so the fish said...
  home links archives about contact

« She Bang | Main | Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la »

I can't believe I'm asking for advice about sleep

If the internet has taught me anything, it is that when someone asks you how your young child is sleeping the best course of action is to flash a peaceful and well-rested smile and say "Oh, just fine, thanks." Even though, at least in my case, that is a bald-faced lie much of the time. (And by "much of the time" I mean "the first 21 months of Mia's life and the first 21 months and counting of Owen's life." Please do not give me any sleep-through-the-night tips, because I will a) delete them, b) hate you a little bit, and c) weep in total despair.)

However, I have decided that the one thing that would make my life measurably better would be for Owen to fall asleep a bit earlier at night. Right now, he is bright-eyed awake at around 6:15 every morning, takes a 1.5 to 2 hour nap starting at around 1:00 or 1:30 every day, and then drifts blissfully off to sleep after 45 minutes to an hour of bedtime effort between 9:00 and 9:30 every night. I want him to be asleep no later than 8:30, and 8:00 would really be ideal.

Now, I can't nap him any earlier because of our schedule, waking him up earlier in the morning is a shitty idea, he does need a nap and taking it away seems insane. We don't do cry it out (nothing against you if you do, we just don't), so plopping him in his crib to deal with it himself is not an option. (Also, he climbs blithely out of his crib at any slight provocation, so I can't even trap him there until he falls asleep.)

So help me out, dear internet. Any suggestions on making my charming and adored son go to sleep an hour earlier so that Mommy can have a little more sanity and not spend every last waking moment (along with many of the sleeping ones) on parenting?


In other news, I seem to be writing for Style Lush now, which is hilarious. If I had to choose words to describe myself, I would probably go through all other words in this and several other languages before I arrived at either "style" or "lush." However, Jennie asked me and she's fabulous and the other women involved are like my secret internet crush list has been leaked to the tabloids, so I'm doing it. My first post is here, if you are so inclined to come visit (and say hi? Please? So I don't feel like a loser?).

Comments (41)

Can't offer any help there. My son had his own timing and schedule that seemed to change about every 6 months. When teeth were coming in, everything got messed up. You've got more experience that I do anyway.

Ah the dreaded sleepo issue. little lady wakes at around 6am or earlier every single day and it doesn't move if she goes to sleep later. We can do 9.30pm or later and yet still we get 6am or earlier AND a really overtired child for no extra cost! I have found if I can get her to sleep at 6pm (which means she eventually gets to sleep before 7pm) she will sleep all the way through to 6am and we get a better child (for no extra cost!). But to do this we had to drop her daytime sleep which isn't an option for you. She is also almost 3 so not a great comparison - sorry! Can you try the whole dinner/bath/bed routine a little earlier so you trick him into thinking it's really later than it is? However that could mean starting dinner at 4pm which could just be a little weird. Can you try to wear the hell out of him by walking/running? Again prob difficult in winter. OK so it appears I have NO practical solutions. Apologies in advance for this waffling. But good luck and I hope someone has the answers for you...

Cut the nap to an hour? See if that helps.

What happens if you do the bedtime routine earlier? Like if you start the hour of bedtime effort starting at 7:00, what happens?

Um, my toddler's normal bedtime averages around 10:30 p.m. I am no help here. But I will gladly join you in the whole weeping-in-total-despair thing.

Oh, I wish I could help. My child does not believe in sleep. She fights it every minute and doesn't want to miss anything so I have no help. I'm actually trolling the comments for any/all helpful suggestions.

This is _the_ book on childhood sleep. It's pretty intense, and structured, but invaluable.

I take it back. That must not be the book we consulted. It looks pretty awful actually... sorry...

I'm lucky, both of my boys sleep like exhausted indians from 8PM until 6AM without a lot of aggravation and are good for 2-3 hours of nap in the afternoon.

Sorry...and remember, hate the game, not the player!

I have a horrible sleeper. HORRIBLE. And I am not ashamed to say it, cause its not my damn fault. I have tried everything - but he has been a horrible sleeper since day one. He is 23 months now - still wakes up at least once a night (usually more) and very often my husband has to take him for loooong car rides to get him to sleep. I personally don't think there is much you can do - these darn kids just have their own clocks! I guess you could try to slowly start the bedtime routine earlier - like ten minuts earlier for a week, then another ten the following week...etc. Its gotta be SLOW change so you trick the little bugger into submission.

