Our bedtime experiment

Arora has always had a difficult time with sleep. Not just falling asleep but staying asleep too. She does not sleep through the night. When she was a baby she would wake to nurse often.  I hoped that when she stopped nursing at 16 months she would sleep through the night. She didn’t. She did have a few months that she slept better, only waking to go potty and then would go right back to sleep. Then we moved, and her sleep became the worse it has ever been. It has taken hours to get her to sleep, only to have her wake a few hours later with night terrors.

If you have never experienced night terrors, it is well terrifying. Arora will be sobbing, her eyes open and looking all around but not seeing you. Not really awake. She thrashes around so hard it is difficult to hold her. Some times she will be talking but not able to tell us what is wrong. It is heart wrenching, in those moments I feel so helpless. I only want to comfort my child and let her know she is safe. Nothing we do will calm her, she must calm herself. Sometimes this happens multiple times a night. Sometimes it will be weeks between occurrences. Her Doctor says it is normal and it should pass with age.

A bit over a week ago we decided to go to the Clackamas County Fair. David gets off work around 4:30 so by 5 we were in the car headed out to a night of fair food, booths and animal fun. That is until we had been in the car for 10 minutes and Arora was sound asleep. We went home and put her to bed, she slept all night, yup about 14 hours. She did this 3 days in a row. So here come the experiment: change Arora’s bedtime from around 8 to 6:30. Here is how the week went:

Monday: Went to bed at 6:30, was asleep with in about 5 minutes. Slept great for about 3 hours then was “up” with a night terror. This woke her up completely and she was up from about 10- 12am.

Tuesday: Woke up around 7am, which is normal for her. Then took an unauthorized nap in the car for about 30 minutes around 2. Tried to put her to bed around 6:30 took til around 8 for her to fall asleep.

Wednesday: Woke early again, no nap and went to bed great around 6:30. Slept all night.

Thursday: Up early, no nap, bed time around 7, took around an hour for her to fall asleep.

Friday: I can’t remember what happen, but David says she went down early and nice.

Saturday: Up early about 6,  we took a family trip to the zoo which resulted in a 2 hour nap. Then didn’t fall asleep until around 9:30.

Sunday: Up about 6am, then fell asleep in the car, slept for around 30 minutes in church. Was very tired and tried to put her to bed around 6:30, fell asleep around 7:45.

I can’t decide if putting her to bed early is helping, making it harder or not even effecting anything. What time do your kids go to bed? How do you deal with difficult bedtimes?


9 thoughts on “Our bedtime experiment

  1. It seems counter-intuitive, but Seth doesn’t sleep as well when he is over-tired. If he doesn’t take a nap, he is far more likely to wake up late in the evening screaming with I guess a night terror. (They don’t seem as bad as most people describe night terrors though.) If he’s had a good nap, we put him to bed a little later (because some days he doesn’t even wake up from his naps until 4 or later), but he’s more likely to sleep through the night. Seth has been our worst sleeper, so far. It took him a LOT longer to sleep through the night as a baby and is still more likely to wak up in the middle of the night than either of his sisters.

  2. Michael’s almost 26 months and he’s only slept through the night about three times, randomly. His sleep habits aren’t much different from when he was a newborn, although he sleeps in slightly longer cycles and can sometimes put himself back to sleep. But going to sleep he has always needed a lot of help. If I’m lucky, he’ll fall asleep nursing, but often I have to walk him around and either sing or play music for him. Naps are the hardest, I think because it’s light outside and he isn’t as tired as he is at night. But sometimes at night, I can get him sleepy with milk and he’ll fall asleep cuddling. If I don’t have to walk him around, I’m happy. He’s gradually falling asleep cuddling more and more, but it’s slow progress. We’ve never tried to sleep train him or anything. We’ve always been gentle with his sleep needs. I trust that eventually he’ll sleep on his own and through the night. I’m pretty patient, but our co-sleeping arrangement works so well for me that it’s easy for me to be patient.

    We’ve never had a firm bedtime. We are not disciplined enough for it, and it doesn’t seem to matter too much anyway. He goes to bed anywhere between 8:30 and 10. If he goes to sleep at 8:30, he’ll usually wake up once, 45 minutes later. If he goes to bed at 10, he doesn’t do this. But he’ll also sleep longer if he goes to bed at 8:30. But he also goes to sleep faster at 10. Neither way is perfect. I think it’s tricky finding the right balance for a child. People who have easy sleepers don’t seem to understand this. I have a friend whose child (around 28 months old) sleeps very fitfully every night and then wakes early (my friend says she herself only gets about 5 hours of sleep each night because of her child). That’s the worst sleeper I’ve heard of, but I’ve heard of lots, and they all eventually grow out of it.

    So, I don’t know what would help you, but I do know that Arora’s sleep habits are not abnormal. I do think I’ve heard that certain things can trigger night terrors, like food intolerances. Maybe you could look up some info on that.

  3. I don’t have any answers, but you have my love and support! I firmly believe that parents know their child the best, and will know the best thing to do for their child. You are great mom, and Arora is a darling person. Sounds like you’re on to something that might work better for her over time, with bedtime being earlier. Hugs!

