A university friend of mine who I don't see very often came to see me this weekend and when I opened the door to her, I was blown away with how fantastic she looked.

Now, she is a Chinese New Zealander, which, it seems to me, almost ensures she will always look about 10 years younger than most of us, but even excluding that important factor, she seemed extraordinarily fresh of face and light of step.

"It's because I sleep properly," she explained, pointing to her five year old daughter. The daughter is now a sound sleeper, likes a lie-in of a morning, and is accustomed to her own bed rather than wriggling in with her parents every night.

So that's the secret, I thought, stifling a yawn. So ... I won't look that rested for about, oh, only another four years. By which time my jowls will have reached my navel and my face will be a shrivelled mass of crow's feet. I will also be rather large as a result of all the sugar I am taking to keep myself vertical.

The issue of sleep, or lack thereof, becomes increasingly aggravating as infants turn into toddlers and the months churn by without any seeming improvement in sleep patterns. We have a nine month old baby who still wakes during the night for a feed, and like many breastfeeding mothers I have a great weapon with which to get said baby back to sleep - give him a feed. But it is also a rod for my back in the sense that getting the baby back to sleep without a feed turns the whole situation into a three-ringed circus.

Getting up at night isn't even so bad, in my opinion, as the child goes back to sleep pretty well as soon as he's had a slurp. My major problem at the moment that he's ready to start his day at 5.30am, regardless of what time he's put to bed. It is miserable getting out of bed in the middle of winter and having to move away from a warm bed into a room where the heat pump is busted and there's nothing decent on the television to nurse you through those early hours. Lately I have felt like crying at every early start, and while pitying myself I've also had to quell my irritation at the poor smiling baby who isn't actually doing anything wrong. The secret, I think - or perhaps the coping mechanism - is to go to bed when the children do (or soon thereafter, although you do start feeling like you have no adult life at all), as well as simply suck it up and accept that your days are going to start at the crack of dawn. Damn it all to hell.

My husband works nights and has plenty to do during his mornings - such as allow me to go back to sleep when it is possible, and I am very grateful that often it is. I haven't got it as bad as some parents who have to do a day of paid work afterwards, and I also have two other children who are reasonably decent sleepers (albeit they have a habit of falling out of their beds on a regular basis). So it could be worse. Nevertheless, there is something truly torturous about months and months of broken kip, and that fact that it turns some people depressive and others homicidal is not at all surprising to me.

Funnily enough the human race can put a man on the moon and map the human genome but the issue of how to get an early-rising baby to sleep in goes unresolved by modern science. Riddle me that!