Congrats on the new gig! I will not give you any sleep advice however I heard that things get better once they move out.

We have the same problem. If you figure something out, let me know.

Disclaimer the first: I had a sleeper. He thought bedtime at about 4pm would be ideal and when he was just starting to sleep through the night, he'd try to sleep from 4pm until, his night and mine were TOTALLY different.

Disclaimer the second: I only have one child. My child proves daily that rules and norms do not apply. So - in the effort to be advice and not assvice -- I insist that your mileage may vary.

How do you move bedtime? SLOWLY. I had to move it the other way -- which you might think is easier, you just keep them awake. Um, NO, my child would turn into a orge OR fall asleep anywhere (including in the dinner plate) at HIS appointed hour. (Tell me little ones can't read a clock.)

Anyway, we hit critical mass when the clocks changed -- so what we did was SLOWLY shift his routine a little at a time. We started with 5 minute blocks when he was little as he got older we could move it in 10's or 15's -- but the key was not to try to get the hour tomorrow -- but to get 10 minutes tomorrow and 15 the next day.

Bedtime routine helps, because it gave our son the cues that we were getting to bed. Now that he likes to delay bedtime a bit (he is 6, goes to bed at 7:30pm -- and thinks stalling is 7:45pm -- just keep in mind he is up ready to party before 6am no matter what!), we let him -- but still he needs the sleep and won't sleep late.

Good Luck -- getting the wee ones to live on our schedules is one of the hardest things I dealt with. That followed by the mouthiness and the insanity and bossiness...did I mention the mouth? Um, he's 6.

What time is dinner? I agree that moving it slowly will probably work the best, but you will also probably want to move other nighttime rituals as well. Best of luck to you- I'm on #4 and some of them sleep and some of them don't.

Benadryl? ;) Good luck!

You've probably heard this before, but according to my vast experience of 2 kids and several sleep books sometimes the less sleep they get the harder it is for them to fall asleep, they get overtired/overstimulated, sleep begets sleep, etc., etc. If I put my kids to bed at 9 they'd wake up at 6ish too, but when I put them to bed at 7:30 they wake up at 7:00 and still nap. Working back to 8 should be done gradually, maybe in 15 min/day or 2-day increments.

I agree with slowwwwly moving his bedtime back to a reasonable hour. Shoot for "by New Year's". Do it in 10 minute increments. I think at his age he could reasonably start bedtime routine at 6:45, and be asleep by 7:30. He will still sleep until 6- but he may surprise you and sleep until 7 like mine did. It sounds unfathomable, but it happens like that. Sleep begets sleep. Also, you could try making the 2 hr nap end after 1.5 hrs. But don't do both things at once, naturally.

Wish that I could help. This was ages ago for me and Harley never got out of his crib. Helped that the crib was really deep.

Good advice from others, I think tricking him into thinking that it is bedtime could work if you guys are big on routine. Good luck, sleep and time must be much harder to find with 2.

I am SO not the person to ask about sleep. If you find something that works, pass it along please?

What you described sounds a lot like Clementine's routine for her first 24 months. Her naptime used a stroller/walk catalyst, and when it became too cold for a daily walk she suddenly dropped her nap entirely. It was a miracle. Bedtime when from 1+ hours of effort ending at 9-9:30 to an instant sleep at 8, which has since drifted down to 7. She still usually sleeps from 7 to 7, and she never naps.

Maybe dropping the nap isn't insane?

Okay, so it's been years, and I'm not going to even pretend this is some "fail proof" idea.

Is it possible for you to do a warm bath with some "relaxing" aromatherapy? They make baby "aromas". I know I've seen them. I used them a little with Max when he was young & they were new.

Then I'd lay down with him for about 15 minutes of "quiet time". I never said it was bed time, just said "HEY! Let's relax" and he typically drifted off to sleep.

You could enroll him in an evening lecture at the local community college. Art history, perhaps? My physics class does wonders for me on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'm out cold by 7:15PM.

