An Open Letter to the Sleep Experts

The Davis Kids SEPT15
Butter wouldn’t melt!

Dear Sleep Experts,

I have read so many books, blogs and websites over the years written by your good selves, and have dutifully taken advice on-board, and tried to implement good sleeping habits for my kids. Unfortunately though, we seem to be absolutely jinxed in my house when it comes to getting some kip.

It all started four years ago, just after our eldest turned two. We’d recently moved her into a big girl bed and also had noisy neighbour issues (oh the irony, for now we are most certainly the noisy ones). She went from sleeping 7-7 most nights to causing merry hell every single night, often waking up ten times plus, and taking hours to settle. As this played out I was expecting our second daughter, and things got so bad that I had to start maternity leave early.

Our new addition (now 3½) was a dream baby. She slept through the night without any training at ten weeks old, and continued to sleep just beautifully until very recently. My husband and I never got to catch up on our lost zzzzz’s though, because our eldest had become a nightmare by then. Full scale meltdowns in the middle of the night had become par for the course, and our coffee intake went through the roof.

Fast forward to today: we’ve had another baby (our son who is 20mo), as well as an ASD diagnosis. It goes some way to explain why our girl finds it so difficult to get back to sleep when she wakes, but it doesn’t feel particularly comforting right now.

Although he slept well as a new baby, our son’s sleep took a nose dive towards the end of last year and drastic action was taken just last month to break the milk/sleep association. Even though it felt like I was going against mother nature all the way, we completely weaned him off the breast in a desperate attempt to get him sleeping better.

It hasn’t worked, and our sleep situation has never been as bad as it now, because all three of them have been triple teaming us. No sooner does one stop balling, one or two of the others pick up the baton and continue the sleep thievery relay!

I’ve come to the conclusion that for our eldest to have half a chance of sleeping she has to have a stress free day, which is impossible to orchestrate when she has been to school. Although she enjoys learning, and likes to see her friends, she struggles in the classroom environment, and this is a breeding ground for stress. Which leads to her not being able to switch her thoughts off when it comes to going to sleep (or going back to sleep in the middle of the night).

As they share a bedroom, our middle girl has had to put up with a lot of disturbance. Figuring there would never be a good time, two weekends ago we moved her into a new bed, and since then she has hardly slept through the night at all. Being a child that is used to sleeping solidly, it’s really affecting her and we’re seeing more tantrums than ever before.

As for our youngest, who knows what’s going on with him, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. It doesn’t matter how much he eats, whether he naps during the day or for how long, whether it’s a full moon. He is up on average five times a night, and often ends up in the marital bed, because trying to settle him back to sleep causes such a racket that it wakes the girls up.

This is how things panned out last night, which is fairly standard at the moment

6-6:30pm: Hubby did littlest’s bedtime, which sounded challenging and involved a lot of tears, while I read the girls a story
6:30-7:15pm: after a bit of messing around, the girls settled and fell asleep
10pm-midnight: littlest up three times, becoming noisier and noisier. Hoping it would pacify him and not wake the girls up I got him in bed with us
shortly after this: middle up for the first time, screaming because she couldn’t find her night light, even though it was in the bed next to her, she woke eldest up in the process
midnight – 2:30am: Eldest up and down five or six times with hubby, in the end demanded me, I went in to her three times before she finally went back to sleep
4am: middle up again screaming because it was too dark in the bedroom, again ignoring the night light in her bed
in the mean time: littlest had stolen my place and I ended up at the foot of the bed like the family pet
All kids up for the day at 6am

Can you help us?

I’m pretty sure that being the experts you will have lots of advice for us, so hit me with it. I’m all ears! If you fancy staying at our house for a few days to help turn our sleep situation around, I would gladly write about it here on the blog, and sing your praises all over social media in return.

Waiting with baited breath,

Severely Sleep Deprived Mum of Three

28 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Sleep Experts

  1. Hi there,
    Look,this is probably a terrible idea but I am offering it as it seems such an emergency!
    Two things really:
    1]Have you tried natural sleep remedies for the children?Prescribed by a qualified naturopath or similar,of course.
    II do not have children but my intentions are good.I do hope what I say is not too onerous…..
    It is just that I notice that most western parents are utterly against doing things with their children other than in the most natural way.There would seem to be a sense of failure or shame if someone were to make a suggestion such as “What about medication?”
    I mean for the children.
    Natural or actual drugs.
    Prescribed by an expert of course.
    Maybe there is some legitimate scientific reason to totally trash this idea,& I don’t know about it.
    Giving drugs to children is definitely less than ideal……….
    But you are so far away from living an ideal………..
    This seems to me to be an emergency.
    And I am not so sure that herbs are not a good idea.
    You have devoted a lot to giving them natural food,so why not add herbal renedies into the mix.
    I was myself a registered mental health nurse,so I know deeply the importance of sleep-for everyone.
    Some ASD society in your country must have something to say about this.Someone other than me must have thought of it.There must be research on it.
    Other than that,I had the feeling to contact you,so maybe something I say will help you,even if it is a tangent from what I am saying…..
    Even if you have explored this idea & dismissed it,maybe you could re-visit it?
    I believe in constant triaging-situations change all the time,therefore so must priorities.
    I wish you all all the best..xxxxxx

