Sunday, January 14, 2018

Week 2: January is my SLEEP month, and a recipe for toddler-friendly pancakes

January is resolution season- did you make any resolutions in 2018? I rarely make real proper new years' resolutions but I like the idea of one-word resolutions, or overarching themes for the year. My word for 2018 is "streamline"- a word that sort of sums up my aspirations to organize, simplify and put into place helpful habits and processes in different parts of my life.

All through the month of January, I'm working on streamlining our family's sleep habits. I more or less took sleep completely for granted and never gave it a second thought, until we had two kids who are/were pretty terrible sleepers. So I have spent the last 6+ years reading every sleep book I could find and learning about how critical and indispensable good sleep is, while simultaneously racking up enormous amounts of sleep debt. Lately our kids' sleep has been improving/ stabilizing somewhat (famous last words? knock on wood, Nupur!) so I am attempting to climb out of the deep, bleary hole of chronic sleep debt.

January is a good month for sleep goals. December is fairly disastrous as far as sleep goes, what with holiday gatherings and travel and social drinking and bedtimes all over the place. There aren't many scheduled activities in January, it gets dark very early anyway and V's traveling a lot of this month so I am running ragged and ready to hit the sack at the first opportunity. Once the night begins, my sleep is at the mercy of two kids and a dog. A regular wake up time is always cited as a very good habit, but my wake up time is whenever the toddler decides he's "all done" or the canine decides it is time for a potty break. Likewise, when I'm woken up in the middle of the night, it can be a struggle to fall back asleep.

But especially at the start of the night, there are many things within my control and this month I'm trying to maximize those factors by making sleep a number one priority and creating a restful environment for sleep.

1. A regular bedtime, every day, no matter if it is a weekday or weekend. A fixed bedtime is a great way to set the circadian clock and over time, it habituates you to fall asleep quickly and easily at your bedtime. So this is probably the most important habit I'm cultivating in myself and the kids.

By nature I am a very early bird and school/work schedules also demand that we rise early (Lila's yellow school bus shows up at 7 AM!) so bedtimes in our household are very early. Niam's bedtime is 7 PM, Lila's is 7:30 PM and working backwards from my average wake up time (5 AM), I have to be asleep by 9 PM to even have the opportunity to sleep 8 hours.

2. Bedtime routines for my kids and for myself. A winding down routine provides a buffer zone between day and night and cues a good night's sleep. We do the usual stuff- baths, teeth brushing, story time, lotion and massage for the toddler, warm pajamas etc.

3. Stop using screens an hour before bedtime. This is the one I'm really working on this month. Going to bed at 9, shortly after getting the kids to bed and finishing household chores- this leaves me with almost no "me time" in the evenings, no time for crafting or watching TV or catching up on blogs. I have to fight against the feeling that "I deserve some time to chill out" and replace it with "I deserve my sleep". The good thing about screen-free time is that I have built in 30 minutes of reading time before bed- reading on old-fashioned dead-tree material, of course.

4. No tea or coffee after 3 PM. Not everyone is sensitive to caffeine but it definitely affects my sleep. Yesterday I had tea with a friend in the evening and sure enough, had trouble falling asleep. Alcohol also makes for a poor night's sleep. Yeah, good sleep is decidedly un-fun. But really, we get around this by shifting out socializing to the morning- friends come over for brunch and we eat and drink (alcohol! caffeine!) and make merry. Dinners, though? Nope, I just tell everyone I turn into a pumpkin at 9 PM.

6. Blackout curtains in the bedrooms. This made a huge difference in my sleep quality and I highly recommend it! The bedroom should be so pitch dark that you can't see your own hand when you hold it out in front of you. No blinking lights, clocks or electronics, and most definitely no TV in the bedroom.

* * *
After a good night's sleep comes a big breakfast. My toddler loves finger food and I was looking for a hearty pancake recipe with some eggs and oats. I found this one in, of all places, the comments section of a blog post. I personally don't like these pancakes- too bland and eggy for my taste- but the toddler loves them, so here is the recipe for anyone wanting to try it on the little ones in your life.

Toddler-friendly Eggy Pancakes

Measure 1/3 cup oats into a blender bowl. Blend into flour.

To this oat flour, add
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 tbsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Blend everything into a smooth batter in the blender.

Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes.

Make pancakes- this makes about 5-6 small (6 inch) pancakes.

Serve pancakes with butter, jam, applesauce, syrup or any other spread.

I usually spread the pancakes with jam or applesauce, then cut them into bite size pieces as a finger food. Pancakes can be stored in fridge (3 days) or frozen. Warm in microwave before serving.

Tell me about your sleep- do you get good sleep or is it something you struggle with? 

