I’ve said many times before that sleep is not particularly a strength of Sam’s. He didn’t sleep through the night regularly until he was close to a year old and, even now (at 3.5) we still get a middle-of-the-night wake up call about three (sometimes four or five) times a week.
Part of the problem is, admittedly, our lack of consistency when it comes to bedtime etc. In the past, it has worked out OK for us to put Sam to bed later than most of his buddies (usually some time between 9:30 and 10), because it has meant that he sleeps in (until roughly 8AM – which allows both Jeff and I to get ready for work in peace) and still takes a two or three hour nap most afternoons. BUT, as we prepare for a new baby and a new normal, I’m starting to panic about this “routine.” I know that Jeff and I will want a little more quiet time together in the evenings, and – since I’ll already likely be getting up several times a night with a newborn – I definitely don’t want to worry about Sam waking in the middle of the night too.
The switch to a big boy bed with cozy sheets and blankets (shown above) seems to have helped a little; but, today, I’m hoping to harness the power of community, and get some advice for breaking some bad sleep habits and starting new ones with my boy… Will you help?
Our biggest struggles are:
a.) Getting Sam to actually GO TO BED without a struggle. Most nights, regardless of the time, it takes him close to thirty minutes + several trips out of the bed or one of us having to go in there for him to actually fall asleep. We’ve tried an earlier bedtime, a later bedtime, a noise machine, a nightlight, allowing him to read in bed, etc. etc. etc. The only things that have semi-helped have been this bedtime routine chart and saying we will come check on him after he falls asleep (when I just say I will come back, I think he actually waits up for me), but it is still an almost nightly battle that leaves me exhausted and ready to flop instead of making the most of the little time I have.
b.) Getting Sam to sleep all night in his OWN BED. Again, the bigger bed has seemed to help; but, there are still many nights when tiny feet wander in to our room sometime between 2 and 4AM and – eventually – take over the entire bed. Bad habit or not, anyone that has ever had a child that doesn’t sleep well can probably agree that sometimes you just do things to survive. It is SO much easier to just put him in our bed and go right back to sleep than to begin the hour long fight to get him to stay in his own bed. That said, now that I’m pregnant, sharing our Queen bed with an extra body (and a body pillow) is far less than ideal. Jeff and I aren’t getting the quality of sleep that we need, and I suspect that Sam isn’t either. Plus, beginning in March, the baby will be sleeping in our room, so I will want to limit noise/contact in there as much as possible – especially from a wild big brother.
Should we drop the afternoon nap all together even though he clearly still needs it? (Even when I tell him it’s just a “quiet time” and encourage him to play with toys, he almost always ends up asleep.) Heck, Momma still needs that time too! What kind of crazy gives up a nap?
What time should I – reasonably – be putting my 3.5 year old to bed? Admittedly, our lifestyle doesn’t allow for a super early (like 6 or 7) bedtime, and I’m nervous that an earlier bed time = an earlier wake-up time which is not ideal. BUT, I realize some of that will be changing once we add a new baby to the mix in a few months anyway so…
In general, what has worked in your house to get your non-sleeper to sleep easily and well? I’d love to hear your best tips and resources!
P.S. I love this post on sleep – “Mommy Will You Lay with Me?” from Your Modern Family
Yolo Momma says
We put our 3.75 girl and 24 mo boy to bed between 8 and 830. We are not an every night bath time family either. We do the bed routine with a vitamin, brushing teeth, and then have special bedtime songs.
Before we were at this point, we did have a baby gate in front of the bedroom door before our girl was potty trained. Then the gate moved to our bedroom door. But you could always have the little potty in the room for middle of night needs.
When the gate was up, Eliza was still getting 1 or so hour nap at daycare. Even though she would stay in her bed, we found her still up even sometimes an hour after saying goodnight. That is when before going to the bedroom, I would have her do some quiet coloring…which seemed to help wind her down sooner.
If you cut off the access to being able to come into your room, they will eventually get the idea and point that your bedroom is not an option anymore, and should change some sleep habits. This is just what worked for us. Stay strong momma when those battles of long tantrums come!
Yolo Momma says
Oh…..and you might want to limit the amount of time Sam naps…going no more than 1.5 hours to start….
We still do quiet time with our 3.5 year old, sometimes he falls asleep, sometimes he doesn’t. If he does fall asleep I wake him up at the end of quiet time even if he’s only been asleep 10 minutes. At first he was really grumpy and hard to wake up, but after a while (a month or so) he would usually wake up at 2 (we have an early schedule, nap from 12:30-2)on his own. Bed time was a really rough fight for about six weeks after we took his paci away (age 3). And it was exhausting, but we found having a consistent time and an effective punishment helped (spankings escalated the situation and timeouts are tough when you want them to go to bed, so we would take away toys-permanently). And then stick with it. It was really hard for a while but now he goes to bed after a couple stories without any fuss or fight. Every night between 6:30 and 7:00. Hope that helps.
