Sleep Deprivation with Twins is Torture

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - April 13, 2013

One of the most trying aspects of having newborn twins is sleep deprivation.

Holding Twins

Sleep deprivation is torture.

Think about those old war or spy movies where the hero is literally tortured by being forced to stay awake. Just when the hero falls asleep, the bad guys wake him up.

You, my friend, are the hero.

Raising Twins Book

Unfortunately, your twins play the part of the torturer. Not that they don’t love you. They just haven’t learned to sleep through the night yet.

By the time we had our twins, we had already had two boys. Since they were both singletons, my wife ended up caring for them most nights because she was breastfeeding.

(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)

I didn’t know how spoiled I was.

With twins, your wife can’t do it all herself. This means that you will be working the night shift as well.

Since you will be up and down all night with your babies, you need to be ready to deal with sleep deprivation. It’s time to make a plan.

The key to surviving the early days of your newborn twins is to have some plans in place to overcome the inevitable sleep deprivation.

Stranger Twins Shirt

Sleep When You Can

You must sleep when you get the chance. This means that when babies are asleep, you should be too. You’ll be tempted to get stuff done once the babies are asleep. That “stuff” can wait. Emails are not as important as sleep. Your favorite T.V. show is not as important as sleep. Gaming is not as important as sleep. You need a nap. Take it. Sometimes this means laying down at 7:00 p.m. Do it. Sacrificing some of your normal activities is a small price to pay for functionality. Besides, your twins won’t be the torturers forever–there will be a return to normalcy in your near future. So sleep now.

Set Expectations

Sleep deprivation will lower your ability to work effectively, communicate properly, and live normally. This will impact the people around you. Set expectations with your coworkers, friends, and family.

Let everyone know that you aren’t getting any sleep and that you won’t be able to do X, attend Y, or deliver Z. Offer alternatives. Make compromises. But communicate the reason for your altered physical and mental state. Most people are very understanding.

Don’t Take it Personally

Sleep deprivation will try your marriage like almost nothing else you’ve ever seen. Since both you and your spouse will be tortured with no sleep, you must remember to not take anything personally.

Game of Twins Shirt

If your wife snaps at you, it is because she is beyond tired. If something didn’t get done like you liked it, blame the sleep deprivation.

You’ll live a long, happy life if you don’t take anything personally while you or your spouse are under the effects of sleep deprivation. It will probably be the most charitable action you take in your marriage.

Your twin babies, while the source of your sleep deprivation, are not intentionally torturing you. So don’t take your babies’ actions personally either.

How Are You Doing?

After my paternity leave, I returned to work but was still suffering from sleep deprivation. Whenever anyone asked how I was doing, I answered, “I’m tired.”

Twin Lion King Shirt

You’ll be tired too. But hang in there. Your babies will start sleeping through the night and you will, too.

Picture by Russell Harrison Photography

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.

16 thoughts on “Sleep Deprivation with Twins is Torture”

  1. I have to agree. Our twins are now 15 weeks old, and we get lucky enough to have 7-ish hours of sleep out of both of them some nights. It is fantastic.

    I had no paternity leave, because they were in the NICU for 5 weeks for Carden, 6 weeks for Landon (they were 10 weeks early). I took off 2 total days the week of the birth, but that was it. Somehow hung in there…

  2. Hi there our twins did great the first 6 months but now teething and they wake up a few times at night but go back to sleep but now they are awake at 6-7am , I really miss our 9-9 sleeping periods, hopefully they will soon start going longer in the morning !

    • @Chris – teething is a challenging time. It seemed to arrive for us, like you, just when we were getting used to a certain schedule. Unfortunately, that seems to be the pattern: as soon as we adjust to a schedule with the kiddos, something changes and we have a new schedule.

  3. Hi

    My twin sons are 9 months old and i am yet to get more than 4 hours sleep at a time. I’m at breaking point and so is my marriage!

    any advice will be glady accepted.


    • @Aniqah – I understand how these months of little sleep can really drain you emotionally and physically. Here are some things you might try:
      1. Take turns every other night with your husband caring for your sons. This will let each of you get some rest.
      2. Ask for help from a friend or family member that can come stay with you for a few days and help with the overnight routine.
      3. I highly recommend the book “The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy” – this helped us get our kids on a good sleeping schedule:

      Best of luck to you!

  4. My 8 week old twins did so good for about a week then bam back to waking me up every hour and a half…. I get one day a week that my husband helps…. But he works 6 days a week and my seasonal job has ended for the yr. We also have 2 other girls…. Most days I find it hard to be pleasant let alone keep my eyes open. Please tell me it gets better… And soon… Momma is losing it

  5. My twins (now 3) didn’t sleep through until they were 18 months old. even at 2 and a half they had another regression and wouldn’t go to sleep without one of us sitting in the room. A whole new level of exhausted. Then just as they started sleeping 10 hours… We had a baby and going through it all again!

  6. Single working mom of twins who are now 15 months next week. I had no idea how tired and exhausted it was possible to be. I did it alone save for a couple of nights where friends came to stay and do the middle of the night feeding. Luckily they have slept through since about 1 year old. When I got 3 hours at a time, I thought I was in heaven. All I can say is its possible to sleep standing up holding a baby. Been there done that, go the tshirt (or I should have one). It does get better. :)

  7. I have no idea how we survived the first year! My twins are almost 2.5 years now and I got a max of 3 hours sleep every night the first year. While my girl was sleeping through from about 3 months old my boy kept us awake every night. Hubby was useles, refused to bath them or change dirty nappies. He would not even hear when they were crying in the middle of the night so I had to do it all.
    My family lives on the other side of the world and husbands family could not be bothered. So no help in our house. I aged 10 years in that one year, was very close to pack my bags and kids and move back to my family.

    I only just got my 8 hours of sleep back after dropping their nap 2 weeks ago. :)

      • Much respect to you for not making any comments about her “useless” husband, as she delicately put it! I have very little patience for any one parent who would deliberately refuse to carry out their responsibilities and leave their spouse to do it alone. Our twin girls are the most amazing little things but the sleep deprivation on top of the sheer exhaustion and generally being fed up is absolutely threatening our marriage, and that’s with both of us up all night, and me never saying no to changing nappies! I imagine I’d be on my own now had I refused to do anything and leave my wife to do it all on her own!


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