24 comments:

  1. Love your word for this year! Works on so many levels. I struglle with sleep as well, especially more with two kids. And I love my screen time in the night. Contrary to what they say, this calms me down and helps me fall sleep - on most nights. Some night I end up binge watching - makes me relaxed but lose my sleep. What works for me is an iregularly regular pattern. On days that I know I need to be up, I sleep early and avoid screen time. On days that I am stressed and have trouble falling asleep, I let myself have some screen time.
    Any sleep books you would recommend? I would love to hear what your synopsis about these books.

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    1. Sangeetha- it sounds like you've figured out what works for you! Which is the most important thing and can be tricky to do.
      I'll write a synopsis of the sleep books some day- but one came out recently that is in fact a good synopsis of recent sleep books/theories/research called Precious Little Sleep- the writer has both a blog and a book with that same name. It focuses on sleep in babies and toddlers though, there's not much in there about sleep in older kids and adults.

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  2. Happy new year to all 5 of you! I don’t make resolutions because I cannot seem to stick to them. But this year I hope to eat cleaner, healthier food and try lose some weight. I’m only aiming for 7-8 kgs in the whole year. Anything more than that and I become a nervous wreck trying to figure out how to get there.

    I do sleep for 8 hours everyday but the quality of sleep i get is extremely poor. Honking school buses in the morning, stray dogs barking all night long, the toddler kicking me in his sleep, hubbs snoring... long list you see. So yeah, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m probably never going to get a good nights sleep for a while now.

    I’ve tried pancakes several times now, but never seem to like them. Maybe I’ll try this recipe and see how it goes.

    My kiddos birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I’m excited to host another birthday party! Do you think bhel or ragda patties would be a good idea for the menu?

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    1. Oh man, that's a lot of disruptions in your sleep :( I suppose you've tried earplugs for all the noisy disruptions. About the co-sleeping with kids thing, it works if child and parent(s) are getting good quality sleep but if your sleep is being disrupted by all the kicking, then it is not working. The thing about poor quality sleep is that it is more than an annoyance, it really does negatively impact health, even makes it harder to lose excess weight. I wish you good nights in the new year :)

      You can certainly try this pancake recipe, but like I mentioned in the post, it is quite eggy and bland- my toddler loves it so I make it all the time, but I don't like it much. There are tastier pancake recipes out there! Happy birthday to your kiddo!!

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  3. Sleep has been a nightmare over the festive period but is settling in our family - but it is a mystery as to why Sylvia goes to sleep so well one night and the next with the same routine will not sleep til late. Good luck with your sleep routines.

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    1. Yes, the holidays totally threw off our sleep routines! Which only increased my zeal to prioritize sleep this month and boy I am feeling so much better already. Good luck to you too and I hope Sylvia gets some good sleep now that the holidays are behind us.

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  4. My daughter was a terrible sleeper while my son has been a good sleeper from the start. My daughter's sleep greatly improved after we moved her brother into her room. he used to cosleep with us until he was about a year and a half. They are now 8 and 5 and still share a room. I think having her brother close by is like her security blanket. Another thing we started a year ago was to leave the room after the bedtime routine while they were still awake. They also both prefer a night light but, as you said, it's better if the room is pitch dark. So, my husband put a timer switch and after about an hour the night light turns off. After trying different things we are now (knock on wood) in a good place with sleep.
    Of course any day now, I expect my daughter to say she wants her own room.

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- It does take some trial and error to find out what helps a child sleep peacefully. And as you say, the situation is always in flux- illness, travel, changing ages and stages- good sleep is never a done deal. How sweet that your kids enjoy being roomies!

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  5. I am so not a pancake person! I can eat a foot-high stack of buttered toast, though... Someone gave me a giant bag of almond flour and I'm planning to make pancakes now. Any tips on avoiding the eggy bland trap?

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    1. Try adding half or a full banana to the blender with the rest of the stuff.

      -Anu

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    2. I'm with you, Niranjana, buttered toast over pancakes any day! Almond flour stores really well in the freezer so you don't have to rush to use it up. I tried making almond flour pancakes (as in, no wheat flour, only almond and coconut flours and eggs and such) and it was a complete disaster! But I am sure there are better recipes out there.

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    3. Hi Nupur i'm a silent reader and really enjoy reading your posts and really appreciate how u take time out to do crafty stuff too.
      Now, regarding pancakes....i make with equal portions of oat flour+white whole wheat flour by king arthur + almond flour. For oat flour and almond flour i just grind them in coffee grinder. No exact measurements just eyeballl these. They come out gud kids like them.

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    4. Niranjana, just my suggestion. I use almond meal in place of peanut powder ( like in sabudana khichadi) in sheera or gajar halwa. I also make date and nut energy bites, instead of almonds add in almond meal, easier for kids to eat.

