Getting Enough Sleep vs. Caring for Twins

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - January 17, 2014

This question comes from Dave. He writes in to tell me that he travels a lot for work. He says he puts about 3,000 miles a month on his car doing service calls. Now that they’ve got twins at home, he’s trying to juggle the demands of getting a good night’s sleep so that he can be safe on the road, with taking care of the twins and helping his wife at night.

Caring for Twins can be exhausting.

So he said that he proposed he wakes up, let’s say, 1 in the morning and then takes care of the twin boys until 6:30. He’s trying to balance getting some sleep every night with his request from his wife to help take care of the kids all night long with her. The question is, “How do we go about doing this? Is there another solution?”

Get Help to Get Sleep

Well, frankly, Dave, this is a difficult situation that you’re in where you’ll need to balance the need that you have for sleep, so that you can be safe driving and get the work done that you need to, with caring for your twins. Caring for twins, especially in those early months, is not something that one person will have an easy time doing all by his or herself. So a request coming from your wife to help out is legitimate.

Remember that as you discuss things with your wife, you are both going to be tired. You’re both going to be sleep deprived because of taking turns taking care of the twins. So that’s going to affect your conversations. It’s going to affect any discussions or arguments that you have, and when we’re sleep deprived, emotion starts to take more control of our thought patterns. So you need to acknowledge that you’re going to be emotionally charged in this conversation and that you need to think through and talk through things logically with each other of how you can both meet each others’ needs and the needs of your family.

For our first few months with twins, we had a family member or a friend staying with us. That meant we could take turns on the night shift, where for two nights you were on duty and then the third night you were off, and that really helped. It also worked very well because when you had that third night off where you can sleep through the night, it was kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. It enabled you to push through the sleep deprivation to make it work. So one question for you would be, do you have any friends or family who you can recruit to come and help you at least for a few nights. Ideally, they can stay longer to help alleviate some of the burden that you have.

Twins’ Sleeping Patterns Change

Now, after our family left, my wife and I would both wake up in the middle of the night to help feed the kids. Because our girls were bottle-fed, feeding formula to them was something my wife and I could both help with. Now, this did lead to some very intense sleep deprivation, which was very unpleasant. I’ll be honest. Sleep deprivation is not a vacation.

(RELATED: Check out the Dad's Guide to Twins Youtube channel for additional helpful twin tips and tricks videos.)

Now, despite this our girls eventually started to sleep longer and longer, and thus we did too. So the short sleeping during the night that you see during the newborn months of twins will not be that way forever. Eventually, their sleep will start stretching out and they can go longer between feedings, and that will help you get more sleep as well. So do what you can between your work schedule and the needs for you to get a good sleep, and the needs of your wife and your family. I wish you luck as you make plans and arrangements to take care of the twins during the night.

Picture by Nathan Walker

This question was originally addressed on the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Episode 52: Balancing Your Sleep Needs With Twins & Fitting Twin Car Seats.

Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

6 thoughts on “Getting Enough Sleep vs. Caring for Twins”

  1. Very good advice. You are right in that they will soon (although it doesn’t feel very soon at the time!) start sleeping for longer stretches. We did it without the help of family or friends, so don’t worry Dave-you will survive.

    • @Nikki – thanks for reminding us that it can be done without help! Things definitely seem overwhelming in the middle of it all. Only in retrospect do they appear to have passed quickly.

  2. Sleep is so important that my wife and I decided to tackle night feedings solo. Our boys eat 30 minutes apart, even during the day, so at night we put them to bed, I can get abt 3 hrs of sleep before the boys woke up for the their first feeding. I got to sleep 9pm-12am and then fed both boys from 12-1am. and then went back to bed. Their next feeding would have been at 3am, so my wife got to sleep from 9pm to 3am straight. She feeds them from 3-4am and goes back to bed and we both get up for the 6am feeding. So, I got a total of 7 hrs of sleep (3 hrs followed by 4 hrs) and my wife got a total 8 hrs (6 hrs followed by 2 hrs). We also believe uninterrupted sleep is important so we woudl switch every other night so you get 6hrs straight every other night. This kept us both pretty sane. Worked well for us. Boys are nearly 5 months old and now are sleeping 8pm-5am straight, almost a full nights sleep.

  3. Working the sleeping schedule by far has been the biggest challenge and frustration since our boys were born three weeks ago. We worked it so that we made a sleeping shift and an on-call shift and we take turns taking each shift. One would get guaranteed three hours of sleep… the other would be on the On-Call Shift…where youre up with the twins if they are awake, or need to be held. If both twins are sleeping at that time, then you can try to get some sleep…however, you have the baby monitor and must wake when the twins do. Then at the end of that three hours we both wake up to feed.

    I am not sure if this is the best approach. as tired as i am, i have a hard time falling asleep. I am also on edge often, so I sometimes wake up during my sleeping shift if i hear my twins or my wife awake. One of our twins constantly cries if he’s not being held….so usually you would be awake on the on call shift. Someone previously posted about uninterrupted sleep, and it seems that even though we take turns sleeping….its not enough.

    Any thoughts?


    • @Brian – congrats on the newborns! You are in the thick of it right now. It isn’t easy and frankly, won’t be for a while.

      I think taking shifts is a great idea and one of the best things you can do now unless you can recruit an additional helper (friend or family) to help with the night shift.

      I too would be on edge when trying to sleep. On many occasion, I’d wake up thinking I’d heard the kids but in reality I hadn’t or it wasn’t “my turn.”

      One advantage of sleep deprivation is that eventually it wins. You get so tired that you’ll be able to sleep through the noises and interruptions when it is your turn to sleep.

      Hang in there! You can do it.


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