I’ve really tried to be positive and keep a lid on my bubbling emotions, even make light of the situation, but if I’m being honest my mood of late has been glum. The root of all trouble for my family is a teeny tiny five letter word, and the fact that our 4yo daughter hasn’t slept through the night in almost three months. Not once. Needless to say it is taking its toll, and since starting school things have gone from bad to worse. She wakes at various times for various things, there are no patterns. Sometimes it’s simple to meet her needs – she needs a wee, a drink or just a bit of comfort. Those are the easy nights. But sometimes she has spectacular tantrums triggered off by the smallest things, and it must sound to the neighbours like we are doing her serious harm. She can be up for anything from a few minutes to a few hours, and is often up four or five times.
The worst thing is that she is so tired in the morning yet insists on getting up for the day at the crack of dawn (somewhere between 5:45-6:15am). The 2-3 hours before going to school are nothing short of a battle, and early evenings are just as fraught. She doesn’t leave her sister alone, and is forever pinching her and snatching her toys. Bath and bedtime are a nightmare. The only saving grace is that she’s in bed by 6:30pm, which means hubby and I are able to have a few hours to ourselves. This past week however, her first wake up has been somewhere between 8-9pm which cuts into this time. It also means we go to bed on what I call red alert – falling asleep knowing we’ll be woken up any minute. Recently the little 20-week bubs living in my belly has started kicking furiously when we are dragged from our bed, meaning I find it really difficult to get back to the land of nod after being interrupted. Every day is a challenge, but the two I go to work are exceptionally difficult right now as my alarm goes off at 5:30.
We are no strangers to sleep deprivation in my house, but this has gone beyond a joke. It all started a few months after her second birthday, exactly two years ago. From 9 months old until this time she was a perfect 7-7 sleeper, but since then we’ve only had the odd week where she has solidly slept through the night. Apart from a three month period earlier this year when she was sleeping through almost nightly, and we thought we had cracked it. Unsurprisingly this is when baby #3 was conceived. We would have certainly remained a four person family for the foreseeable future otherwise. As every parent knows, sleep has a huge effect on the day that follows. A bad nights sleep will more than likely lead to a difficult day afterwards. Can you imagine what it would be like if every single day started at 6am (or earlier) and was preceded by a night ranging from pretty awful to absolutely horrendous?
We’ve read helpful parenting books, and sleep books gaining insights that have lead to a mild reprieve. We have our daughter on a very strict diet so she is not eating anything she is intolerant of. We limit the amount of TV she watches, and never let her watch anything that could disturb her later. We don’t read books with monsters or witches or dragons in them. She doesn’t drink too much before bed, and has a potty in her room. Her pillow is doused in lavender essential oil and her hair gets washed in a natural lavender shampoo. We have futilely done reward charts for weeks on end, hoping that she will finally see the correlation between doing the thing we want her to do and being rewarded for it later. We got her the famous Gro-Clock that other people swear by, which she totally ignored and asked to be taken away because it was too bright. We got her a dim night light, and eventually a portable one – which she now has in her bed. We have gone round and round in circles trying desperately to find a solution, the magic cure, but so far we have failed miserably.
Although most people mean well, I’m starting to get annoyed at throw away comments others make. Often insinuating that all she needs is more fresh air and exercise to ‘knacker her out’. Trust me she gets plenty, and walks more than most adults I know as we don’t drive. Ironically on some of the really big days out when everyone else’s kids are dead weights for at least 12 hours afterwards, we fare up even worse in the sleep department. People say that kids are so tired after they start school that sleep woes magically disappear, but naivety has never got me anywhere in life. I really don’t think that crossing fingers and hoping it will sort itself out is the right approach for something that’s having such a detrimental effect on my family.
It feels like somewhere between the broken nights, food intolerances, and sibling rivalry she has become a very difficult child. The crux of it is that you cannot use the same logic and reasoning on a child that has a sleep deficit of this nature. The meltdowns come too quickly, out of no-where and aversion tactics seem pointless. The easy going, nice natured baby and toddler she once was has been replaced by a sleep deprived mess. My heart breaks for the sadness in her eyes every single day.
Although cyber-sympathy can be comforting, I honestly haven’t posted this for that reason. My husband and I are at our wits end and I am hoping that someone reading this will be able to offer some useful advice – because they’ve been exactly where we are, have survived it and come out the other end. I would love to hear from you in the comments section if you think you can help us! Thank you in advance :)