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  6. Unfortunately I have accumulated a major sleep debt. My son was a terrible sleeper till he was 2. After that, he started to sleep through the night, and for a year things we good on the sleep front. For the past year, with mom's illness and demise, sleep has gone out of the window. For the time she was ill, I used to be in the paranoid state, wondering if I will get a call at night about some bad news or something related to her. Now that she is no longer there, most nights I am troubled with nightmares and depressing thoughts and I will barely get 3-4 hours of sleep. I go to bed at 9 with my son, but by the time I actually fall asleep, it is 2-3 am. A few nights like these are followed by a night of deep sleep (because of the tiredness I think!). These days I am consciously trying to block out all thoughts when I sleep so that the mind does not get a chance to go into the restless stage!
    I totally second the blackout curtains. Those were game changers for us too.

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    1. Neha- that's very tough! You have been through traumatic grief recently and I hope time and space will bring you more peace. If (and only if) you feel up to trying it, then there are things that might help- like yoga, exercise, meditation, music, talking to supportive friends and family, and I personally find writing very therapeutic.

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  7. Sorry for chiming in here Nupur. I was compelled to respond to her; having been thro' this phase myself.
    Dear Neha, my deepest condolences to you. Very very sorry to hear the loss of your dear mom. Little over 3 years ago, I lost both my parents within 2 months; it is traumatic and devastating. I've gone through the same issues, no sleep, depressing and troubled thoughts. I dealt with it by hitting gym 5 days a week, intense workouts and lot of spiritual discourses and yoga. I still struggle every now and then; especially birthdays, festivals and such. Like everyone says - you'll eventually get used to it; but will never be able to get over it. I'd be glad to talk to you anytime; if you feel the need for it.

    Sending lots of Love hugs and prayers
    Meena.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Meena, lots of great advice here. It is always helpful to hear from someone who has been through a similar situation. Hope you continue to heal!

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    2. Meena, Nupur
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I do kickboxing and martial arts pretty regularly (for quite some years now) and that definitely helps. However, for the mind to heal in the true sense, it will take time (or maybe its an ongoing process for as long as we live). I just need to find ways to live without a loved one's physical presence in my life. I hope you continue to heal too. Hugs.

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  8. hello Nupur,
    Funny as it may sound, my "words" for 2018 is 'Gluteus'; meaning work on my hips to strengthen them and practice more 'Silence'. I'm noticing being silent brings calmness, clarity of thought, less conflicts and just overall well being and harmony with myself.I really want to focus on these two things for this year and reassess myself towards the year end.
    I usually have had no issues falling asleep but after losing both my parents 3 years ago, I really struggle to sleep especially second half of the year around their anniversaries. The flood of emotions is just so overwhelming; it's very hard not to remember them and miss them :-( I grieve differently for my dad and mom; and those months I'm sleep deprived. The days I workout, my body is tired and I just crash after dinner (which is good). I've also come to realize it's ok to not be able to sleep through the night certain days in the year; instead I'm learning to focus my mind on my hobbies by learning to sew. It deviates my mind and until I'm ready to fall asleep, it keeps my mind preoccupied in something I like and enjoy doing.

    Meena.

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    1. Meena- Love your words :) and wish you the best with becoming strong and cultivating inner and outer peace. Sewing is a wonderful hobby- it is quite technical and needs focus so it cuts out distractions. Here's wishing you a wonderful year!

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  9. Wish you all a very happy new year!
    I don’t make any resolutions, I just cannot keep them. But I want to de clutter now, this apartment is a bit smaller than the previous ones and it feels a bit tight now. Let’s see how that goes.

    As for sleep,I struggle with sleep. I toss and turn and feel restless. I rarely sleep before midnight, no matter how hard I try.
    But thankfully, my son has a good routine and he complies. I am lucky. As for holidays, I don’t mind the late hours, it’s all ok as long as he comes back to schedule when school reopens. I guess it gets easier with age.
    I’m the one who is the trouble here ;)

    I like waffles and my son likes both waffles and pancakes. I usually buy a multigrain mix from sprouts and mix with water, done.


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    1. Good luck with the decluttering, Manasi. Every time I've gotten rid of extra stuff (usually by passing it along to others who can use it), it has made me feel so much lighter and happier.

      Sounds like you are a night owl! :)

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  10. After reading the comments I see a pattern of sleeplessness after the loss of a loved. I lost my father and brother in quick succession. Though it’s 9 years since my dad passed away it still seems like yesterday. Dreaming about my brother and father and then waking up thinking if they are alive and then not falling back to sleep has been a regular occurrence for me. Sometimes this would go on for weeks at a time and I would catch maybe 2 hours of sleep per night. Recently I attended a seminar on sleep at work. As a general rule the doctor suggested reducing caffeine intake for a better night sleep and I stopped coffee completely after that. Also I walk to work few times a week (2.5 miles) and it has been very helpful. Hopefully with time wounds will heal and that will lead to a better night sleep.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear of your struggles with sleep. Glad the increased activity and decreased caffeine is helping a little. I hope you continue to heal and sleep better!

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