Our aolmot 3 year old goes to bed at 8:00. We go upstairs and watch some tv as a family and cuddle before she does one last trip to the potty and then goes into her room. We also do the gate at the door thing. We started that when she went into her big girl bed last spring. We made sure her room was totally baby proof (locks on the closet and dresser drawers, dresser fastened to the wall, bookcase turned around) and left her in there to go to sleep. She did play with things for awhile but eventually she just got in bed and went to sleep. It also works better for us if I don’t go in to her room. Daddy is in charge of bedtime because he doesn’t fall for the stalling tactics as easy as I do!
I could have wrote this post, E! We are struggling with putting Molly to bed in her big girl bed too. One of us goes with her and we read multiple books, spray lavender oil and use a sound machine. We stay with her for a bit. Some nights there is (what seems like) endless crying and whining. Some nights she is super tired and once she falls asleep and I try to sneak out it becomes an issue. The I look at the clock and it’s after 10 pm and my kitchen is still a mess! We’re just trying to have some consistency and be as patient as possible.
So, I’m not really offering advice here, just a blogisphere hug and letting you know, I feel ya girl! xo
You are definitely not alone! My daughter was 3 at the end of September and bedtime is a constant battle. It gets better for a stretch of time and then worse again. Nothing we have tried really seems to help. Right now we are just trying to be consistent in that sh doesn’t come out of her room after bedtime. One of us more or less stands at her door and intercepts her when she tries to come out. We just moved into a new house though and no she has started coming into our bed so we are going to have to put a stop to that. It’s a never-ending struggle and one we find incredibly frustrating.
Nikki Miller says
Bedtimes can be such a disaster!
What I hate is that you never know what type of night it is going to be.
We transitioned our girls (21 months apart) into ONE room this weekend. It actually has been much better than expected. However, our 16 month wakes up at 4 most nights and insists on sleeping in our bed.
Here is my advice… KING SIZE bed.
When the hubs and I first moved in together, a colleague told me you MUST get a king sized bed. I thought she was crazy, but now we are SO thankfully.
I have also heard that you get one good sleeper. Our oldest is an AMAZING sleeper so baby girl Chapman is destined to be great at getting some ZZZZZ’s.
Amanda K. says
I was excited to read comments bc my 3.5 year old is a terrible sleeper, too!
Things really turned around for us when Tom started doing all of his bedtime while I was nursing/putting down Mary Virginia.
The thing that turned bedtime around was discipline, and doing that is DEFINITELY a personal choice. It was really hard for me to hear Tom disciplining David, since I thought of bedtime as a sweet routine, a time to cuddle, etc…but it worked.
(Again, Tom was doing all of this while I was nursing in the other room…)
David takes a bunch of toys to bed with him. Tom would sternly tell David that it was time to go to bed and stay asleep, and that if he cried/called for us then Tom would take a toy. The toys aren’t comfort items (we’d never do that!)it made me sad because I was like, “what if he needs something for real!??!” but that wasn’t what was happening; he was manipulating us and, honestly, disobeying!
So Tom would take toys, and eventually David stopped the shenanigans. Same with getting up at night. Tom would be like, “What are you doing? Go back to bed. You aren’t allowed to get out of bed.”
(reading above, Allison says something similar! Discipline really changed things for us!!!)
We were battling with him SO MUCH and we just couldn’t handle it when also caring for a newborn. You’re wise to make changes before baby #2 comes!
Also — David goes to bed between 7:30 & 8, and he doesn’t nap anymore 🙁 but I do think daily rest is super important and I really wish he did nap. I still enforce daily quiet time. I do limit the length of his nap, though. If he falls asleep I’ll wake him up eventually.
Hey! Well from all the comments you can see you’re definitely not alone, and I’ll add my two cents! Maybe from everyone’s you can pull a bit to make something that works.
Agreed with my amiga Amanda about discipline. The thing that A really, REALLY does not want more than anything (even more than spankings) is the child lock put on her door. That’s our go-to discipline technique (she actually was begging for a spanking one time back when, which was when we knew that wasn’t going to work for bedtime) when she’s pushing the limits. Another thing was to make a chart/checklist of things we do for the routine, and if she asked for something not on the chart, or wanted to repeat something, it was very cut-and-dry: “Oh! Sorry! We already checked that off!”
