I’ve always loved my sleep, but it wasn’t until I had kids that I really understood just how important it was to me. Three kids and 7.5 years into this whole parenting thing, we’ve still got at least one midnight waking a week. But that feels good compared to what we were experiencing a year ago.
My middle child, always a champion napper who slept through the night starting around 9 months, suddenly started waking in the middle of the night a few nights a week at the age of four. He said he had nightmares, but he wouldn’t go back to bed. When I tell you we tried everything it’s not an exaggeration. If there was an idea from a friend, relative, or the internet, we gave it a go. Still, we were struggling. At one point, he was awake for 3-4 hours solid in the middle of the night, which meant we were too. Every night.
We knew we didn’t want to allow him to sleep in our room – I’m such a light sleeper that this never would have worked – but we didn’t know what to try. My sanity was at a breaking point. I was exhausted and not the mother I wanted to be. I had no idea that sleepless nights could have such an effect on me.
What helped so much, as I’ve found to be the case with so many things in life, was community. When I talked to friends and my sister about what we were going through they offered advice when I asked for it and a listening ear when I didn’t. Knowing I had support made a huge difference.
Eventually, we bought a book, found another at the library, and combined about 6 strategies to get him to the point that he could sleep on his own again. I learned through the process that sleep is so individual. What works for one person won’t for another. It’s the willpower to keep trying that’s so hard to find, but it’s worth it to persevere. And it’s worth it to seek support while you do.
If you’re a parent to a child with sleep troubles, it will get better. I promise they won’t graduate high school still wanting to sleep in your bed. Finding what works can be so hard, but you’ll get there. In the meantime, know that there are so many other families out there who are in the same situation.
So talk about it with your friends, help them to know they’re not alone in their child’s sleep struggles, and be the one to offer a listening ear when your friends are having similar troubles down the road.
Community alone can help things feel so much better.