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Sleep Deprived and Looking for Answers

This blog is meant for mothers to find answers to their health questions and parenting questions. I’ve tried my best for the past two years to research, add the best experts to my blogging team and provide the information moms seek. Now it is my turn.

I am turning to my readers to find answers to a parenting problem that my husband and I have been dealing with for the past three years. I have decided today that it can not continue. This problem is harming my marriage and my health as well as the health of my husband. We need help.

Our beautiful baby girl was born four years ago (she turns four on Sunday). We had a difficult time transitioning her from the bassinet in our bedroom to the crib in her own room. Finally when she was seven months old she started sleeping through the night in her crib. Shortly after that I found out I was pregnant with child number three. Our son was born in the summer of 2007. I nursed him and he did not sleep through the night until he was a year and half. Currently we have three small children ages 4, 2 1/2 and 6 months. We are struggling with sleep issues with all three.

Ciara is our soon to be four year old. She is full of energy and spunk and refuses to take naps during the day at home. Her preschool teachers told me that she does nap at school. Eight o’ clock has been her bedtime for a couple of years now. We have a routine down. She gets her PJ’s on or takes a bath on bath nights, brushes her teeth and Dad reads her and her brother a story. After that they say their prayers and it is off to bed. Instead of staying in her room like most kids should do she constently leaves her room and makes up excuses as to why she isn’t in bed. Does this sound familiar? “I’m not tired,” “I’m thirsty,” her favorite excuse has been, “I’m scared of my bedroom.” She shares a room with her twelve year old sister and our house is old so the few outlets in the room are hidden. We don’t have a good place to set up a night light. I tried using a lamp but Ciara is very distructive and she broke the lamp.

My husband usually stays up with her and some nights get so late that he doesn’t make it to bed until midnight. Ciara sees a behavioral specialist on Fridays and we discussed this problem with her. She suggested that we stay in her room with her every night until she settles down. My husband has tried this and so have I. This doesn’t work out well during school nights because sometimes she still isn’t asleep when her sister comes to bed. If we leave the room she will just keep our older child up. We need another solution. Sometimes Ciara sleeps on the couch in our living room. But we would prefer that she sleep in her own bed. Do any of you have suggestions for us?

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Conan is our sweet, sensitive and gifted two and a half year old. He was a high needs baby and we struggled with sleep issues for most of his life. Conan is used to our bedtime routine and we don’t have problems with him going to bed at 8 o’clock. He requires a lot of stimulus so some nights he keeps himself busy and plays quietly in his bedroom until he tires himself out. Unlike his sister he does not have distructive behavior nor does he make a big mess so we are able to leave him alone in his room at night. For the past few months Conan has been waking up in the middle of the night. After he wakes up he’ll cry out for either myself or my husband. When we go to his room to find out what is wrong it may be hours before we are able to leave. Chris was up with him for about three hours last night and I was up with him for another two. If we try to leave the room Conan starts screaming. I don’t know what to do about this.

Christopher John “CJ,” is our darling little six month old. I am nursing him so he still wakes up at night and wants to nurse. By the time your child reaches six months he doesn’t need the extra night time feedings. So I know he is just looking for the comfort of breastfeeding. I get up with him a couple of times a night. Along with waking up at night he also has a tough time falling asleep on his own. Whenever I place him in his crib weather or not he is awake or already asleep, he screams bluddy murder. Lately I’ve been setting the kitchen timer for 20 minutes and let him scream the whole time but he hasn’t fallen asleep within those first 20 minutes. I’m contemplating changing it to a half an hour. CJ prefers to sleep in our bed at night, but I can not continue having him in bed with us. This has to stop! The boys share a room so I am also worried that he will keep Conan up if we place him in his crib when Conan is in bed. Should I just let him keep his brother up until he gets used to staying in the crib? Have any of you had similar problems?

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I am looking forward to reading your responses.

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Cascia Talbert

Cascia Talbert is a devout Catholic, mother of five children, health and fitness enthusiast and positive parenting supporter. She is also the founder of the award winning online health, fitness, parenting and Christian faith magazine for moms, the Healthy Moms Magazine. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, five children and one spoiled cat. Her hobbies include gardening, country music, running, and playing her flute. Check out her first book, "Taking Care of your Family's Health and Well-being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available exclusively on Amazon.

