Thursday, June 23, 2011


Those who have been around awhile know that sleep has probably been our biggest parenting struggle thus far. In fact, I like to think that the fact that Norah was the easiest kid in the entire universe to potty train is karmic payback for how long I have been sleep deprived. As a baby, she hated her crib and simply could not fall asleep by herself. It wasn't until she was 13 months old did she finally start consistently sleeping through the night. Of course, that was short lived. She got a toddler bed well before she was 2 (even though the "experts" say not to move them out of the crib unless there's a safety hazard, ie, they are climbing out), and then a twin bed at 2 and a half. Being in a bed rather than a crib made a world of difference and she's been an A- sleeper ever since.

Recently, however, she's started to really protest her 8:00 pm bedtime. It doesn't seem to matter if she's napped that day or not or how much physical activity she's had. Five minutes after the books are read, stories are told, songs are sung, and kisses are doled out, we hear her door creak open. She has a wide variety of explanations....has to go potty (she knows we are never going to deny that one), she's scared of a "creaky" noise in her room, she's hot, she's cold, she's thirsty, she saw an alligator, or she's JUST NOT TIRED. She came out one night and discovered that BVZ and I were eating chocolate pudding and I don't think she will ever forgive us.

By her bedtime, I am so done with the day and all I want is to eat dinner and watch one of the Real Housewives or Teen Mom. I offered to let her read books by herself, but that didn't work. I threatened to not let her watch Word World the next day, but that didn't work. I offered a fun day of her choosing the next day, that didn't work. I tried to be honest and told her that we had a long day and were exhausted and just wanted to freaking eat dinner, but that didn't work. I may have even cried a little. I may have even yelled a little too (just a little), but that didn't work either. Thankfully, once she's asleep she's good until at least 7:00 am, when I wake up to her little face at my face asking for breakfast.

My only consolation is that I know we aren't alone in our struggle, as evidenced by the New York Times Best Selling Book, "Go the F@ck to Sleep." Click here to hear it read by Samuel L. Jackson. (Not work or child appropriate, btw). I am in hysterics every time I hear it. My favorite line might be, "You're thirsty? That's BULLSHIT. Go the f@ck to sleep!"

So, it should be no surprise that I have been thinking a lot lately about Norah's struggles to sleep as a baby and get to sleep as a preschooler I have realized how very similar she is to me. We have the same circadian rhythm. In my ideal world I would sleep from about 2:00 am to 10:00 am. I start to feel a little sluggish by about 5:00 or 6:00 pm but then I get a second wind around 8:00 pm and it is physically impossible for me to fall asleep before 11:00 pm, even if I am dog tired. I struggle to fall asleep most nights and I have to have ideal conditions (can't be too hot or too cold, I need white noise, etc.) I have an incredibly hard time sleeping on vacations, in hotels, etc.

I think in her ideal world Norah would sleep from about 10:00 pm to about 9:00 am. Obviously this doesn't work with preschool and work schedules, but I think it's why she has such a hard time winding down and going to bed at 8:00. When she says she's JUST NOT TIRED, I believe her. This past week I have experimented pushing her bedtime back to 9:00 pm and it's made a world of difference. Of course, it isn't ideal for any adult time, but at this point if she is put to bed any earlier she's up and down and up and down for hours and everyone is just getting mad and frustrated anyway. It may change when it gets dark earlier, but for now we are just going with it.

On the flip side is King Louis. He has been a great sleeper since he was born. My theory has always been that the first 3 months you are in pure survival mode and a slave to the baby. Because they are still so neurologically immature, they eat when they need to eat and they sleep when they need to sleep and you hold and comfort them when they need to be held and comforted. Lou has been really consistent from the beginning and would wake every 3 hours to eat (and barf) and then go back to sleep. As he's gotten older he has stretched out those night time feedings and as of about 3 weeks ago he weaned himself off of the last middle-of-the-night feeding, and has been sleeping from about 8:00 pm to 5:00 or 6:00 am. He still has a bad night every once in a while, but it's usually due to an upset tummy, I think. He's a better napper than Norah ever was as well.

We haven't vastly changed our approach, so why did we get sleepers on the opposite end of the spectrum? I attribute it to 3 things: 1) Norah was breastfed and Louis is not. The fact is, breast milk is digested much faster and I think Louis is content for much longer because he isn't as hungry as she used to be. 2) We are home a lot more now. In the early months and weeks with Norah it was hotter than hell and we often were out of the house most of the day to escape our hot house. I also had way more anxiety and sought out the company and guidance of other new moms. As a result, Norah napped a lot on the go and never really got into a consistent or predictable nap routine. Louis naps around the same time every day, usually in the same place. 3) They are just different kids. Norah is like me (intense, opinionated, and controlling), and Louis is like BVZ (mellow, relaxed, and content). Those personality traits are reflected in the way that we all sleep.

Of course if I have learned anything these past 3 years it could all change overnight. For my sanity's sake, let's hope not.

Yesterday I changed a disgusting diaper and then set Lou in the crib so I could wash my hands. I put Norah "in charge" and asked her to entertain him until I got back.

I was probably gone a minute and a half and this is what I found when I returned. So, now she wants to be in the crib....


JAMS' HOUSE said...

Go the F to Sleep - makes me laugh every time.

Kristy said...

I had never heard "Go the F to sleep" but I must say, the author must have gotten into my head to write it. I must clarify I have never said those phrases out loud, but have definitely thought some of them. We are having the same problem with Olivia. She is sneaking out of bed at anywhere from 3-8 times per night. So frustrating when you trying to get your adult tv going on and you have to keep pausing!

Natalie said...

We have the same kid. We really do. EVERYTHING you said about Norah and her sleep is the same for Spencer. He was also the easiest kid to potty train which I also consider karma for his sucking in the sleep department for 2.5 years. The only difference is that he didn't ever nap on the go. We had to be home, in a dark, quiet room with a fan and he had to be held. He napped like that until he was 2.

P.S. We travel with a fan. In the car if we're driving and with a little one in a bag on the airplane. None of us can sleep without white noise.