Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Practical Sleep Solution for Too Early Risers

You wanna talk bad sleepers?  I could go on for hours.  

I've tried just about everything on earth to get my kids to sleep.  My kids are not the "let's just go to the mall and wander around in the stroller for a nap" kinda kids.  In fact, they're not even the "let's put them in their crib to nap" kinda kids.  

With Logan, the fact that I was 100% unable to get him to nap on his own in his crib stressed me out.  

People told me non-stop that I was creating bad sleep habits.  I was told that because he wasn't napping in his crib, or because he was co-sleeping with me, he would never learn to sleep on his own.  And I somewhat bought into it.  Not fully, mind you, as I kept doing what I was doing.  I mean, I had tried all of the conventional advice - don't rock him to sleep/rock him to sleep, let him cry/don't let him cry, put him down at regular times/put him down when he looks tired.  Blah, blah, blah.  And when all else failed, I was then told that it was because I wasn't being consistent with one method.  I just couldn't win.

I recall that at around 9 months of age, it still wasn't unusual for Logan to wake up every hour from about 1am until he'd get up for the day between 4:30-5:30.  And the only way I could get him to nap for more than 10 minutes at a time was to lie down in bed with him.  Or put him in a sling.  Even the car was kind of hit and miss.  

So I just did it.

I wore him non-stop in a sling:

I co-slept with him at night and napped with him during the day.  

Because, despite what all of the nay-sayers were telling me, I NEEDED TO FUNCTION!!!!  And really, the naps certainly weren't doing me any harm, pregnant with our second.

Chloé has been a bit of the same.  Her nights have been more hit and miss than Logan's were.  She's had periods of great sleep and other bouts of constant waking.  Naps, however, have never been her forte.  As with Logan, the only way I can get her to nap is either to nap with her, or to hold her in my arms while she naps (sucking my boob the entire time... a world of joy...).  

I've come to understand, now that I know that my kids have SPD, exactly where these difficulties come from.  And, might I add, thank goodness I didn't listen to everyone who was telling me I was just being too much of a pushover.

Due to proprioceptive issues, my kids can't tell as well as others where their bodies are in space.  So when they awake (as one does briefly - often imperceptibly - several times a night), panic sets it.  This is because they can't tell where their body is in space.  

Additionally, the proprioceptive feedback they would get by squishing their little bodies against mine helped calm them enough for them to fall asleep.  Since the time both kids were able to roll, they have rolled over the second I lie down and glue themselves to my side.  They can be in the deepest sleep in the world and the second I try to inch away, they wake up.  The proprioceptive feedback is gone. 

In fact, it used to make me so sad when I would sneak in on Logan once he was asleep (once he was older and sleeping better).  After having cried himself to sleep for what felt like forever, I would find his little head jammed into the corner of his crib.  Once I understood that this was related to his SPD, it made me sad to see that the only way he was able to soothe himself to sleep was to ram his head into the wood of his crib.  

This is a lot of why Logan now surrounds himself with everything he can find to sleep, as I mentioned here.

Also, given my kids' self-regulation difficulties, as related to their SPD, it was MUCH more difficult for them to learn to soothe themselves to sleep (and back into sleep once aroused), as compared to other kids.

Both of my kids are also super sensitive to sound.  Think super-sonic hearing.  Their hearing is in fact no better than average, but they notice tiny sounds much more than others.  So any little, tiny noise woke them immediately.  Damn those wood floors!!!  It got so bad that my husband and I would argue at 4 or 5 in the morning, as I'd try to encourage him to "just hold it!", knowing that Logan would wake the minute my husband's foot hit the floor.

Once we had both kids, this meant that when one of them made the slightest noise, it instantly woke the other.  I cannot count the number of nights I spent up much of the night, alternating between each being awakened by the other.  This also has made it difficult for us to let them cry themselves back to sleep.