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20 Comments

  1. Keeslermom January 28, 2010

    3 of my 4 kids have sensory processing disorder, which affects their sleep. On can't fall asleep, for up to 3 hours, one pops out of bed like a jack-in-the-box until she crashes, sometimes mid word. The last one needs his covers to be of a specific fabric, perfectly smooth, and if it isn't right, I hear about it!

    We consulted with an OT, and she recommended weighted blankets. Works great for 2 out of 3! The nice side effect was daytime behavior has improved because of the OT and getting better sleep.

  2. Cascia January 28, 2010

    Here are some more ideas I got from a couple of moms in a discussion forum:

    Reply by Steph
    author of

    1/28/2010 11:06 AM
    Boy! Sure sounds like you have your hands full! I hate not sleeping! I'm sure you've tried everything, so I can't imagine I have any suggestions that would help! My only thoughts- a reward chart for your daughter not coming out of her room? She stays in for a night and gets a treat in the morning and then stretch it out to 2 nights and so on? Negative consequences if she comes out? A child lock on the door? Flipping the lock so you can lock it from the outside? Can you have her not nap at school? If my 4-year old naps, she won't go to bed until 10. If she's getting attention from you guys for being awake, she's got no reason to stop! You guys are just too fun! What's her diet like? No juice or sugar after a certain time? Again, I'm sure you've tried all of these and not to go against your behaviorist, but maybe you could snuggle with her more earlier in the day. She should be old enough to settle herself down.

    Reply by Steph
    author of

    1/28/2010 11:13 AM

    Another thought… you mentioned that she's destructive. I was too as a youngster! One day, my mom came in after a big tantrum… with a giant trash bag. And took it all!!!! Every toy, every piece of clothing, everything that was a priveledge to own!!!! (I might also mention that the only thing she said was “if you can't treat your things nicely, you can't have nice things”) As I am also stubborn, it took me 2 weeks to ask for it back! I earned it back a bit at a time with good behavior (or for your daughter, maybe with staying in her room… she could earn a toy back every night she stays in her room- that way you won't have to go broke buying treats!!) Good luck!!!

    Reply by Mae
    author of Carter Crew

    1/28/2010 11:19 AM
    I have a 6yr old a 4 yr old and an 11 month old. My 11 month old is just now sleeping through the night because I finally gave up and let him cry it out in his crib and it took about a week but now if he wakes up it's only for a few minutes and he goes back to sleep. He was sleeping with us and I wasn't sleeping so I know how you feel. Do you have an office that you could put a pack in play in and put him to bed in there until he figures out how to sleep so he doesn't keep your other boy awake. My little guys crib is in out office for that reason. As for your bigger kids tuck them in once then go out the second time they come out say it's bed time and take them back the 3 same thing and after that take them to bed and say nothing each time it may be a long few nights but they should get that you're not playing and it's time to sleep. I would also stop the naps for your 4 yr old I can't let mine nap any more for the same reason it 10- 12 before she goes to sleep. Best of luck and sweet dreams for you!

    Thank you so much for all your ideas!

  3. Cascia January 28, 2010

    Steph, Locking the door is a great idea. I might have to see about replacing the door handles and putting a lock on the girls' door.

    We follow a very strict diet at home and my daughter doesn't eat a lot of sweets. We avoid HFCS and sugary foods. Great point, though!

    I might have to talk to her preschool teacher about avoiding naps. Maybe they will be willing to do that for us.

    You also stated, “Another thought… you mentioned that she's destructive. I was too as a youngster! One day, my mom came in after a big tantrum… with a giant trash bag. And took it all!!!! Every toy, every piece of clothing, everything that was a priveledge to own!!!! (I might also mention that the only thing she said was “if you can't treat your things nicely, you can't have nice things”) As I am also stubborn, it took me 2 weeks to ask for it back! I earned it back a bit at a time with good behavior (or for your daughter, maybe with staying in her room… she could earn a toy back every night she stays in her room- that way you won't have to go broke buying treats!!) Good luck!!!”

