August 15, 2007

Sleep Problems

Elizabeth is having one of her "Bad Sleep" stages. She goes through one of these periodically. And no matter how fine and handleable they seem to be when we're looking back on them from one of her Good Sleep stages, and no matter how reasonable we feel about them during the day, they always seem crazy and unmanageable at night.

Here is our daytime philosophy: These things pass regardless of how we handle them, so let's aim for what keeps us calmest/happiest and gets us the most sleep.


In one of Elizabeth's previous Bad Sleep stages, I ended up rocking her to sleep in the recliner for about an hour each late-evening (she would go to bed at 7:00 as usual, but wake crying at 10:00 or 11:00). I worried I'd form bad habits, rocking her like that, but it worked to put her to sleep so I did it, and a couple of weeks later she stopped waking up in the night and I thought, "What was the big deal about rocking her to sleep for a few nights, if that's what she wanted and needed?" Did I feel that way while I was rocking her? No.

This time the problem is that she's waking repeatedly in the night and crying. Sometimes, as Paul and I lie in bed pretending to be asleep so the other one will have to deal with her, she will go back to sleep after a minute or two. Sometimes she will not, and will escalate into frantic screams. Sometimes if I go in and snuggle her and reassure her and put her back in her crib, she will cry for only a minute or two and then go back to sleep; sometimes she will go into the frantic screams. Sometimes we bring her to our bed, where she lies quietly but doesn't go to sleep but can't be put back in her crib either (see: frantic screams). Sometimes she goes to sleep in our bed beautifully, but then gets up at 5:30 a.m. when Paul does. Sometimes SHE sleeps great in our bed, but I can't, because I'm lying awake wondering if we're handling her sleep problems ALL WRONG.

I do what makes me feel least like screaming and sobbing. Sleep with child in recliner? Sure! Rock child to sleep while watching trashy television? Sure! Allow child to sleep in our bed despite our usual preference for non-co-sleeping? Sure! Put child in crib and close door, then sit in living room writing resentful entries in my journal while she cries? Sure! When one method starts making me feel fed-up, I try something else. I wouldn't say that any method "works," exactly--it's more like what passes the time until the situation resolves itself.



Tessie said...

Maybe a nice shot of whiskey? (I mean for you, of course...OR DO I?)

Sigh. For me, sleep problems are the one thing that is WORSE than I thought it would be about parenting (most things are BETTER).

Shelly said...

"Sometimes, as Paul and I lie in bed pretending to be asleep so the other one will have to deal with her"

I am *so* relieved to know that my husband and I are not the only ones who do this! And whatever it takes to get through the night is the strategy we employ, too. Although a bathroom trip is required before sleeping in our bed becomes an option. (lesson learned)

Marie Green said...

Ahh, the ol' frozen stiff as a board trick, to get the other spouse up. Never works, does it?

We too are having sleep problems w/ Marin. We have the same outlook as you- we sleep where ever everyone can sleep the best. Usually, this means in our own beds, but sometimes not.

I've been working up a blog entry about sleep problems in my head all day, but I feel so defeated that I didn't feel like blogging about it in the end. Then I pop over here and *poof* you wrote it perfectly.

So, basically, Ditto. And also, I'm exhausted, as you must be too.

MrsGrumpy said...

Yesterday you made me miss the baby stage. Today, not so much. :) I think you are doing exactly the right thing. Which might be wrong, but as long as it's legal I say "Go for it!" You have the added tiring stress of a newborn in the house so my heart goes out to you.

Sleepynita said...

Do whatever feels right (I work in sleep disorders and trust me she will grow out of it and into it and out of it a few times). My little Rito has been going to bed at 8pm, waking up between 2 and 4am and taking up to 2 hours to get back asleep. He keeps waking up and screaming when I take him to the crib (after I rock im to sleep), so now I just take him to the spare room and cuddle until he is dead to the world. That got the process down to 30 minutes. I know he will get over it soon though, he always does.

Keith & Sarah said...

We use the same strategy ("do whatever works") so sounds like you're doing great. I mean, nothing else in parenting is static so of course sleep issues won't be static either...sigh!

AndreAnna said...

You outnumber me in children by 4, so I am in a word, useless. I know exactly what you mean about the wondering if what you're doing is the right thing. We've tried 50 million different things and now that she goes down all alone by herself and sleeps through the night (until the next spell), I can't in retrospect narrow it down to what the trick finally was.