  2. Hi Renee,
    I only found and read your blog for the first time today, thank you so much for your honesty – am so sorry things are so awful for all 5 of you at the moment. My first baby has just turned one so I have far less on my plate at the mo but know all too well the soul-destroying misery of persistent sleep deprivation. There is a sleepcoach whi runs a facebook group called Love Mornings who regularly posts sleep tips and gives free advice and I’ve always found flexible, reassuring and above all WARM compared to some of the other advice I’ve encountered which just seemed so cold and not how I want to be a mum! They do proper paid-for family sleep consultations too which I have not used but if I do go down that road, I would definitely use them!
    I am a primary school teacher who’s worked with lots of children with ASD (although would never dream of describing myself as an expert) and would be happy to share a few ideas that seemed to help children with their anxiety. Just let me know, no worries if not. Sending you best wishes and hopes for better nights for you all in the near future xxx
    Ps your children are so beautiful! X

  3. Thanks so much my lovely, I really appreciate all your support. Truly it means a lot to me to know that there are so many people like yourself at the end of the internet when I need a virtual shoulder. Dare I say the last couple of nights haven’t been *that* bad, so fingers crossed it’s on the up xxx

  4. Oh my god Renee, I knew it was bad, but this is horrendous. And, I know that is stating the obvious, and not a lot of help! I don’t know how you are functioning lovely; you are all (all five of you) seriously sleep deprived. I wish there was a magic wand, I would wave one if I could. And, I wish I had some useful advice, other than what others have said about trying to get a referral for help. This is such an extreme situation. Just know that we are all here when you need a virtual scream x

  5. Thank you so much Maria! It’s a struggle getting out of bed, but after the first hour or so it’s fine. Hopefully we’ll reach a solution soon xxx

  6. Thank you so much hon! These clinics are very over subscribed, I have a feeling we are on a waiting list but with services as cut to the bone as they are, we shall be waiting a long time. Same with child OT, the closest we have got to an appt in three months is a letter saying ‘this letter is to tell you that you are being referred’. Talk about as much use as a chocolate teapot! xxx

  7. Thanks for popping by Sarah. First time around we were aiming for the much coveted 7-7, which we briefly achieved. three years ago, when this became a huge problem, I was given advice by tons of people to make sure she was in bed at 6:30. It makes sense when you have such early risers, and the times I’ve tried keeping her up late have ended in disaster because she’s still up in the night and at the crack of dawn, but even more tired. Sigh 🙁

  8. How disappointing! I really hope you get some answers and solutions very soon Tara, is Freya outgrowing her reflux? Wishing you lots of Zzzz’s tonight x

  9. Oh you are so lovely Alice, thank you. Hugs always welcome and your kind words have brought a massive smile to my face! We’re having a pj day today because everyone is full of cold and needs a break, seems to have been a good move, but I shouldn’t really say that until they’re asleep this evening (after a stress free bedtime, I can dream right?!)

    Writing really helps me process what’s going on, and get through the tough bits, don’t know where I’d be without my blog… Or coffee 😉 xx

  10. Hey Renee, this all sounds more than exhausting, more than crazy in your house. I honestly don’t know how you do it, look after 3 children and manage to be so prolific in your writing – every time I look up there seems to be another of your posts in my email! As soon as I read this I wanted to just give you a big hug, and offer lots of useless advice (Fiona has received the odd bit in the past!) – I always want to make things better. But I’m no expert so I’ll not be sticking my oar in. I just hope that you find the help that you need to relieve the pressure of all that sleep deprivation, for all of your sakes. But have a hug anyway! xox

  11. I can’t imagine what you must be going through! I have the one child who has and still does struggle with sleep, so I feel for you! When mine was younger, I used to have to hold her all night! I was a wreck the next day. Hope you find some answers and sleep soon.

  12. How are you even still functioning, let alone writing coherently? I really hope someone responds to your plea. We had a sleep consultant come in who had experience with reflux babies but we could only afford one session and she said herself Freya’s needs were complex so it wasn’t much help in the end.

  13. Oh my goodness! That sounds horrific. I don’t know how you’re still functioning! Could you get a referral to the hospital? I thought they had sleep units there (I’ve seen them, although I must admit I don’t know exactly what they do!). The one thing that strikes me is that your kids go to bed very early. Obviously their sleep is so disturbed they probably need it, but my kids have never gone to bed before 8, even as babies and toddlers.

  14. Arrrrgh!! *silent scream* I am so sorry you are having to go through all this – it really does sound stressful. Hope someone comes to your rescue soon hon Xx

  15. I can’t even imagine what a nightmare that must all be 🙁
    I can’t remember, does P sleep better during the holidays with no school stress?

  16. I hope someone hears your plea! Any chance you could check into one of those sleep clinics where they observe everyone overnight and figure out what can be done? Or, as you say, someone could come to the house. You must be at the end of your tether… or perhaps have already bitten through it and are now running off through the fields? Lots of love xxx

  17. I’m not an expert; I’m not offering advice. But I am so inspired by your blog and amazed at how you keep fighting and looking for answers on zero sleep. Sleep deprivation completely got the better of me when little one was small, sounds like you are doing a fantastic job. I am a teacher and I understand the importance of reducing stress for ASD students and recognising the strategies we use with them throughout the day are paramount to this. I hope you get some proper shut eye soon. X

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