    That is a great idea! The only problem though is that she shares a room with her sister and usually when she wreaks something it is something that belongs to her sister. I don't want to punish my older daughter for her little sister's behavior. But I will keep this in mind.

    I have a reward chart for her. I think I might have to modify it or enforce it more.

    As for my baby, I think I am ready to let him cry it out. Unfortunately I do not have an extra room or office to place his crib in so my other son is just going to have to put up with the crying. I need to get the baby out of our bedroom.

    Thank you for all your suggestions! Keep them coming. The comments on my blog work now too.

  4. Lucy postpartumillness.com January 28, 2010

    O my gosh I am so sorry. We did the cry it out method. It took two weeks only because we caved with the screaming duing week 1. We stuck with the rules during week2 and by day 4 it worked. You have to do it during nap time too. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but both our kids starting sleeping through the night at 7 months.

    My 5 year old is doing the same thing. Im thirsty, Im scared, I have to go potty, excuses every night. We let him have water and potty and each time he can not speak to us he has to get what he needs and go back to bed.

    If he keeps it up then we tell him that he will lose his favorite toy if he doesnt stop. This does the trick.

    We also stopped giving any sugar, soda, etc after mid afernoon. To an adult its just a soda but for the little ones it can really amp up their bodies for a long time. Vitamins give my friends son lots of energy so they only give vitamins in the am.

    I hope this helps a little and that you get some rest soon. I know through my health issues how tiring it is when you dont sleep consistently.

    Lucy

  5. aplaceforthoughts January 28, 2010

    Your children are so beautiful! I'm so sorry things have been rough. My little guy just started crying but I do plan to come back and comment further. Best wishes to you.

  6. swalkerparamedicranger January 28, 2010

    My first suggestion may sound a little bit odd but I've seen it solve the getting out of bed problem in other children. It's called “Couch Time”. At some point during the evening -while the children are around – you and your husband sit on the couch for some one-on-one time. This is not a time to snuggle, read books to, or otherwise interact with the children. This is time for you and your husband to share about the day or just chat for a little bit. Seeing mommy and daddy having a calm, quiet chat together gives children a greater sense of security. Some children pop out of bed at night because this is the only time they see mom and dad actually spending time together.

    You may also want to check out the following books. “The Secret of the Baby Whisperer”, The Secret of the Toddler Whisperer”, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy child.” All three of these books have LOTS of tools for helping your child sleep.

  7. swalkerparamedicranger January 28, 2010

    My first suggestion may sound a little bit odd but I've seen it solve the getting out of bed problem in other children. It's called “Couch Time”. At some point during the evening -while the children are around – you and your husband sit on the couch for some one-on-one time. This is not a time to snuggle, read books to, or otherwise interact with the children. This is time for you and your husband to share about the day or just chat for a little bit. Seeing mommy and daddy having a calm, quiet chat together gives children a greater sense of security. Some children pop out of bed at night because this is the only time they see mom and dad actually spending time together.

    You may also want to check out the following books. “The Secret of the Baby Whisperer”, The Secret of the Toddler Whisperer”, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy child.” All three of these books have LOTS of tools for helping your child sleep.

  8. Cascia January 28, 2010

    Here is another comment I got in a discussion forum.

    “Reply by Heather Price 17 minutes ago
    oy you've got it rough! Have you tried melatonin? My son with autism really needs it– without it he doesn't fall asleep until after 11:00. With melatonin he consistently falls asleep before 7:15 on days he doesn't nap.

    My suggestion for your 4 year old is to give up the nap— my twins are just 3 years old and I'm already trying to transition the boy twin into not napping. The girl twin isn't nearly ready.

    I also agree with the person on your network who replied there about the no talking— get what you need— drink, potty— go back to bed. I do still talk to my twins in the middle of the night when they get up but that's because between them waking up, a diaper change, sippy cup, and back to bed, it's a whole 5 minutes. I really don't have a problem (anymore) with them remaining awake. But I talk in a whisper….. “ok, you get a diaper and a sippy cup and you go right back to bed… I love you… goodnight”.'