I actually have a sleep consultant that I check in with time-to-time, because my kids’ sleep can be so stinkin stressful for me for some reason. One thing she helped me see is that now that Addie’s over 3, I can’t really have my cake and eat it too. Like, I wanted her to sleep in in the mornings, take a 2-hour nap in the afternoon, and go to sleep by 7pm. Sadly, not gonna happen anymore. Anyway, my girl recommends waking by 7am (we do 7:15), nap 6 hours later, and end the nap at 1 hour sleeping time, max. She recommends waking them by 2:30pm regardless, which I can’t always bring myself to do because WHY WOULD YOU MESS WITH A NAP. But I think she’s right, because on days A naps too long, she takes forever to fall asleep at night, and when she’s not tired enough is when she tries to come out or calls us back in for really random things (often her teddy bear’s pants have fallen down. catastrophic).
Good luck! You’ll figure it out an evening routine with new baby in no time, but you’re doing the right thing to be proactive with Sam now rather than once baby is here!
Oh sorry the last part of that recommended schedule was to put your kid to bed (like all routine done, in bed for falling asleep) 5 hours after nap ended. Addie seems to need closer to 6 hours after nap ends, but maybe that’s because I am so bad about actually waking her up after an hour and tend to let her go a bit longer. I keep saying I’ll try it consistently for a week to see if it helps her fall asleep earlier at night…
Jennifer Holland says
Hey! I have found doing a small “bootcamp” in other areas of “listening” helped with the getting in bed part. Whatever you say, you mean and you follow through with. Might call for a few tough days but the end result is worth it and have found it totally translated over to bedtime and when we said it was bedtime, it was. Goodluck and sweet dreams hopefully soon!
Megan Patrick says
I just read The Sleepeasy Solution, and it is working wonders with my 7mo, who previously refused to sleep longer than an hour without being held. It has chapters devoted to older kids, too.
Lots of good advice here! But remember no one else has a Sam. Just like no one else has a Luke! Luke still naps 2-3 hours everyday. Ok, maybe 6/7 days a week. We realized this summer that his bedtimes were getting later and later and it seemed to have the opposite effect: when he should be more tired, he actually took longer to get to sleep! So at the end of August we began our 8:00 routine. Luke is in bed with the lights out by 8:00 (ok, often 8:15) every night. He knows he has to stay in bed until his “ok to wake” clock turns green (those things are awesome for super early risers!) and we come get him. With his big boy bed we established the rule that he may not get out of bed. WE get him out of bed. Might seem harsh but it works. And if you’re asking “but what if he has a bad dream or has to potty?” He yells. Loud. 🙂 Some nights he sings and talks until 9pm but those nights are few and far between anymore. The consistency of a regular bedtime really helps. And I should also mention that we started having John do the bedtime routine with Luke every night once Georgia Kate was born. It not only provided sweet Daddy/son time (bc GK and I had lots of one-on-one nursing time) but it also helped with routine. Like Amanda said above, Luke doesn’t test John nearly as much as he does me. With John doing bedtime Luke more readily goes to sleep. Oh and we also quit the night light. Any bit of light encouraged Luke to stay up and read, talk, etc. You will find why works. And it might be after baby gets here, but you four will find a nice routine and fall into it. And if you find yourself running on 4 hours of sleep a night like myself, you’ll learn to love coffee even more. 🙂
My son has always been a rule-follower, and we never had any trouble getting him to go to bed (he’s five now and often asks to be put to bed when he is tired) … So, it was quite a surprise when we transitioned our daughter to a “big girl” bed when she was a about two (since baby #3 was on the way and we’d need the crib!). She wasn’t potty trained at the time, but she was always climbing out, walking around the room and/or out into the hall, looking for toys, asking for water … You name it, she did it.
It was a pain in the butt, but either my husband or I would stand by her door (or wait in our room down the hall and read or sit on the computer) after she was put to bed (my kids go down between 8:00-8:30 on most nights) and then wordlessly put her back in when she came out (or if we heard her walking around). The most we’d say is “good night” or “time for bed,” tuck her in, and then leave. Some times, this happened over and over again and an hour or two would go by. Others she’d settle more quickly. After maybe 3-4 weeks of this same routine, she “got it” and would stay in her bed without protest … Just in time for the new baby to arrive! We also found that positive reinforcement worked much better with her than threats of things being taken away or time outs (which is what we usually do for misbehavior).
With all that said, the best advice I can give is to pick something that you are comfortable with and just stick with it … Sam will get it!!