  4. Have you tried laying her down later at night. My girls go to bed around 9pm every night and generally speaking they wake up refreshed and ready to go. Gracie does experience bad dreams…but not night terrors. When she has a bad dream, she comes into our room and wakes up me or Josh. But she is always calm…nothing like what you have experienced. Is she old enough to have conversations about it not being real and stuff? I can’t remember how old she is. I would just continue to try and make the going to bed process as calming as possible. Maybe a warm bath with music or a glass of warm milk followed up with a bedtime story…I know this can be disheartening, but hang in there…she will grow out of it.

  5. Well, I would have to agree with some of the things the other ladies have said Kathy is right you know what works best for kids. Also, with Polly, Gavin and Matthew go to bed better when they have had a good nap. So, I don’t church at 2 is hard. I think the best thing to do is be consistent with like you nighttime ritual. However, sometimes that does not even work. I have noticed that in the summer the younger boys are sleeping worse probably due to the fact that we do have a super strict routine. I am sure you will figure out something that will work for your family.

  6. We also are doing a little sleep training of our own right now. The difference is that Lexi does great with naps and by 11:30 everyday, she is asking me to go to sleep. She wakes up pretty regularly around 6:30 (but sometimes as early as 5:45 or as late as 7am). We used to put her down around 7 and it’s been taking 2 hours or longer for her to go to sleep and she was continually coming out of her room. (I think I mentioned all this the other day at the park) But I’m trying to do the method of putting her back in bed and not showing any emotion or responding to her thousands of requests to get our attention. I think she’s learning we are not going to entertain her at night but as I type this, she’s been “in bed” since 6:45 and has come out of her room probably 30 times tonight and it’s 8:11. Oh yeah, and her shoes have been thrown all over her room. So I don’t know how our method is working either. Hang in there.. you are not alone!!!

    • We have tried this method, Arora would cry /scream tear up her room and just keep coming. I think we tried it for 2 weeks and we were still taking 2-3 hours to put her to bed each night. Also a the time she was “freshly” potty trained and would use that to get up. she would pee a few drops and then go back to bed. I just couldn’t say no to her potty request.

  7. Man, Holly, I have no idea. I’ll tell you what we’ve done with Olivia, but I don’t know how much it really applies to Arora, poor kid.

    With Olivia, she was almost sleeping through the night (and did a couple of times) by the time she was 4 months old. Yes! But then she started teething and we took pitty on her. No! Haha. Then she wasn’t sleeping through the night anymore and would wake up at least once to breastfeed and then go back to bed. When we went in for her 9 month check up the doctor asked how she was sleeping through the night. I confessed that she wasn’t. He told me that she was big enough and getting enough food without the night feeding and that we needed to just cut it out and let her sleep through the night. He told us to take a timer with us to bed, set for 30 minutes. When Olivia woke up crying we were supposed to let the timer go for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, if she was still crying, we were to go in and comfort her without picking her up. He told us to continue this (30 minutes, going in without picking her up) until she fell asleep. He said it might take 2-3 hours the first night, but that the time would get shorter and shorter each night. I think the first night it took about 1 to 1 1/2 hours and then she was out. The next night she cried for 15 minutes and after that she has slept through the night great.

    Like I said, this may not really apply to Arora, but that’s what we’ve done with Olivia. Oh, and Olivia’s bedtime is 8:30pm. We usually start getting her ready for bed around 8–get her in her jammies, read Book of Mormon Stories, say prayers, let her have some milk–and then get her in bed by 8:30. She’s been a little wacko this past week or so since Bryan’s family was in town and we were on a crazy vacation schedule, but otherwise she is a great sleeper.

    I don’t really have any great advice for Arora, but I’m sure you’re doing the best since you are her mom and know her the best. I hope she grows out of the night terrors soon so you can all rest a little easier! That’s sure no fun for anybody. I love you guys!

  8. We have a few things we do each night with our kids. I am not sure if these will help, but a few suggestions. First, we do the same things every night. We start at 6:30pm each night. If we wait too long the kids have a harder time going to bed, and staying asleep. We take a bath, read scripture stories, family prayer, brush teeth, take them to their room for individual prayer and song. Tuck them in and say good night. Every other night each child gets to stay up 30 min past the other one. We have to do that since we have 2 kids the same ages who would otherwise play together. After 30 min the first is usually asleep and the other brushes teeth, and goes in for prayer and song.
    A couple other things we do, is we have a small fan that is always on when they sleep. We do that for 2 reason. One is when babies are little having a fan in the room can reduces SIDS. Our kids are older, but it also creates a little background noise. The kids don’t wake up to noises outside as easily with the fan on. If we go somewhere else and forget a fan, they have a harder time sleeping. We also have a blackout curtain in their room. It is most useful in the summer and at nap time, but even in winter they like it to be dark. This way it is also consistently dark each night when they go to bed. We don’t do too many naps anymore. Charlie will sometimes fall asleep in the car, or he will be super cranky and we will put him down, but we will not put him down after 2pm. Otherwise it is near impossible to get him to go to sleep and he sleeps poorly at night.
    So the best I can offer, is maybe try some type of noise (like a fan or soft music), and a blackout curtain. Best of luck. I am sending hugs and hope she gets used to sleeping soon.

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