    I personally don't believe in cry it out—- if I'm thirsty in the middle of the night I get a drink and I think little people need to be treated with the same respect. But I also don't believe in 5 hour parties—- 5 minutes of taking care of business and going back to bed.

    Ask your ped about the dose of melatonin for your 2 older ones. For the little one I wouldn't even ask about it yet.”

    Thank you so much for your help!

  9. aplaceforthoughts January 28, 2010

    Yikes! I just read your blog. Earlier I had skimmed it and boy you do have your hands full. I am a first time mom to an 8mth old so I don't really have much to offer as far as suggestions go, just support. Do you think your CJ is having trouble because of teething?

    I saw the melatonin suggestion – I'd be interested to hear what your pediatrician says about that and if you choose to try it.

    I hope things get better at nighttime in your home very soon. I'll be checking back for updates!

  10. Felicia January 29, 2010

    How about some “monster spray” for the 4 year old and her being frightened? Just some water in a squirt bottle.

  11. jennielee226 January 29, 2010

    I had a problem gettting my two oldest children to sleep at night. Thankfuly my third is a great sleeper.

    When the two older children were giving me problems i tried waking them up earlier in the morning for a few days. It wasn't very much fun for me, but it took less than a week for them to understand that the later they stayed up the earlier I was going to wake them up.

  12. Dorothy January 29, 2010

    I'd be interested in what your doctor said as well, this can be very harmful to everyone thus I hope your able to determine what the issues might be.

    Best of luck

    Dorothy from grammology
    grammology.com

    and keep us posted so we know what's happened..thanks

  13. Cascia January 29, 2010

    Felicia, great idea. I think I'll try that next time she says she is scared.

    Good morning! I just thought I would update you on how last night went.

    I fed the baby his solids right before bedtime instead of a couple hours before I put him to bed. He screamed for about 45 minutes and then finally settled down in the crib. But he woke up at midnight and I caved. I know I should have just comforted him in his room and placed him back in his crib but he came to bed with me instead. I was so tired and did not want to listen to him screaming once again.

    He didn't bother his older brother so our two-year-old slept great! He didn't even wake up in the middle of the night.

    My soon to be 4 year old was a different story. I told her that I would start taking away her toys if she didn't stay in her bed last night. Well, she didn't stay in her bed. She is asleep in the recliner in the living room as I type this. I think I am going to gather up her My Little Pony's this morning and put them up where she can not get them. If she stays in her bed tonight she can earn them back tomorrow.

    I haven't discussed the melatonin with my childrens' doctors yet but I plan on doing that soon.

    Thank you for all your suggestions!

  14. Helene January 29, 2010

    Oh I feel for you, I really do. We went through similar issues with our kids and two of my kids still don't sleep in their own beds. I remember being so sleep-deprived with our 1st set of twins that every time they'd wake up and cry, I'd bring them into bed with us because I just wanted to sleep. Now my daughter still relies on having my hubby in the room with her to fall asleep.

    It sounds like you may have to use the tough love approach. The kids need to know that you are in control, not them. The thing is kids are smart, no matter how young they are, and they know when they're able to manipulate you.

    I think feeding the baby solids before bed is a great start. If you haven't added oatmeal or rice cereal to that feeding, go ahead and try that too. Are you opposed to him having a pacifier? If not, when he wakes up at night and you know for a fact that he's not hungry and just looking for some comfort, give him the pacifier. Also, take a little soft blankie or a soft t-shirt that belongs to you and sleep with it against your skin for a couple nights. Then give it to him in his crib. Hopefully between the paci and the shirt with your scent on it will be all he needs to fall back asleep. I know the paci seems like another bad habit but you're kind of trading it for a worst habit, kwim? Right now, you need sleep more than you need to worry about breaking him off of the paci in the future.

    You may have to do the CIO thing with him, even though it's tough to do. I couldn't do it 100% so I used the Ferber method and that worked with for one of my kids. The other one became more upset when I'd come in and the room and then quickly leave so she had to do the CIO thing cold turkey. The key is to help them learn to fall asleep on their own, no matter what time of night it is. If they constantly rely on you to help them fall back asleep, you won't be doing them or yourself any favors.

