'If you could buy sleep, I'd be broke'.


I’m so sleep-deprived I’ve employed matchsticks to keep my eyes open, which might explain why they’re burning. Though a more likely explanation would be the fact I have two children under the age of four and haven’t slept since their date of manufacture. If you could buy sleep I’d be broke.

My darling daughter recently woke me at 2am. For a euphoric second I thought it was morning and we’d miraculously slept through. Then I realised it was a clear night and the moon was mocking me through the curtains. As usual, I tried to ignore her in the hope she would realise the absurdity of the hour and take pity on me. As usual, she didn’t.

Then things turned decidedly unusual. I could tell by the panic in her voice.

“Daddy,” she said, “I’ve got a sultana in my nose.”

I have been snatched from slumber for a variety of reasons, including the branch of the tree I was sleeping in giving way. Never has dried fruit in a facial orifice been among my first conscious thoughts, if in fact I was conscious. I sat on the side of the bed and held my daughter’s size three hands. Even mundane scenarios are confusing when your head has left the pillow but your brain is still upon it. Several possibilities fought their way through the fog:

1)    We do have Sultana Bran in the pantry but surely she hadn’t been out there ferreting about or I’d have heard her.

2)    Perhaps she’s dreamed there was a sultana in her nostril.

3)    That doctor in W.A. who said parents should have children while still young wasn’t such as crackpot after all.

There have been some weird and wacky theories coming out of W.A. recently, including the racist implications of flying the Aussie flag from a motor vehicle, (excluding imported cars, I presume) and Dr. Barry Walters from Perth’s King Edward Memorial Hospital suggesting that having children at a younger age in life is better for all concerned.

Dr. Walters was widely criticised, though at times I think he is right. Times such as when – as a 40-year-old father – I am lowering my nine-month old son into his cot and that herniated disk in my lower back shrieks hello; when driving to work drinking Red Bull after another sleepless night, or when I can’t pick up my daughter for the pain of tennis elbow. (I can’t remember the last time I played tennis, but my elbow can.)

I should have had kids years ago, when I was indulging myself travelling the world or wasting time watching cricket. I didn’t have a herniated disk back then. In fact the only doctor I knew from W.A. before Barry Walters was the Fremantle Doctor, who I imagine would be the wrong one to go to for wind.

Life was a breeze back then, but I wasn’t married to the person with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life (if she forgives me for that wind joke) and surely that is better for our kids than the fact I creak in certain places and take longer to recover from a bad night’s sleep.


Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, though it can’t be described as a nightmare because you need to be asleep to have a nightmare. It makes you impatient when you need to be patient, negative when you need to be positive, confused when you need to think clearly, and susceptible to illness when you need to be superman.

Friends and family have taken sympathy. We now have no fewer than six copies of Go the F**k to Sleep ­– the bestselling ‘children’s book for adults’. We also have a clock that plays lullabies and projects multicoloured stars on the ceiling, but when bedtime finally arrives I’m already seeing stars.

A colleague recently drew what little attention I have left to ‘the nap app’ – an iPhone application which plays ambient sounds to help nippers nod off. But nodding off isn’t our problem, it’s sustaining slumber once asleep, hence the recent sultana saga.

By now my wife was also awake so we discussed the possibilities in hushed voices. Whichever way we looked at it, we had a problem:

1)      If she’s got into the pantry and shoved a sultana up her nose, we have a problem.

2)      If she’s dreamt there’s a sultana up her nose and woke up thinking it’s a reality, we’ve got a problem.

3)      If she’s just pretending to have a sultana up her nose, we’ve got a problem.

I’m thinking of calling my wife Houston.

Once you turn the light on the night is officially over. With much reluctance, I flicked the switch, reflecting on the absurdity of parenthood as I tilted my daughter’s head back at peered up her nose.

Proof I am still sane was instant rejection of the idea of inserting tweezers. Evidence that sanity is slipping away was teaching my daughter the Bushman’s Blow at two o’clock in the morning.

Children change your life in ways you never dreamed. They also change your dreams, if they concede you them.

And just to pre-empt the next wacky study from W.A., sultanas are the real health and safety hazard.

There wasn’t one, by the way. Perhaps I dreamt it.

Err, Houston…

Chris Harrison is a News Limited columnist and award-winning author. He has also discovered a cure for hair. His website is here and you can follow him on Twitter here.

Do you know a parent who could use The Gift of Sleep? If you have a girlfriend, sister, brother, cousin, daughter, son, neighbour or friend who is currently in the fog of sleep-deprivation, buy them a copy. After all, the ultimate gift you can give a parent is the gift of sleep. To instantly download a copy of The Gift of Sleep ($29.95), go to

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