SURVIVOR STORY: How I Turned A Year Of Sleep Deprivation Into A Business

imagesOur latest sleep thief survivor is formerly exhausted mother-of-two Nicole Johnson.

She talks about how her experience of parenthood inspired her to set up her business The Baby Sleep Site and why she has made it her mission to help other tired parents ‘find their child’s sleep’.

Nicole’s Story.  

If I could go back in time, to the season during which I was pregnant with my eldest son, and tell my pregnant self one thing, it would be this:

“There is sleep deprivation coming, Nicole….and it’s going to be rough. But lean into it, because it’s going to become your livelihood.”

What I Didn’t Know About Baby Sleep Back Then Was Just About Everything.

Let me be clear – I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I’m a number-crunching nerd who firmly believes in the power of research to solve problems. But back when I was a newly-pregnant mom-to-be, my assumptions about baby sleep were basically this:

Babies get tired. They fall asleep. Then, when they’ve gotten enough sleep they wake up. The end.

I really did believe that. Sure, I knew there were books out there about baby sleep, and I was vaguely aware that some of my friends with little babies at home would moan about sleep deprivation…but honestly, I thought it was a whole lot of fuss about nothing. I mean, come on — how hard could this whole baby sleep thing actually be?

Turns Out The “Baby Sleep Thing” Was Really Hard. Like Crazy, Impossible, This-Might-Actually-Kill-Me Hard.

Enter my eldest son. Now, let me be clear – my eldest son is just awesome. He’s funny and highly intelligent (gifted, even, according to the school) and kind and basically the light of my life. But he was (and in many ways still is) a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sleeper.

It wasn’t so bad at first…We brought my son home from the hospital, and for the first few weeks of his life, he wasn’t a great sleeper, but it was what I expected. He needed to eat quite often and slept a lot. It wasn’t always easy to get him to sleep, but he would do it.

And then? Enter the four month sleep regression.

I talk about this particular sleep milestone quite often in my consulting work with tired families, but please believe me: when I experienced the four month sleep regression (at three months) with my oldest son, I had NO CLUE what was happening. No clue. All I knew was that my son, who had been sleeping fairly normally, suddenly wasn’t anymore.

And so began my journey to get my sleepless infant sleeping better. Over the course of the next 8 months, I tried everything I could think of to help my son sleep better:

  • I logged his sleep, hoping to find patterns…but the only consistent thing in my son’s day was that there was no consistency at all.
  • I tried scheduling his naps and feeding, but I quickly learned that if I missed his “sleep window” by even a few minutes, he’d quickly become an over tired, screaming mess.
  • I tried to phase out rocking him to sleep, but if I put him down in his crib even slightly awake, he’d lose his mind.
  • I tried co-sleeping for a while, but since I basically got no.sleep.at.all, I ditched that idea quickly.

And during that eight months in which I was desperately trying to help my son sleep better, I was also reading…and reading and reading and reading and reading. I basically got my PhD in baby sleep during that time, as I read every baby sleep book under the sun and scoured the internet for every bit of baby sleep wisdom I could find.

Spoiler Alert: I Survived!

Now, given that I’m writing this, it’s safe for you to assume that I did survive my oldest son’s first year of life (even though, if you’d visited me at night during that first year, I might’ve sworn to you that I was about to die of sleep deprivation!). Eventually, I did solve my son’s sleep challenges; I was able to wean him from his night feedings by the time he was 12 months old, and eventually, I created my own method for helping him learn to fall asleep independently and stay in bed. It was an approach that fit with my son’s personality and with my parenting style, and in the end, it helped him learn to sleep through the night, and it helped me reclaim my nights (and my sanity).

What To Do With All That Baby Sleep Knowledge? Answer: Start A Business.

So here I was, with a toddler who actually slept, and a head full of baby sleep wisdom. At that time, I was working as a computer programmer, and while I liked my job just fine, I felt this little fire of passion in my belly about baby sleep; I knew there were lot of other sleep-deprived moms just like me, and I wanted more and more to find a way to talk with them, and to share everything I’d learned.

And so (keep in mind that this was back in 2007), I did what anyone in 2007 would do when they wanted to create an internet platform – I started writing on a message board! I’d talk with other moms, share my experience, and offer tips and sleep coaching suggestions. Slowly, that message board grew until I had a hard time keeping up with all the requests for help. Many people had suggested that I write a book and turn the baby sleep consulting message board into a full-fledged business, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I started to seriously consider that idea.

images-1Now, seven years later, The Baby Sleep Site® employs 14 awesome women from around the country, enjoys over 1 million site visitors from around the world, and has personally helped over 20,000 sleep-deprived families “find their sleep” again with our personalised consulting system.

Today, I sometimes find it hard to believe that the hellish sleep deprivation I endured during my son’s infancy could have birthed such a rewarding, satisfying career path (I even quit my day job a few years ago!). I love my job completely – but if you’d asked me then whether I thought any good could come out of my sleepless nights, I would’ve answered with a resounding “No!” (And then I probably would’ve asked you to take the baby for a few hours, so I could get some sleep.)

Still, I think I would go through it all again…I’d go back and endure the endless nights, the fruitless attempts to help my son sleep, the short and erratic naps… because all of that started me on the path to building a company of which I am immensely proud.

For more information contact Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help! Download the popular free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night. 

Has parenthood inspired you to achieve something great?  Whether you have overcome an illness, set up a business, fulfilled ambitions or survived a sleep thief against the odds, then I would love to hear your story!  Please get in touch on  [email protected] or contact me on Facebook. 

2 thoughts on “SURVIVOR STORY: How I Turned A Year Of Sleep Deprivation Into A Business

  1. Ha! I used this site when our daughter was trying to kill me via sleep deprivation. I would like to say it helped, but I don’t remember specifically reading about the keep-the-baby-swinging-full-speed-in-a-swing-all-night technique, which proved to be the only way any of us would get any sleep at all. Either way, it was very helpful and very clear. Love her story.

Feel free to leave a reply..misery loves company.