    It does get worst before it gets better since this will be new for them. But you have to be consistent and stay in control, empower them to understand that they don't need you to help them fall asleep.

    With your 4-year old, I'm not sure how close her bedtime is to dinner but if you could try to space it out so you have dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime…then about 15-20 minutes before bedtime, give her some warm milk and a banana. Both are supposed to induce sleep and hopefully that will make her sleepy enough to get in bed and stay there.

    If not, bring out the baby gate and put it on her door. She won't be able to escape anytime she wants.

    I don't know about the idea of staying in your daughter's room until she falls asleep only because when she wakes up in the middle of the night and sees no one's in there with her anymore, she'll coming looking for you as a source of comfort. Again, it's about teaching her that she has the ability to put herself back to sleep. Maybe stay in the room with her for about 10 minutes and then leave. Maybe you could give her a flashlight right next to her bed so if she gets scared she can turn it on. Or a light in the hallway.

    Anwyay, sorry to get so wordy here…it's tough, I know. Hopefully you'll find some things that work so you can start getting more sleep!

  15. Andrea-Memories As A Mom February 19, 2010

    What is the latest with this situation? I can imagine how helpless you feel. I have a friend who has a 9.5 month old who has never slept through the night, she often has to get up several times with her. She also only takes a half an hour nap a couple of times a day. My friend is such a fantastic mother, and feels she must be doing something wrong.

    I have told her that is definitely not the case. It is so clear to me after becoming a mom that all children are so different when it comes to sleep patterns and ability. What works for one child won't for another and therefore should not be forced or else it could backfire. (Some children due to certain brain functions or their physiology are simply incapable of having our version of an ideal night's sleep.)

    For example, I never wanted to do the cry it out method, but Logan still began sleeping thru the night on his own at 9 months old (his waking up was only for 5 minutes one or two times a night before that once he reached two months old) – I have no doubt if I had done the CIO that would have actually made him worse. But some babies respond to it.

    It sounds like you received some great tips and it really will probably be trial and error over time before you find which exact things work with each particular child. At least in time this problem should get better if for no other reason than the children maturing. But, I hope you find something soon that works for your sake and the sake of your relationship with your husband.

    P.S. And yes, the progesterone cream has been amazing to me!

  16. Cascia February 21, 2010

    Thanks for your comment, Andrea. Night time is improving. I started putting CJ in his crib and let him scream until he fell asleep. After doing this for a couple of weeks he has gotten used to the crib and he sleeps through the night on most nights. When he does wake up it is usually only once or twice a night.

    Ciara is beginning to understand that if she does not stay in her bed at night there will be a consequence the next day. She still has a hard time settling down, though. Sometimes she keeps her sister up. I am going to start giving her melatonin at night. We'll see if this helps.

    Conan is starting to wake up more at night. He says he is scared. So we got him a night light. So far it is helping a little bit, but he still ends up in our bed once or twice a week. I'm thinking about giving him melatonin too.

  17. patti February 22, 2010

    I don't know if you have heard of the Mum Pillow/Mumoocie but this pillow was designed with children's sleeping issues in mind. It would be worth at least checking it out. http://www.mumpillow.com

  18. Cascia February 23, 2010

    Thanks, Patti. I'll have to check that out.

  19. My goodness.

    I've had moments of terrible sleep. Adrenal fatigue brought it on — my husband's migraine medication and magnessium depletion brought it on and too often these days the “News” brings it on.

    A few things that really work well for me and involve the senses are:

    Music: Dr. Weil's healing music cds “Sound body, sound mind: music for healing” and “Self-Healing with sound & music are fantastic.

    I listen to either/or as I go through my bedtime routine. Would recommend that you make copies of the cds and play them in your children's rooms as part of their nightly sleep-tight routine.

    Magnessium: A deficiency can cause insomnia. I'd recommend you add 500 mg at bedtime for you and your husband.

    Lavendar Essence Oil: Dab a little on the collar of your neckline and on those of your kids about an hour before bedtime. It will relax them and start the relaxation-to-bedtime process.

    Good luck! If you'd like more ideas pls stop by my blog and look under the “Fatigue and Insomnia” Topic.