Heavy Sleepers

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Heavy sleeping spouse & new baby

May 2004

I have an 18 month-old daughter and am expecting my second child any day now. My problem is that my husband is a dreadfully heavy sleeper and is absolutely no help once he has drifted into dreamland.

We have always had the arrangement that I take care of our daughter at night given that I don't work outside of the home during the day. So far that has worked for us.

Now that we are expecting another and our daughter seems to be night waking alot these days, I am hoping to get a little help from my husband. He is aware that I expect him (and he is willing) to attend to our daughter while I am dealing with our newborn. But neither of us is sure how it is going to happen! He has always been a heavy sleeper and he is one of those people able to fall asleep anywhere. He can sleep sitting up in a chair, on BART and on airplanes. According to his Mother he has always been an extremely heavy sleeper. That's all fine and dandy, but now that he is a parent I feel he should be able to hear his own kids crying during the night when they are sleeping a mere door away! This is not a new issue for us. It has surfaced before and now is becoming a large worry for me given my 38 week pregnant self.

For instance, several times I thought I have heard a noise in the house or tried to awaken him during the night and I cannot seem to rouse him. It makes me feel unsafe. Especially if I have to go out of town and I need for him to watch our kids. I mean how do I feel comfortable doing that? For example: The other night our daughter had a nightmare and I brought her into our bed and then promptly left to go sleep in our guest room because my husband is 6'4'' and with me being pregnant, there just isn't enough room for all 3 of us. Anyways, during the night I heard a thump and then crying. My daughter had fallen out of our bed and my husband had slept through the whole thing! Here she was bawling on the floor in the same room as her Daddy and he was just snoring through it all!

What am I to do? Is there a way to ''train'' people to hear their kids? Or is it hopeless? Of course I am hoping to get some help during the night once our baby arrives, but really this is more of a safety issue for me. I don't feel like my husband is fit to watch our kids when I am not around. It is an awful feeling to know that you are the only parent that is constantly ''on''. Any advice would be most welcome.

I should add here that my husband is a fantastic hands on Dad during the evenings and on weekends. He is very attentive to my needs being pregnant and the fact that I have really slowed down and am always tired. This issue isn't about his commitment to the family; it is about his sleeping habits.... Sleepless in Oakland

Since you have a husband who does other things well, I'd suggest you not depend on him to wake up when the baby cries... or even falls out of bed (hopefully never again!) Face it, you're going to be awake anyway if you hear crying... -- and if you're depending on him to wake up you'll be awake and MAD too. Instead of teaching him to do this particular task, could you find other ways for him to take care of YOU -- so you can take care of them? You may also want to look into ways to help your toddler sleep better, so you can enjoy the next 2 years, instead of just surviving them. Heather
I am the heavy sleeper in our family while my husband is the light sleeper. He stays up late, I go to bed early, and believe me I sleep like the dead for 8 hours. We both work full time. When we adopted our baby 3 years ago, we worked out an agreement where he would cover till 2am and I would take over after that. He had to wake me up. I never heard the baby crying, he always did. When he did wake me, I always checked the clock before I was fully awake to make sure it really was my turn! But I did wake up and do my duty and then went back to sleep. After a while, I actually did wake up on my own when the baby cried, but only if it was during my time segment, after 2am. Go figure. So maybe you could work out an arrangement like this with your husband, where you just wake him up when it's his turn. In my case, agreeing to this beforehand made all the difference - I just sort of woke up when I had to. Ginger
My husband and I discussed this. I said get a baseball bat :-) He said you should lean over at two in the morning and say ''let's have sex now'' and see if he wakes up. More seriously, if you really think he has a sleep problem and could not be roused in an emergency, you could try the Stanford Sleep Clinic. I think he can get evaluated by staying over night and they monitor his sleep. That way at least the two of you would have a definitive answer and could go from there. Also, personally I think the theory that those who work outside the home should get to sleep and those who stay at home w/kids should wake up with them isn't practical. The Stay at home parent is just as tired and does just as much ''work'' as the one who works outside the home, an often cannot nap. Also, many times the parent who works outside the home would never get a chance to bond with the child if he/she didn't wake up at night. Splitting it up has always worked at our house. We treat it as if we were both working outside the home. Just a thought-- Good luck! anon
My husband also snoozed straight through most of my sleepless nights for the first several months, until I started to have health problems from lack of sleep. At that point we decided for several days anyway I should sleep in the guest room and my husband would be ''on duty''--it was a real eye-opener for him! Once he knew he was responsible, he too would wake up at every little whimper or shifting. Your spouse does sound even more extreme, but the one time you mentioned leaving your daughter in bed with him it sounded like he wasn't aware beforehand--maybe if he knew ahead of time it would make a difference? happy sharing the load