I do wish you luck though!

Mommy Daisy said...

We do that too. Whatever will work for that night. Our biggest problem is when he won't go to sleep at night when we first lay him down. Usually (usually) he sleeps fine after intially falling asleep. The one thing I can't do is bring him in our bed. He thinks that's playtime, unfortunately. When he was a little baby that worked, and sometimes now I wish it would. But he has to sleep in the quiet of his own room/bed. I hope this passes.

And I say Paul should deal with her. You're nursing a baby, for goodness sake, isn't that enough already.

Devan said...


You have just described the last 2 years and 5 months worth of nights of my life. For me, sleep is the thing about parenting that I didn't know would be SO HARD. Other parents don't seem to think it is hard, but it is for us.
Do whatever works is my motto too, but sometimes, that seems to be nothing except NOT sleeping. Not cool.

I feel your pain.

Michele said...

I shall warn you that I am about to brag shamelessly twice.

1st, When I say that 90% of the time a kid makes a peep at night in our house, I do not hear it and my husband takes care of it. No, I dont know how he does it but he does it and I sleep (unmedicated) right through it and only find out if I ask about it the next morning.

2nd, Our kids dont wake up at night very much. Yes, I know I just pissed all over karma and the sleep gods by saying that. In PRINT no less.

But, and here is where I hope to redeem myself, the few times we have gone through a "sleep regression" or "bad period" with either child, We did WHATEVER worked to get everyone back to sleep, and we also worried the entire time that we were creating horrible new bad habits and ruining months of good ones.

And it always passed and left us right back in "good sleep" with no bad habits. Sucks while it is taking place though.

PS - picture of Henry from yesterday makes my ovaries pop. I want another baby and I totally get what you mean.

laughing mommy said...

It is like you are writing about my life! We are going through the exact same thing (except my kids never have wanted to sleep in our bed).

jen said...

I hate sleep problems. I hate when they wake up for some indeterminable reason that I can't fix and go back to sleep.

My daughter had night terrors. It's one thing to wake up to crying, but silence to terrified screaming isn't a nice way to wake up.

Now my son wakes up and demands to be put down. I tell him get back to sleep. Sometimes he does this 3 or 5 times a night.. alternating who he calls.. and if the other person than he called goes, he gets Very Angry. I love when he calls daddy, and I jab him and laugh.. he does the same thing to me.

Kelli in the Mirror said...

I was up seven times last night. And this morning my husband wanted to argue with me about how many it was, because he only heard them five times. And only got up ONCE. I could have shot him.

I hear you- I do WHATEVER works, including bringing the baby who pulls his chest hair to sleep next to him. :) Then we'll see if he notices.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Benadryl? I kid, I kid.

Everything is magnified in the middle of the night. I'm sure it'll pass (and return), just seems OVERWHLMING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, OH MY GOD.

Shauna Loves Chocolate said...

"Sometimes, as Paul and I lie in bed pretending to be asleep so the other one will have to deal with her"

At least Paul pretends. Gavin snores through the whole thing.

Jodi said...

I don't have time to read all the other comments but I wanted to suggest perhaps she is having night terrors. Our son started having these at about 3 months old and didn't stop until age 4.5. Now that he is older it only happens if he has to go to the bathroom. I just put him on the toilet (because he won't do it himself, he is too busy screaming) and once he is done I put him back to bed and the crying usually stops.

It always looks like he is awake but after doing some research on the net I discovered he isn't actually awake.

Erica said...

I HATE HATE HATE sleep problems like poison!

That being said, all I can do is commiserate and tell you I agree with doing whatever the hell you need to do to make it work. As long as your child basically has good sleep habits, I don't think these patches of bad road will undo everything.

Why is it that "they" stress sleep habits so damned much, anyway? I'm always worried that I'm going to ruin Maddie's sleeping ability FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE if I rock her to sleep one night. I say, let's rise up and shout "No more!" We all need to do what we need to do. Every family and every child is different and there are no pat answers. I'm so tired of "the authorities" trying to scare the bejesus out of parents. SIDS! Sleep problems! Developmental delays! Like we don't have enough to worry about? Like Bills! Dental appointments! In-law visits! Being out of chocolate!

Kelsey said...

