep habits between my two, made more apparent here by this time zone experiment, I'm a strong believer that biology has as much impact on children's sleep habits as parenting, and I don't think most of the "sleep solution" books out there recognize this.

Here's hoping for a better night of sleep tonight

1 comment:

followthatdog said...

Maybe it's all of our international travel that has screwed up the kids sleep patterns. Oh, wait. We don't travel. Damn.

I feel your pain. I hope it works out quickly.

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