WANTED: SLEEP! Can You Help?

weaning baby off the breast at night

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 🙂

37 thoughts on “WANTED: SLEEP! Can You Help?

  1. Oh wow, how good to hear that there is a free service on the NHS to help! Do it do it! I don’t have relevant advice as my kids are younger, but I just want you to know that I really feel for you and hope it gets better soon. Let us know what helped in the end! xxx

  2. It worked well for the 12 year old. In fact she gave up near the end because she was sleeping again and couldn’t be bothered to fill in the online diary!

    My eldest is a little better too. That is partly because she is older and it’s more acceptable to be awake until midnight when you are almost fifteen. But also she is a more easy going and relaxed character than she was when she was younger.

    I know you’re not after the sympathy vote… but you have it from me, in lorry loads.

  3. Thank you so much Helen, this is great information. I find with the NHS there is lots out there but because of the cost they don’t advertise it. How long did it take for your family to get on track? Lots of hugs back at ya 🙂

  4. Poor you Denise, it really is miserable hey. I hate to say it, but think you’re right about a personality type. My girl is a thinker too and can’t switch off, you can see it when she’s watching other people. Is your eldest a better sleeper now? I don’t think Sleepio would be appropriate for her as she’s too small, but thank you for the recommendation, I really hope your 12 year old benefits from it.

  5. Hi Jude, thank you for your comment. We’ve read about love bombing but because things have been so fraught and stressful sounded like it’d be too difficult to achieve. Great to hear that it worked for you though, we will definitely have to try it out xx

  6. Oh my god i feel for you so much i had serious sleep deprivation i was getting 2-4 hours sleep in a 24 hour period and it lead to me getting really bad depression. I do know that if you contact your health visitor they have access to sleep nannies for serious cases like yours they dont advertise these as they cost the state so they try and talk about everything else before going down this route. the sleep nannies come round your house they observe your family life routine childs behavior listen to your concerns then they put into action a way to resolve the problems and bring back calm and sleep to your home and it sounds like you need this before your next buba comes along. I really hope you can get contact with these ladies or find another solution before it has more detrimental effect on you, massive hugs

  7. Hi,
    Both mine had sleep problems. The older much worse. I think there is a personality type that is predisposed to no sleep – always thinking, finding it hard to switch thoughts off.
    Anyway, homeopathy worked for us the first time. I am a bit sceptical as to the science behind it!! But it worked temporarily and that gave me a bit of respite.
    Recently, my younger daughter did the Sleepio programme, but that is more for adults (she’s 12). How it works is a bit counterintuitive – you work out how much sleep the child is getting anyway. Then you start off only giving the child that window of sleep. They fall asleep quick at first because they are so knackered. Then once they are used to that, you widen the window 10 minutes at a time building up the length of time the child is in bed.
    I’m not sure it would work for a 4 year old though.
    Just to add too that I felt very judged by some people for having a child who didn’t sleep 🙁 Like I was a mum who just let everything get out of my control. But she just *couldn’t sleep* and it was making her miserable.

  8. I feel for you, unless you’ve gone through it yourself it can be hard to explain to other people the effect that long-term sleeplessness can have on the whole family. Would you consider an alternative therapy? Reflexology, craniosacral therapy and bio-energy are well worth a try. Have a look for local practitioners and testimonials from their clients, ensure they are registered with their professional body. Speak to them, explain the problem and go with your gut, pick the therapy and therapist that appeals most to you. You really don’t have anything to lose!

  9. My children are much younger but the first took a long time to sleep through (18 months) so I know how you feel, exhaustion wise. Poor you. It’s tough. Have you considered co sleeping as a form of therapy? Did you ever do Controlled Crying? Just wondered if she possibly has fear or bad feelings left over from this that you could soothe with co sleeping. Re this other behaviours, have you tried Love Bombing? Worked for us. Check my blog for details. Best of luck, xx

  10. We, also, are sleep deprived but with a 5 month old. She started sleeping through the night at about 11/12 weeks old, 9pm – 8am which was amazing! Then she started teething and this was a thing of the past. We had a few solid nights sleep but now, for the last 6 weeks or so, she has been waking 2/3 times a night and it’s KILLING us. She will wake, go back off easily but then stir every hour until its time to get up. We’re slowly going insane from the broken sleep and completely feel your pain. I can only hope things get better for you!

  11. Thankyou very much Laura, I am going to research Sensory Processing Disorder. I’ll give try giving her a foot massage before bed tonight, it’ll probably be nice and relaxing for the both of us to be honest 🙂

  12. Oh I feel for you as my eldest was the same. We found that by giving him a foot massage whilst in bed helped him settle really quickly and kept him asleep a lot longer. We also think he may have sensory processing disorder and is a sensory seeker and that’s why he wakes up so early! (4-5.30) If I give him a massage before bed we can get to 5am but if I don’t it usually 4 and there’s nothing we can do to get back down again. Hope you get the respite soon!

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