We have bouts of tough sleep times too. And I also struggle with what the best approach is. Now that Harper is in a "big girl bed" she wants one of us to climb in with her when she wakes up at night. Then, instead of sleeping, she plays mommy the trampoline.

The worst is when I have been up working on a paper or project until some ungodly hour, like 2:00 a.m. and ten minutes after I finally get in bed, she wakes up. . .

Unless you are a newborn requiring sustenance, do not wake me from sleep!

I hope this phase passes quickly for all of you!

Nellyru said...

Exact same situation here, as well. At least we're not alone! And for me, in the middle of the friggin night when I'm so tired I'm physically nauseous, I feel it is VERY IMPORTANT to do WHATEVER I MUST DO to keep from losing my ever lovin' mind. MUST SLEEP. MUST DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE BABY SLEEP.

Jenny H. said...

Honestly? I stopped reading after the third comment.

Here is why. Being the mama of two children who have been a joy up until now, I have learned the following...

Babies ARE INSANE. TODDLERS ARE ALSO INSANE. It sucks ass when you are the parent of either/both/many at the same time. My mama said it best, just when you get used to the fact they are sleeping throught the night(i.e. being little darlings!) they LIVE for fucking it all up. Seriously, I think it prepares us for later on when they become,gasp, TEENAGERS!

Otherwise, how could we refrain from not killing their asses dead?!

That having been said, I am SO with y'all right now.

Little weasels....

LoriD said...

I'm in the 'do whatever works and gets everyone sleeping' camp. For my middle child, who is a pretty easy-going little guy, I can get him out of the whine/cry part with a little humour. I say "Uh-oh, you forgot where your bed is. To find your way back, jump three times and do a spin. Okay, let's see if that worked." It works 90% of the time and he heads back to his own bed. Doesn't work as well with my girls. The baby (22 months) will sometimes settle with a quick drink and a story on the CD player (I stress *story*, not songs. Songs piss her off!)

CAQuincy said...

The worst part in MY house is that the repeated, unanswerable, oh-God-how-do-we-fix-this awakenings put my dh in the most FOUL mood. And the guy who doesn't go to work until around 9:00 on most days (where *I* am up by 5:00am) and typically does not get up on weekends until around 11:00 (where *I* am up with the kids at least by 7:00am) has the AUDACITY to gripe and complain about the kids keeping him up all the time and how HE'S always tired! *grrr*

But I digress...I'm with you--we just do whatever gives everyone the most sleep. Even if it means breaking "their" rules. Because dear Lord, I am a mean, horrible mother when I haven't slept properly. I think the lack of child abuse will more than make up for my "screw-ups" of rocking them, letting them in my bed, or sleeping in theirs.

nowheymama said...

Gee, I can't wait to add a newborn to the nighttime fun. We already have two bad sleepers, why not go for three?

Also, thank you from the bottom of my pregnant belly for your recipes.

moo said...

Recently found your blog and love it!

I wanted to chime in that my 1 year old, G, has NEVER been a good sleeper. My mother explained it is karma, since I myself was a horrible sleeper. Now, as an adult, I LOVE sleeping but apparently, my son has other ideas.

The worst is when he is up at 3 or 4 and won't go back to sleep for two hours. I want to bash my brains in on the side of his crib those nights.

It's nice to know that we're not all alone, even if we feel that way in the middle of the night!

Brillig said...

Um, is teething a possible problem? Have you tried giving the baby some tylenol at bed time?

Would this be a bad time to tell you that my almost ONE year old kept me up all night last night?

Melissa H said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto. I do all the "long term consequences" stressing and then the phase passes and she sleeps like an angel and I wonder why the heck I was so worked up. It's nice to not be alone :)

Omaha Mama said...

We do the same thing. Whatever works that night. It seems like no matter what plan you go in with, there has to be back up. And then it passes, just when you think you have it figured out.

I hope she's back to sleeping soon! (And you didn't even mention where the nursing newborn factors into the equation!)

Farrell said...

wow. I am sooo relieved. "Whatever works." As a single mommy, that is my philosophy for everything. If it takes two M&Ms at 8am just to get out of the house? Well, so be it. It won't kill her. My daughter, almost three now, has NEVER been a good sleeper (for me. For Daddy? No problems). Right now I put her to bed in her room, she wakes in the middle of the night, I pop out of bed, bring her into mine, and put her back in hers when my alarm goes off. Whatever works.