I mentioned a while back that we’ve been seeing a doctor because Cameron was having a lot of issues sleeping. Putting him to bed was an ordeal every single night. Once we tucked him in for the night there would be 78 separate trips out of bed for various things including hugs, drinks, trips to the bathroom, and no reason whatsoever. Once he finally fell asleep he never stayed there and would come into my room in the middle of the night at least once sometimes twice a night roughly 4-5 nights a week.
Shortly before we started seeing the doctor I had the idea that since the boys slept with a lamp on that it might be keeping Cameron awake at night. We found an LED night light that was considerably dimmer than the lamp and got the boys trained to sleep with that vs. the lamp. (No easy feat believe me.) The change did help, Cameron was coming into my room merely 2-3 time per week instead of 4-5.
After our first appointment with the doctor, she requested that we do a sleep study. Which basically meant I had to track his sleeping habits on paper every night for two weeks so she could look for patterns etc. We did so and sent the results in to her to be analyzed before our next appointment. At the second appointment she explained what she was seeing and provided a plan of attack to combat it.
Your average 5 year old should need about 11 hours of sleep per night. Cameron’s normal bedtime is 8:00 and he routinely gets up for school between 6:45 and 7:00 which means that (assuming he goes to sleep on time and stays asleep all night) he’s getting the right amount of rest. Her assessment was that Cameron was having a hard time self soothing. Meaning that if he woke up in the night he couldn’t get back to sleep on his own. Which would explain why when he’d come to my room all he wanted was a kiss and hug before wandering back to his own room and going back to sleep. He needed the same routine we did with him at actual bedtime.
Her suggestion was a little bizarre to us at first, and she admitted that the suggestion was counterintuitive to logic, but she assured us it would work. She said what needed to be done was to keep Cameron up as late as night as it took for him to become drowsy and not to put him to bed until then. She said we needed to make sure that once we put him in bed he fell asleep within the first 15 minutes after being laid down or the next night we’d need to keep him up even later.
Well, we know Cameron. If given the opportunity he’d stay up all night long. But we agreed to give her plan a try, especially after she explained that we needed to still get Cameron up around 7:00 every morning, even on the weekends. This meant that, temporarily at least, he’d be getting way less sleep than he should be for his age. The logic was that we would make him way over tired and hopefully he’d learn to associate his bed with being tired and fall asleep, and stay asleep easier. Like the whole Pavlov’s dog experiment. (if you don’t know Pavlov’s dog, Google it. It’s really quite interesting)
We tried it. We kept him up until 10:00 the first few nights and believe it or not it started working. He would go right to bed, fall asleep, and stay there all night long. The doctor said once a certain time worked for 2-3 days we could back his bedtime back by 15 minutes so that he would eventually get back to his normal bedtime. The surprising part to me was less that he stayed in bed all night and more that he wasn’t overly crabby during the day. With Brendan if you deprive him of enough sleep he tends to be a bear for the next 2 days after he didn’t get enough sleep. Cameron wasn’t like that at all. He had his moments where he would get crabby, but what 5 year old doesn’t have days like that? I attributed that more to his age than that he didn’t get enough sleep.
Our bigger issue was dealing with Brendan through all of this. Being 4 years older than Cameron has it’s perks and one of those perks is usually getting to stay up later than his brother. Unfortunately, much as I would have loved to be able to let Brendan stay up later than Cameron during this, or at least as late as Cameron, there was no way I would be able to deal with Brendan. He absolutely could not have survived getting that little sleep, and meltdowns would have run rampant through our house.
So, I asked the doctor for some advice. I figured I couldn’t be the first parent to come in with a child that was not my oldest going through the sleep issues. I asked if she had any thoughts on dealing with the displaced older sibling. Her answer amused me greatly. She said the best and most proven technique was flat out bribery. I expected some clinical advice, or talking points to use on the older child. You know, something doctor like. But bribery…wow. Well it’s the technique I was planning to employ anyway. So at least now I could do it guilt free seeing as I had a doctor’s seal of approval to do so.
Brendan actually took the news better than I thought. I explained why we were needing to keep Cameron up and that this was not going to be a permanent thing. I promised to reward him for cooperating and going to bed without whining that his brother got to stay up later. I also wasn’t very specific with his reward. I told him the more nights he was cooperative the better his reward would be. And for the most part he held up his end of the bargain. I’d say at least 90% of the time he went to bed without complaint. Another 5% was met with some minor resistance, such as “how much longer is this going to go on?” And only a few times did he actually throw a full blown fit about it. But like Cameron, I expect there to be some days that Brendan just isn’t going to act like he should. Everyone has bad days, even adults, and I expect my kids to have them once in a while too.
The best benefit of this whole thing was how much my sleep improved. For at least 6 months I’ve felt like I was going through my day in a sleep deprived haze. I was tired at all times, and pretty much could not make it through the day without a nap in the afternoon. Matt liked to give me a lot of crap about taking naps, but honestly by the time I laid down in the afternoon I physically could not keep my eyes open any longer. Once we started keeping Cameron up late I saw a dramatic change in my own sleeping. I began to sleep more soundly than I had in a really long time. I woke up, not completely refreshed, but more rested than I’d felt in months.
I slept so soundly that there was one morning 3-4 days into the experiment that I actually overslept by about 25 minutes, making the morning school routine a bit hurried that day. Best of all I quit napping every single day. I won’t deny it I still take naps once in a while; after all that is the perk of being a stay at home mom. But at least now I don’t NEED to have a nap every single solitary day. I have time to get things done during Kaylee’s nap now that I was missing the opportunity on before.
I have only one fear from this entire situation. Kaylee is now at the age where both Brendan and Cameron began having issues sleeping. I fear that my nights of getting a solid 8 hours sleep are quickly coming to an end. So far Kaylee has not shown herself to be a night time wanderer, and I can only hope that she will be the odd ball child and continue sleeping through the night.