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Sleep. When you have a new baby, it’s one of the questions everyone asks you – ‘How are they sleeping?’ You almost get sick of talking about it, especially when you have not one but two rubbish sleepers. At least when they’re babies though, you feel like you’re in good company. All the mums you meet are moaning about lack of sleep and surviving on coffee. You feel like you’re all in it together, helping each other through. What I’ve found is that it’s a much lonelier place when your children are 3 and a half and *still* not sleeping. So how do you cope when your preschooler doesn’t sleep through the night?
People don’t seem to talk about it
Everyone seems to just assume that all kids are sleeping through the night by the age of 2 or 3. I’ve had people react in such surprise when I say that mine aren’t. When I posted about this on my Instagram story, I received more DMs than I’d ever had about anything before. Most were from other mums who had no advice but wanted to reassure me that I wasn’t alone and that their 3-year olds were also crap sleepers.
This article states that night waking is perfectly usual in toddlers (although it does describe it as if it would just be more of a short phase than an ongoing issue). But it just seems like something no-one really tends to talk about. I guess that’s because society seems to expect that children of a certain age should be sleeping well, so maybe people don’t really like to admit it? But it’s bloody hard when you have toddlers/preschoolers who still don’t sleep! So I’m writing this post to reassure any other mums, whose preschooler doesn’t sleep through the night, that they are not alone.
There are more of us in this position than you might think, still struggling on years later through bleary eyes, relying on copious amounts of caffeine to get through the day and hoping that our sleep-deprived brains will manage to function sufficiently…
The twiglets’ sleeping
So, a bit of background about the twiglets. I’ve banged on and on before about their horrendous sleeping patterns (no idea why I said patterns – THERE ARE NO PATTERNS! 😬) At their worst, which was between about 4 and 6 months, they were up about 20 times a night between them. It was a joke, quite frankly. And I was a complete zombie. At one point I had to stop wearing my contact lenses for a few weeks (something I never ever do!) as my eyeballs were so red-raw and burning from such broken sleep.
Anyway, fast-forward about three years and things have gradually improved. Vastly improved, to be fair. A few months ago, I thought we actually might *finally* have almost cracked it. Not sleeping through exactly but only one or two wake-ups between them. C would often sleep through, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times they’ve both done it at once!
So things were generally a lot better in the old sleep department. The twigs have never been the most consistent of human beings, so there were still bad nights, but it was manageable. I went back into teaching in September which has been a big change for us all. I won’t waffle on about that here as I talked about it in this previous post. But the twigs seemed suitably knackered after their long days at preschool and were sleeping fairly well. You can just sense the ‘but’ coming, can’t you? :’)
BUT… (there it is!) A few weeks or so ago, it all seemed to go a bit t*ts up again. It’s mainly H really – C is still usually either sleeping through or waking up once, maybe twice. We’ve had some absolutely ridiiiiiculous nights with H though- it’s been like having a flipping newborn again! (Obvs we don’t actually feed him milk when he wakes up or anything though!)
Whenever the twigs wake in the night, they tend to be very distressed and cry out for us. They’ve always been like this so we’re quite used to it. It’s kinda strange though – they’re sort of half asleep and can’t really tell us what’s wrong (if anything!)
What have we tried?
I’ve tried talking to H during the day when he’s awake, and telling him that if he wakes up in the night, he doesn’t need to cry out for Mummy or Daddy. He can just go back to sleep (the Mummy part of me that wants to be needed feels a teeeeeeny bit sad actually saying that!)
We’ve tried a Gro-Clock (half worked for like two nights). We often end up bringing him into our bed at some point in the night… I don’t even care if that’s not the right thing to do – trying to resettle him in his bed can take so much longer sometimes. I was never able to do any sort of controlled crying/cry-it-out malarkey when they were smaller and I still can’t bring myself to now. Though I do wonder if I had, whether we might be having more peaceful nights right now!
I think it’s just going to be a case of ‘ride it out and hope for the best.’ This is my tactic with most aspects of parenting to be fair – potty-training regressions, fussiness with eating etc. I tend to just go with it and hope that it will eventually sort itself out and that they’ll do it when they’re ready. In this case preferably before I have lost my marbles due to sleep deprivation please!
Sleep deprivation is hard
Anyway, the fact is that it’s HARD. Dealing with sleep deprivation is hard enough anyway when you have to get up and parent. I’m finding it especially difficult now that I’m working as I really need my brain to be in fully functioning order. If it’s one of my working days, I can’t just have a slow morning to recover after a bad night.
The inconsistency is tough too. When the twigs were smaller and slept horrendously every single night, I think my body adjusted to it. Now that it’s not that bad every night, it almost feels harder. I might get a fairly ok sleep one night, then it might be completely interrupted the next and it’s more of a shock to cope with. I also worry that H isn’t getting as much sleep as he should be, but strangely he always seems absolutely fine the next day, while I’m staggering around like the walking dead.
You are not alone
So, if anyone else is in this position and still up all hours of the night with their preschooler who doesn’t sleep, know that you’re not alone. ONE DAY THEY WILL ALL SLEEP! When they’re teenagers, we’ll no doubt be despairing at the amount they sleep (hard to imagine now!) I’m really hoping things will at least settle down for us by the time the twiglets start school next year anyway!
And the one saving grace is that now the twigs no longer nap in the day, we’re not having the horrendous behaviour at bedtime that we were a few months ago. These days they’re usually so exhausted they’re out like lights. So at least we’re not dealing with that anymore 😊 Anyway we will get there – one day! And if your preschooler doesn’t sleep through the night, I’m sending you a virtual hug and copious amounts of coffee!
Thanks for reading!