Two years ago a book was released that caused quite a commotion in the media. It was titled, “Go the — to Sleep!”. The book was written as a joke one night by a father who was stressed out by trying to get his two year old to sleep. It immediately went viral, and topped Amazon’s bestseller list before it had even been released to stores! My husband and I both read the book, and got a good chuckle out of it. Granted, I’m not a fan of the profanity used in the book, but I’ll be the first to admit that I could certainly empathize with the author.
Our daughter is not a good sleeper. She never has been, and at this rate, I’m pretty sure she never will be. Unfortunately, per her pediatrician at a recent appointment, sleep problems are common not only in children who have been seriously ill as a baby, but also children on the spectrum. A double whammy for us! He also went on to inform us that problems sleeping are among the hardest to break, because they tend to be a combination of ingrained behavior and manipulation. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh in exasperation or strangle him, when he told us that (I went with the former).
Early this spring we started into an especially bad sleep phase with Ashley. There were a few issues, one being that suddenly she was struggling to fall asleep. While our daughter’s sleep issues have varied over the years, generally she has always been able to fall asleep, but unable to stay asleep. However, now she couldn’t fall asleep. As time went on and her bedtime got later and later, I did some research on how to help her fall asleep, without resorting to medicine. I did not want to put my three year old on sleeping medication. We tried everything: a visual bedtime schedule, a visual sleep clock, strict bedtime routines, magnesium baths… nothing helped.
Finally, we got to the point where she was staying awake until almost midnight. And for those who are tempted to think that meant she was sleeping later in the morning – you’re wrong. She was waking up at her normal time, and let’s just say she was a bear by the afternoons. We were reaching our breaking point. One day after a particularly bad night, I went out and bought the bottle of Melatonin that I swore I never would (I did consult with her doctor). She was asleep within 30 minutes that night. While it didn’t keep her asleep during the night, at least she was falling asleep at a decent hour.
The other big issue during this time was that she would not sleep anywhere but in our bed. The first few nights she crawled into bed with us were nice – after all, this was the girl who had never been a cuddler, or let us rock her to sleep. I enjoyed the nights of being able to cuddle my girl. However, after months of this, we knew we had to do something, as between her night wakings and very restless sleep, none of us were getting any quality rest at night.
Operation “Get Out of Our Bed!” started with some tough love, lots of screaming and crying, and of course, help from the Melatonin. We started out on the first night by refusing to let her fall asleep in our room. That first night after over an hour of screaming and crying, she finally cried herself to sleep on the floor of the landing at the top of the stairs, while my heart broke downstairs. I wondered, “Is this really worth it? Is it that big of a deal that she’s in our bed every night?” But, sleep-deprived though I was, I was still cognizant enough to know it was.
The crying soon ended and the new routine became that she would fall asleep at the top of the stairs, and we would later move her to her bed. Many nights though, she would start to wake up when I moved her, so one night I decided to be sneaky. By this point we had created a blanket mattress so she wasn’t sleeping on the hard floor. So, one night after she was asleep I crept up the stairs, got on my hands and knees and grabbed an edge of her mattress. Hardly daring to breathe for fear she would wake up, I crept backwards inch by inch, painstakingly slow, pulling her (on the mattress) into her bedroom – it is truly amazing the extremes a parent will go to, all for the sake of sleep. But it worked! Soon after that night, we had her falling asleep on the floor of the bedroom, on her blanket mattress.
Finally, it was my husband who was able to get her to fall asleep in her bed one night. I was at work. I don’t know how he did it, and I don’t care. He did it – with one catch. She would not sleep with her head at the top of the bed. Ashley would only fall asleep with her head at the foot of the bed. By this point, who cared? She was falling asleep in her bed, instead of ours, and by this point, we had also gotten her off the Melatonin (except for the odd bad night). It was a six month long hurdle, that much resembled a game of Musical Beds, but we finally were over it.
To have our bed back did wonders for our sleep. At least now we are able to sleep soundly, without being kicked and slapped and rolled on throughout the night, by our restless little girl. Now, if we could just get her to sleep through the night…