My kids are also both super sensitive to movement.  They could be dead asleep in my arms, and the second I would start to lower them into their crib, they would wake up in a panic, arms flailing and be unable to fall back asleep (even if left for hours).  This has been confirmed by a friend of ours who has a son the same age as Chloé, who tried to get her into the crib for me.  She came back crying defeat, saying she'd been way more careful putting Chloé down than her own son, but that she'd startled the second she had moved.

And finally, my kids are both also hyper-sensitive to touch.  Neither was able to stand being on the floor on either their backs or their tummies as babies because they didn't like the feeling of it on their bodies.  However, both have found being on their backs to be the most challenging (to this day).  The sleep of both kids improved somewhat the minute they were able to roll themselves over to their bellies, off of the position of being on their backs that they disliked so much.

So all that to say that sleep has not come easily to my kids.  Which means that it hasn't come easily to me in the past 2+ years either.  Many night wakenings and many, many super early mornings, as I've mentioned before.

As I said here, Chloé has been regularly sleeping through the night since we cut out dairy, soy and gluten from our diets.  I had also mentioned here that Logan is now not getting out of bed until 6:30am.  So I am over-the-moon happy to report that I am also now getting to sleep through the night.  H-E-A-V-E-N!!!

And I wanted to share the trick that helped us to finally help Logan stop waking up so darned early.  

It's the simplest thing in the world.

So simple that I feel kinda dumb for not having thought of it myself waaaaaaaaay earlier... (so many nights of lost sleep!!!)

I saw this on pinterest.  Thank God for pinterest.  Otherwise I may have never slept a full night.

We started this when Logan was maybe 2 years and a month old.  I suspect it may have even worked a bit earlier.

All you have to do is hook up a regular timer (like this one here) to your child's nightside lamp.  And program it to whatever time you want your child to get up.  So basically, if you want your child to sleep until 6am, you program the timer to have the lamp come on at 6am.  

What could be easier?

Now, for this to work, you have to not get your child out of bed until that light comes on.  No matter what.

When in "training" phase, when Logan woke earlier than the scheduled time, I'd go into his room and tell him it was still night time and that he had to sleep.  I'd say "sleep is all done when the light comes on".  And then I'd leave.  And he certainly fussed and cried the first few nights.  But he very quickly figured out that I wasn't coming back for him.  And within maybe 3 or 4 nights, he'd figured out to not even bother making a peep.  That is, if he was even still waking.

The other important part of this is that once the light goes on, if you hear your child, you've got to go get them immediately.  It's all part of training them to know that the light means they get out.  And the dark means they don't.

And as with anything relating to kids, consistency is key.  Super important.  If you sometimes let them out before the light comes on, they're gonna learn to push the limits and this isn't going to work for you.

Now, of course, you can't expect your child to go from waking at 4:30am to sleeping until 6:30.  I'd suggest you increase waking time every couple of days by 15 minutes.  So we started at 5am and worked our way up to 6:30am. 

My only hope with this was that Logan would sleep longer.  Or at least stay in his crib and leave us alone and let us sleep later.

But wonder of all wonders... he not only learned to sleep later... he also somehow learned how to regulate himself all at the same time!!!  So instead of waking up a screaming, tantruming mess, he now wakes up most mornings super happy and ready to start the day.  Instead of needing 45 minutes of help from me to have his engine running "just right", he now hops out of bed and starts playing immediately.  

Who is this kid???

Not that I'm complaining...

It is so much more pleasant to wake to the sound of "mommy" or "daddy" instead of wailing.  Our mornings have become soooo much more pleasant because of this simple tool.  And my patience has grown tenfold now that I'm not starting my day at 4:30am!  Thank God for Nicole at Baby Food Scoops for sharing this.

Do you have any sleep solutions that have helped your kids sleep better that you'd like to share?


Sheila said...

I'm not sure if falling to sleep is tough for your kids, but it is for ours. We started giving the kids melatonin mixed in their milk at bedtime and it has been a lifesaver. It has made bedtime much easier - down from 1 hour to 10 minutes. I like the lamp idea!

Nicole Olson said...

I have been so touched by your kind comment, and have thought of it often over the past week! I'm so happy that "the lamp" works for you as well, it has been a God-send in our home!