When Nighttime Becomes A (Potential) Nightmare

I’ll admit it.  I never heard of something called “sleep regression” until I saw a few other Mothers Tweeting about it recently.

That can’t be right, can it?  I thought a little smugly to myself.

There’s no such thing as sleep regression.

Maybe that’s just something people say when they can’t effectively get their kid to sleep?

I hadn’t read about it in any book.  It’s not something any other Mother – including my own – had warned me about. (Bitches).

But then this happened:

No Nap.

Barely A Nap.

Awake in the Middle of the Night.

Refusal to Sleep at Bedtime.

Refusal to Sleep at Bedtime.

Re-effing-fusal to Sleep at Bedtime.

Awake in the Middle of the Night.

So Freaking Sensitive.

Awake in the Middle of the Night.

Whiner.  Whiner.  Whiner.

And this is just what I can recall between the necessary-for-coping-wine-induced blackouts.  

Huh. . .That’s odd. . . Sounds exactly like what those other incredibly capable Moms were describing when they talked about sleep regression.

They might just be on to something here. . .

I Googled that shit.

And wished I hadn’t.  

Yeah.  We’re afflicted.

And it seems we’ve been stricken with this silent sleep killer at earlier developmental stages but just blamed it on teething, hunger, growth, etc. . .which I guess are all contributing factors (according to 2 really junk articles I read on the Internet.  I’m nothing if not thorough)  to this wretched “sleep regression” mothers seem to only whisper about.

But we have a few coping strategies that are working well for us and it might or might not be applicable to your child or circumstances but I just thought I’d offer them up:

1.  Consistency:  We strive to be relatively consistent in terms of wake up, naps, meals.  If Mac has a short nap, we still keep his bedtime consistent.  Same if he gets awake early. . .try to keep the nap time consistent.

Yet. . .

2.  Flexibility:  I’m not going to force the kid to lie in a crib and cry.  If he’s protesting that much, I’m going to look for a reason and offer a decent amount of comfort before putting him back to bed.

That said. . .

3.  I’m NOT Going to Create “Bad” Habits:  That means if he needs comfort at 2AM, we cuddle in his room.  No turning on lights.  No snacks.  No going downstairs to play.  Nothing that would offer the impression that he should be wide awake at that time of the night.

4.  Tank ’em up:  I want the kid going to sleep every night with a full belly.  Recently this has meant we have 2 “dinners.”  One at 3 or 4 when he gets up from his nap and another at about 7 before bath and bed.

5.  Fresh Air:  I know this sounds a little “crunchy” but I firmly believe fresh air, seeing green spaces, sky, and sunshine can do wonders for everyone – no matter their age.  I make it my personal mission to get this kid outdoors for as long as I possibly can everyday (I enjoy it too).

6.  Offer Amusement:  At nap time, I’m able to put Mac directly in the crib so long as he has a toy or two and sometimes a book.  As long as he’s tired, he will play quietly for a bit and then sleep without protest.

7.  Go With What Works:  During this “sleep regression,” Mac doesn’t like to just be placed in his crib at night like we do at nap time.  He’d rather have me hold him in our Sleepy (Boba) Wrap until he’s nearly asleep (about 5-10 minutes) and then be placed in the crib.  Works for us.  And I’d far rather spend 10 pleasant minutes cuddling him than 90 unpleasant minutes listening to drama. (You all know I’m in completely love with our Sleepy Wrap right?  I can’t tell you how lost we would be without it.)

8.  Physical and Mental Stimulation:  But only at appropriate times of the day.  I try to do all the wild and exciting stuff when he’s already wide awake.  I don’t want him getting all cranked up just before he should be sleeping.

9.  Variety:  While I’m pretty militant about our schedule, switching up what we do during our awake time seems to offer physical and mental stimulation that makes the little fellow sleep better.  Some days we walk to the park.  Some days we walk to the water or a store.  Sometimes we color.  Sometimes we play in his bedroom.  Sometimes we play downstairs.  Sometimes we walk around a few blocks together.  You get the point.  And with colder weather coming, I’m looking forward to the library and museums and other interesting novel experiences.

10.  Attitude Counts:  It sucks when your good sleeper suddenly starts going bump in the night.  I’ve found it’s a lot easier on me and the kid if I enter his room at 2AM with a kind heart, understanding, and a sleepy wrap.  He’s not going to need my comforting like this for very much longer.  It must be very difficult to be such a small soul experiencing such a huge developmental trajectory.  And I really do believe if he senses me being calm and kind, he will feel more secure and sleepy faster.

Obviously, not all of these things will work for every child.  I just though I’d give you a quick list of things that seemed to have consistently worked for us every time Mac goes through a rough patch sleeping well.

Have you experienced a “sleep regression?”  How long did it last and how did you manage it?

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5 thoughts on “When Nighttime Becomes A (Potential) Nightmare

  1. Sounds like you have lots of strategies in place to help you through this. As you know, we go through a nap struggle for a few days every couple of months. It always seems to be her teeth when this happens. Her last eye tooth is currently popping through, and I am hopeful we have some time before the 2 year molars, but I’m not holding my breath. 🙂

    The last time we went through a few days of nap issues, I pushed her naptime out by 30-60 minutes, and it seemed to help. Maybe you could try the same? Don’t leave it until he’s way too tired, but maybe just move it a bit to ensure he really is sleepy. As he’s gotten older, it’s quite possible he needs more awake time. Just a thought…

    Also, I find taking my annoyance out on Twitter helps. It gives me an outlet to express my irritation, and helps me be calm when I go in to deal with a child who won’t sleep when I was looking forward to a break. And you’re right – being a cool cat really helps. They pick up on tension.

    • Thanks for the great ideas. We had bumped back the nap by an hour before this started since he seemed to need more “awake time.” And we never, ever, let him sleep past 4:00. . .It’s like that movie Gremlins. . .Ha!

      He’s really not been too bad, all things considered. He’s always been a great sleeper so I’m probably a little spoiled.

      But I wanted to write something about it because I had never heard of “sleep regression” before I heard you and @highneeds discuss it via Twitter. . .

      Tho, looking back on it, I had definitely experienced it before – and often it was during teething or crawling or other big developmental phases.

      I hope your sweet Bubbs gives you a BREAK and doesn’t cut new teeth for a WHILE! 🙂

  2. I have to admit that we have never had a sleep regression with my 22 month old. He does have short phases (week or so) when he seems to wake up at night or fuss a bit when going down, but he always seems to go back down quickly. Sounds like you have a great plan though!

    • Ooooohhhhh! You’re lucky. By the sounds of it, what we’re experiencing is pretty “mild” too. . .and the plan seems to be working. You know, once you have it figured out, they switch it up on you again. Ha!

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