O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my sense in forgetfulness?
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I
Li’l T has always had difficulty settling down and going to sleep. When he was very young he would walk around his playpen and talk while the other kids took naps at daycare. It got to the point that we had to ask his pediatrician about it. She said that he was just an active child with a lot of energy. Now, at 4-years-old we’ve been going through a phase where it takes him two hours to settle down at night. Sneaking out of his room and peaking around corners. Hiding in our room and falling asleep in our bed. All ending in him waking up around 4:30 am trying to climb into my side of the bed. I don’t feel safe falling asleep while he is awake because he will terrorize the cat and/or play with the locks on the front door.
I was at wits end from my lack of sleep and even took away his nap during the weekends to see if it would help. No go. We needed some help, so I looked up every guide I could find in Google, asked family and friends and polled my followers on Twitter. I got a lot of options: Melatonin, lavender, sleepy time tea, wear him out, put him on the potty before I go to bed, etc. I tried the tea and I felt like he laughed in my face while the same amount of tea knocked me out. Trying to wear him out just revved him up and made it worse. Putting him on the potty at night just resulted in a sleeping child trying to fall off the toilet and he still got up a few hours later.
Last week, we made a few changes to his normal dinner, bath, books, bedtime routine and they seem to be working. An hour before bedtime we dim the lights and turn off all electronic devices. No tv, no Kindle, no game playing on our phones. We goof around for half an hour. Read, clean up, have tickle wars, whatever he wants to do that doesn’t involve electronics. Then he gets a bath in his usual calming bubble bath. Teeth brushed. Lotion (a little calming lotion mixed in). Pajamas. Since, it’s winter his humidifier is always running to combat the dry heat I added some lavender oil drops to the water. Story time (usually around 4 books). Put his mattress on the floor. (He likes to sleep on the floor. That’s a story for another time) Kiss him good night and turn off the lights. And it seems to be WORKING. We only have to send him back to his room one time and he settles himself down. SCORE!
I haven’t found a consistent reason for his on again/off again 4:30 wake up but now he will go potty and go back in his bed. No screaming tantrums in the middle of the night going on for half an hour. I’ll take that as a win and we’ll deal with nighttime potty training at a later date. Mommy can now sleep, well whenever I settle down. But that’s a project for another time.