a little slice of sleep hell

We are still in the midst of sleep hell around here, which explains my radio silence. I’m so sleep-deprived that I’m numb now. Most nights, I’ve been up no fewer than three times. One night last week, it was something like six or seven within the course of three hours between midnight and 3am. This ended with me in tears sitting in the middle of my son’s room begging him to sleep. That night, he would wake, and I would take him back to his room, wait for him to fall asleep (because if I don’t, he’ll follow me), and then sneak out back to my bed and go back to sleep only to be wakened again twenty minutes later to my son standing next to my bed. Several nights in a row, we just let him get in bed with us, and then my wife opted for the guest room so that she could get a few hours of sleep before teaching. My mom came to visit on Thursday, and the boy woke us all up. She offered to have him sleep with her, and she proceeded to chat with him (apparently so that he wouldn’t get upset) resulting in the whole house being wide awake at 3am. He then came to bed with us where he slept across us, occasionally using my skull as a pillow and my wife’s bladder as a kicking bag. Hell, I tell you.

But after a couple of nights of sleep, and a therapy session wherein we focused entirely on our son’s behavior, we have some new plans. He has a pallet on the floor by our bed where he is welcome to lie down, but we’re not inviting him back into our bed. We’re working with a reward system (you sleep in your bed, you get some sort of great thing, be it a trip to the park, an extra book at bedtime, etc.), but are still scoffing at the star chart our therapist insisted we need to use. I don’t know what my beef is with star charts, but I think ultimately, it’s the rewards system I’m having trouble with, the feeling that I’m training a dog. We’re doing it fairly half-heartedly and instead offering a lot of direct praise as well as letting him “overhear” us talk about how great it is when he sleeps in his bed. Ultimately, I think he wants to please us more than he wants a prize, which I think will work to our advantage. Maybe. I hope.

Honestly, I question whether those months of him sleeping all night (or those blessed mornings where he slept until 8am) were even real. Maybe it was a dream. But one would have to have slept to dream such a thing, right?

I just keep reminding myself that eventually this will pass, that things will change. Tonight, instead of nursing to sleep (oh god, I know, but when the alternative is dancing a thirty-pound kid to sleep because his brain is just too busy to put himself to sleep, you do what you have to do), he nursed for a few minutes, then asked me to rock and sing him. A few minutes later, he asked me to take him to his room, and in his words, “Dance goodnight and lay down on pillow.” This meant me dancing him to the song “Good Night” (Laurie Berkner). Normally, it means many iterations of that song and my back straining (and convincing myself that at least it’s a good workout,) and the boy finally falling asleep. Tonight it meant a single iteration of the song, and then he let me know he was ready to lie in his bed. He held my hand, wanted me to rub his head, and then finally rolled over and went to sleep. It took awhile, but he did it, and he has NEVER done this.  I’m sure all of the hardcore sleep trainers out there are shaking their heads, saying “No wonder this family isn’t sleeping,” but as I’ve said before, CIO was never in the cards for us, and putting him down to sleep on his own has always meant a lot of crying.

I don’t know what any of this means. I don’t know if he’ll actually sleep tonight, or if I’ll be up most of the night shivering by his bed, willing him the fuck to sleep.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “a little slice of sleep hell

  1. Good luck to you. This is hard stuff, which is complicated by exhaustion.

    I am not a fan of the star charts either (and as a therapist, that puts me in the minority). When we needed Punk to sleep in her own bed all night, there was a little reward for doing so in the morning. I know you don’t do TV but that was very motivating for Punk when she was just about 3. If she slept all night in her bed she could watch a cartoon in the morning, If she didn’t, no cartoon. It didn’t feel punitive because the cartoon was a bonus.
    (Now she almost never wakes up so it’s hard to not do the cartoon because then it DOES feel punitive, but that’s for a different day.) Maybe some other small and immediate reward, like a breakfast that you don’t usually have or a special story in the morning or something like that?

    Not looking forward to trying to figure out all of this sleep stuff with the second kid who is also a horrific sleeper. Whoops.

    Good luck!

    • reproducinggenius

      Yes, I like this. We are not averse to plying our son with the occasional video in the morning after he’s slept. He got about ten minutes of his favorite Laurie Berkner vids today, and it was a great reward. Here’s hoping your boy makes some miraculous turnaround. I’ve heard of kids who suddenly just start sleeping one day. We can dream, right?

  2. Marissa

    We have a poor sleeper too. He’s almost 1, and is now using us as a jungle gym at night, so we’re trying to transition him to a crib next to the bed. Sigh…

    • reproducinggenius

      Have you read the No-Cry Sleep Solution? She does have some really good tips for moving them from the family bed to their own. We used a lot of them and continue to use a lot of her advice.

  3. Oh those are some tough times alright. I hope it gets better soon!

  4. Christina Roberts

    Our son is not a great sleeper, and he got into a bad habit of sleeping with us (this wasn’t acceptable in the long run because he has a twin sister, who, although she does not sleep well when sharing a bed, also does not want to be the only one left out of the party).

    We do stickers, and they actually have worked incredibly well. Every morning, whoever slept all night in his or her own bed gets a sticker of their choice. We don’t put it on a chart– they just play with the sticker for an hour or so until they forget about it (at which point our elderly dog usually eats it).

    The remarkable thing for me is that after weeks of fretting over how to get our son to sleep in his own bed all night, I finally just told him that he needed to. I told him we all sleep better in our own beds, and I wasn’t going to get him in the night. And then, if he slept in is own bed, he’d get a sticker. Unbelievably, it just worked (he was about 2 at the time). Of course, we still have setbacks whenever he’s sick, as he really needs to sleep with us then. But once he’s well, we are always able to get him back into sleeping in his own bed. And if it involves some crying and minor bribery, my personal opinion is that neither is as damaging as continual sleep deprivation.

    Thank goodness stickers are cheap, because we have a ton of them! We also give the twins a sticker whenever they use the toilet. 🙂

    Good luck–

    • reproducinggenius

      Stickers are great, and we have used them too. Unfortunately, we’re in this phase right now where he gets stickers wherever he goes, so they’ve lost their impact. Our local market gives him a whole sheet of them each time we go! We’ve got to find a less generous place to shop. 😉 I agree, though, that a little bribery seems to go a long way at this age and is far better than going without sleep for a month or however long it’s been!

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