A conversation with myself, for my friend.
My son would not nap longer than 45mins in the day even as an infant and as a toddler would be frequently not napping in the day but still awake at 11pm at night. He sort of changed things up, he did go through phases of sleeping 2-3 hours in the day. In my memory quite short lived. It didn’t take us long to discourage this, he may have been 2. The problem was that if he had a day sleep he would be up until midnight or past. We struggled at some times when he couldn’t make it to 6pm without crashing, but would then be up at ready to go at 11pm-1am ish. Generally though, he wouldn’t day sleep and would still be up at 10pm. Cheery and delightful. Sometimes seeming tired, other times, not really. We would literally be falling asleep ourselves and he would nudge us and say “keep reading” or “wake up!” When I hear someone ask me about getting their child to sleep, I recall all this. You know, now I sort of feel soft and reflective and loving toward my darling boy in this context.
I feel as if I have tried ‘everything’ – though everything is infinite I suppose. Hopefully someone feeling lost can take something from our experience – and maybe you don’t have to go through it in the same way as us LOL. Or maybe you will. And that will be just ok, too. You will be alive, and breathe. Your child will grow.
We have tried, Blissful Herbs Lullaby Bliss Tea which worked reasonably well but yes also hard to do because: logistics and encouraging them to drink. We looked at diet, but since we are already gluten free/dairy free/no numbers/processed sugar free there wasn’t much to cut. We played with food timing. We played with eating a banana before bed or not eating too late at all. We played with bathing, with or without essential oils and with one parent or the other (apparently Mum is less exciting than Dad? and without toys is less stimulating? and without lights is more restful? A relaxing bath, that did help a bit). We tried massage, massaging feed or head. Sometimes that was good. It has felt good over time, to have options. They don’t always do the job.
We introduced ‘relaxing breaths’ and taught meditation. That really helps and both of my children benefit from this now too. They know how to do it. One night when I was on the phone with my Mum breaking news of a serious family illness, I asked DS5 to read to his sister. I couldn’t help but smile as he began with a session of relaxing breaths, before indeed he read her to sleep. I could have cried with the joy. Even if he himself was still awake 😛 I accept that now x
DH introduced ‘the white room’ meditation. It’s the one where you are sitting in a white room with nothing in it, and you spend some time establishing that the room is indeed white and empty and peaceful. [Nothing to see here] And the floor is inevitably the softest surface you have ever come across. Your body sinks right into it, and is more comfortable than ever. And slowly each limb of your body and so on falls restfully still and peaceful. In this we feel our child has a skill for life. We tried taking him to a children’s yoga class, which he really loved. We only stopped because they had an issue with a teacher. I’m not sure it affected his sleep needs though he loved it.
We tried Rescue Remedy Sleep as well as Martin and Pleasance Be Calm which I do think helps. But effexor online petition perhaps mostly in the ritual?! I don’t know. Organisation was important and expectation, timing. We have improved on this as we get older, we arent a family that move with a strict routine, but found DS does respond well to it. Making sure he wasn’t hungry or cold was important too. We tried introducing a sleep toy. Remember he wasn’t having a day sleep. We went through all this for years, we are still in it. He is almost 6. We played with lights on or off to go to sleep. There never seemed to be any pattern of what was good and bad. One did try to get him to claim his space. We had an idea that he would enjoy being in his own room, we tried to say to him that it was ok to be awake but just to stay in his own space. He would just come out. We played with reverse psychology, like saying “don’t go to sleep whatever you do.” ROFL. This made no difference.
We co-sleep here but in our old house, he rejoiced at having his own room. He doesn’t put sleep together with his surroundings so much. It is all about his internal mindspace from what I can work out. He doesn’t mind where he falls asleep and we mostly read him to sleep at the moment and probably have done that successfully since he was just less than 2 years old. If we read him books earlier than he was ready to sleep, he would just not sleep. We would read, and read. Or we would try limits. But this didn’t actually result in earlier sleep just more tension. There were times past where either of our children would go to sleep with a piggy back and a song, just like that, asleep on our backs. But again, only when they were ready to sleep. In our new house, the modern layout is crazy so that the kids rooms are far from ours – and so we all are just happier together in our big room with our super king bed and a day bed opposite. Our daughter is quick to sleep, 3 years old. She has been a different child and sleep for her is easier. If our son was asleep at 8.30pm, that would be early. The earliest of his life.
He is mostly asleep by 9-10pm now. Mostly. He gets up at 7-8am every morning. He is mostly fresh and happy then. It has been hard to accept that this is my experience, with my friends and community people having children that have gone to bed at 7pm each night and seeing how different their lives are for that child free time. We know that some of those families have reached this point by letting their children cry themselves to sleep which is not an approach we connect with, but there are also others for whom this early sleep just came about and wasnt forced. Children and families are all so different.
Also because DS is my first child so I have never known the peace of those few evenings hours, I sometimes felt a bit frustrated and limited but mostly it just ‘is’. I had to deal with my feelings and anger so that they didn’t spill out. Its hard when they wont sleep, it is the end of the day and you are already tired yourself, making the quality of the way you deal with things less ideal? Our parenting has always been requiring to continue until our own bedtime since the start. It has taught us to be a family that lives in synergy with our group needs and to communicate that and find a way to achieve our goals in togetherness. We talk a lot in our family about working together as a family. I wish that I could be more gentle and articulate about that in the nights. To be very bluntly honest – I can just get very terse and direct at night with occasional comments like “I just need to be alone right now so please give me some space and find something else to do peacefully.” I have learned though that this is counterproductive. Peace and gentle communication is actually what reaps earlier sleep.
My son is amazing. He’s gentle and kind, he is spirited. He has also been able to read since he was 2? 3?. At 5 he reads Roald Dahl and other such books independently. He counts double digits in his head and who knows what else because we have not taught or ‘tested’ him. I believe within myself as the mother, than he simply doesn’t require the sleep. Now that I know him more, now that I see his self expressed less as a toddler and more as a boy – you know? I see his individual self more very day.
So what now? We try to embody calm in our household from around 7pm. Calm voices, calm play if there is any. We try to get him to eat as early as possible, and to shower and be ready for bed at 7.30-8pm. To make it possible, to gently introduce the idea. When he didn’t have school, we would try to encourage him to be in his own room and just hang out. For us to have less involvement. But what can we do, we can’t gaffa tape him to his bed. He is a social being and he comes out to us. So we just accept things as they are now. Now we are more focused on fostering that sleep. We go to bed earlier ourselves, we just all go to bed. We will read to him, mostly a few chapters at least of a book like Matilda. We will take turns at reading but we try to discourage that, we try to just let the rhythm of our voices set a tone of sleep.
We eat, clean, dress for bed, read a few books and then we rub their back or guide a meditation until they are asleep. And we do it at a realistic time [not before 7.30-8pm] when we know that the result will be sleep and not stress. We use the time before that to get done what we need to get done. We accept that this is the way things are. We get up if we can and do more, if we can. It’s hard once you have tried to be sleepy, to encourage another to sleep LOL. There’s not much other choice x This is the way things are.