My friend, Carrie, recently shared some thoughts on a FB group about helping her children from “hard places” sleep. Sleep is a problem for me and has been a huge challenge for some of my children, so this grabbed my attention. I asked her if I could share this information with you. Maybe you’ll find something helpful here for your family.
Sleep! Over the last 6 years as our family has grown through adoption, I’ve pondered how that one small word could hold such deep, wide and consuming thoughts in my mind? Up until a few weeks ago, bed time for our 3 youngest was 7:30 with 5 mg melatonin. The problem was that we had a consistent issue of one or more of them waking up between 1:00-2:00, possibly stirring because of a need to go potty, or hearing others stir, and then waking up.
The kids would turn on EVERY LIGHT when they woke up. This seemed to reset their internal senses to tell their brains “it’s time to be up.” Then they would get back into bed, or I should say I got them back into bed, but they would struggle falling back to sleep or staying asleep. They ended up being AWAKE and ready for the day at 4:30.
My frustration stemmed from the fact that it didn’t matter if we put them to bed at 7:30 or 10:30, they would still get up at 4:30-5:00, with the only variable being that if we put them to bed at 10:30 we didn’t get the 1:00 wake up insanity. During a Dr visit with one of our kiddo’s specialists, I shared again the ongoing sleep issues and she began to educate me. As she talked I started thinking to myself “maybe ignorance is bliss!” I could feel those hairs on the back of my neck raise up like a parrot whose neck feathers are about to puff out!! I knew I wasn’t going to like where this conversation ended up as she used words like “stay up later!”
Didn’t she realize that fully present parenting is pouring myself out all day, and 7:30 is a sacred time on the clock? It’s a countdown to mommy fill up and recoup time. But as I listened to her, I realized this key point: 9:00 is the latest I want to get my kids into bed because of their internal clocks. It starts winding down as the sun goes down so the rest-restorative sleep to help organs and bodies replenish starts in that first REM cycle.
The Dr explained that there are two REM cycles. Our kids were sleeping soundly from 7:30-1:00 and as the cycles did their thing, our kids were stirring, waking up just enough to be alert and then the madness would begin.
In light of this, we’ve taught them some new strategies.
1. ONLY use their night lights, No turning lights on to go potty.
2. No toys or books when they get back into bed.
3. Do 10 belly breaths and lay still so their bodies can catch that 2nd Rem cycle BEFORE their internal senses are wide awake.
4. Basically, be as quiet as a mouse and tiptoe through a very dim room if needed.
I can proudly say that after a few weeks of putting them to bed at 9:00, They are sleeping from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am about 70% of the time, with no potty breaks or getting up. I think we are catching that second rem cycle. My feathers have smoothed down with only an occasional one or two rebels that pop out as I hear kids playing /arguing at 8:00 in the evening, and I selfishly roll the thoughts of 7:30 bed times around in my head. Then I remind myself that I’m getting two more hours of sleep in the morning now and I’m okay.
I don’t have the scientific data behind what the doc was saying, but kids from hard places, who are often hypervigilant, are very easily aroused into an awake state, so knowing how the body sleeps is important. It’s still a learning curve for sure, but I think we are catching a new rhythm.
Change is never easy for my kids who need stable routine, but I can say that this change was easy and good for them; it was me and my attitude that took some time to adapt! Sweet dreams to all of your hard working moms and dads!! As my mom used to say “go to bed fast and sleep slow”
Question: Do you or your kids have sleep issues? What seems to help at your house?
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