Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Getting Your Older Child Back To Sleep

Over the years, my children have periodically had trouble when they would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep. This hurt not only them, but my husband (minimally) and me (more, because I'm the one who invariably had to get them back to bed). My husband's first response in these situations was to punish the child. He believed they did it intentionally, as a power thing. I, on the other hand, cannot say no to a child who is honestly struggling with something and seeks help from his/her mother. Having tried his approach first, what I discovered is that when you a punish a child for not sleeping through the night, it makes things worse because that kid is then afraid to go to asleep at all.  Since I'm the Momager of all things child,  

Here's how I've approached the problem:

Helping your older child get back to sleep can be daunting.

  1. Rule out the physical. Is there an internal reason the kid is waking up, like having to go to the bathroom? This could be an easy fix like “don't drink so much water before bedtime.” Or is it an external thing waking up the child. For example, is the pet hamster getting on its noisy wheel at 1am (solution: move the pet or bring a noise machine into the room) or the cat jumping on the kid's head (close the door to the room or move the feline to the basement at night).

  2. Can sensual things help the child get back to sleep? Lavender on the pillow helps many people sleep, noise machines block out too much or too little sound, and softer blankets make it easier to snuggle back to Dreamland.

  3. Is there something psychological going on? Sometimes a discussion on what's going on in your child's world can reveal the problem. Is there a problem with your child's friends? A daunting, upcoming test? Are they nervous about a sports event?  You can also place a pen and pad of paper next to the kid's bed so he/she can write down what they're thinking when they wake up (A dream? A nightmare?) and what thoughts prevent them from going back to sleep. My daughter asked if she can draw what's bothering her – YES!!! Any way they can achieve peace-of-mind is a good thing.

  4. How can they help themselves go back to sleep?  By reading for a bit?  Or playing soft music or a book on CD to lull them into unconsciousness?  The idea is to empower them. 

By becoming a co-problem solver, you're strengthening your bond with your child and diffusing the situation.  It's no longer "their" problem; you're working as a team to get through this situation.  

Coming up with innovative sleep solutions can help.

For my son's sleeping problem, the answer came by looking outside the box. We settled on this and it worked: if he really needed to come into our room, he could NOT wake us up. We'd leave blankets and a pillow in a corner of the room so that when he came in, he'd grab them and sleep on the floor. He knew we were near, went back to sleep and we slept through the nice peacefully. Eventually, he outgrew this pattern. 

Now my daughter is facing her own sleeping challenge. At least once a week, she comes looking for me. Sending her back to her room doesn't work since she tearily informs me she just CAN'T go back to sleep. She's tried reading knows she cannot pick up her iPod (the light has been known to throw off circadian rhythms). What I've done is given her a transitional object - something of mine that smells like me. A nightgown works just fine. She wakes up, takes one whiff of the nightgown, smells that Mom is close by, and goes back to sleep.

Will this coping mechanism always work? I don't know, but it is for now. If it doesn't, we'll just brainstorm something else and, if need be, call in a professional for guidance. But I feel that working with the child instead of assuming that they're subconsciously trying to “pull one over on us” IS the answer to helping older children fall back to sleep.

Please that I am not a medical or psychological professional. I am just one mother telling you what's working for me.

What's working, or not working, for you?

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