"Sleep when the baby sleeps." This was the advice my wife and I were given after the birth of our son. This led to some very interesting patterns being developed, where the three of us learned to savor those two and three hour periods when everyone in the house was slumbering, before the needs of the smallest brought us all back awake. We were grateful for the opportunity to piece together eight hours of sleep over the course of a day. Eventually we all grew up and became good little sleepers in our own way.
Then we got a dog. This spirited young canine took some time to acclimate to the rhythms of our household, and we worked as a family to let our new puppy member know just how it was that we worked things, especially bedtime. Over the course of a year, we trained her to sleep next to our bed and to respect our waking hours as hers. She is a very clever dog and soon became comfortable with the idea of where her bed was and when she should sleep in it. Not that she didn't sleep at other points throughout the day. It only occurs to me now that if we had adopted the "sleep when the dog sleeps" model, we would all be much more rested. None of us would be employed, but we would be more rested.
And so it went for a decade and a half. Now we have a sixteen-year-old dog, and the needs of our best friend have changed. She needs to go outside much more often than she ever used to. Sleeping through the night is pretty much out of the question at this point. My wife and I trade off when those middle of the night excursions arise. It takes me back to the days when we had an infant. My wife makes a point of not opening her eyes to look at the clock when she gets up to open the door to let the dog out. I can't help myself. When it's my turn, I have to do the math. If I get back to sleep right now, I'll still have three hours before the alarm goes off. But of course, I never get right back to sleep.
And the irony at the bottom of this whole experience is that now we have a teenaged boy just down the hall who sleeps through it all.