Oh, you wanted actual advice?! Well, I don't know if this will seem like air-headed advice (Hey! What could I possibly have to be afraid of? This is the INTERNET. Anything goes.), but why don't you just start the bedtime routine earlier?? I mean, if you are spending the better part of an hour getting him settled between 8:30 and 9:30, why not just start at 7:30 and see what happens? The worst possible would be that it would take 2 hours. The best and more likely scenario is that it will still take an hour but he will be asleep around 8:30. He's not even 2! He can't read a clock! And it's dark outside. He won't know you're fooling him. Sure, he will squirm and say, "But, Mama, I don't FEEL tired, so give it up already!!" But doesn't he say that anyhow, at 8:30PM? And lo and behold, after an hour of rocking, reading, singing, back-rubbing, snuggling, water drinking, more singing, bouncing, bum-patting, he drifts off to sleep. It just may happen an hour earlier if you tell him it's time an hour earlier. (And yes, this will be difficult for all other family routines. We struggle with this daily. We both work full time, we are barely in the door by 6PM and we have to crank out a dinner in 10-15 minutes, eat, and get upstairs by 7PM (or 6:45 if it's a bath night) to start the wind-down. So there is very little time for playing and reconnecting and this is upsetting to me. But in my world, 'tis far better to spend an hour cuddling and putting to bed pleasantly and have rested children than to spend an extra hour playing and having fun and have unrested children.)

This feels weird, posting a comment with ADVICE. About parenting. !! Well, you asked, and you are entirely free to toss aside any advice you don't like or can't use, right? So... sigh. Here goes.

My only thought is to gradually make his bedtime a bit earlier. Start with just 15 minutes. Your nap time is pretty good so I wouldn't worry about that. Start your bedtime routine a bit earlier, wind down and then just focus on getting him to bed 15 minutes earlier. Let him adjust to that, then do the next 15.

wow, that's a tough one....I don't blame you for wanting him down a bit earlier. Frankly, I'm kinda surprised he (and you) can function like that....

I have a kid about 3 weeks younger than Owen...and our sleep schedule is similar...except bed time...he's usually down by 7pm (I know, don't hate me...)

One of the things we do to help Felix (not sure if it would work, but it's worth a try) aside from routine (which I am sure you already do) is that we start telling/warning him about bedtime...for at least a whole hour before we actually put him to bed.

It might help Owen (when you are backing up his bedtime) to be warned about what is going on....For some weird (f*cked) reason...this seems to make ALL the difference in the world (for us)...Felix always whines "Nooo"...but in the end....he usually doesn't put up much of a protest.

II wish I had more to offer by way of suggestions...PS - I am kinda jealous that he actually eats veggies did you pull that one off?

To follow up, I just skimmed the other comments. Seems like most vote for moving bedtime earlier, but I just can't see the sense in moving it s-l-o-w-l-y... if you are struggling at his normal time anyhow, then just choose to struggle at a time that's better for you. It would be one thing if he had this internal clock that told him that 9:30PM is his time to sleep, and he just magically fell asleep at that time no matter what you did. If that were the case, then yes, I think you'd have to trick him into believing that it was in fact 9:30 at 8:30. But, no, alas, it sounds like he thinks that the time to fall asleep is when one hour of cajoling has passed. So cajole earlier.

Please let us know as this develops what you are trying, what is working, what is not! We can all learn from your agony, er, I mean, experience.

I agree with the statement that overtired leads to trouble getting to sleep. Ours (5 and almost 3) go down at 6:30 (6 when they're sick, like now) and sleep til 6:30 (sometimes at late as 7 or 8 on weekends). The 3yo still gets a nap from 1-3:30 in the afternoons (sometimes shorter but he still definitely needs it). Sometimes it takes a while for him to fall asleep at night and he can still be awake at 8:30, but eventually he falls asleep. A key for us has been doorknob locks on the inside of their doors and clearing *everything* out of their rooms at first when the crib-to-bed transition was made. After a while we slowly transition from mattress on the floor to proper bedroom furniture and no locks. The 5yo drops right off when we put him to bed (kindergarten is tiring).

Children so often don't get enough sleep and it can be so hard to recognize the overtired signs until after the fact. Slow increments for sleep changes are best. Sleeping, like anything, is a learned thing. Good luck training your little sleepers!

Oh, god, Ally slept horribly. Absolute hell until her little sister was born when she was 2 and a half. Maybe it'll get better soon?

My littlest (3.5) recently discovered the Little Einsteins. She loves to have classical music played at bed, so we turn to a classical music station and let it play until she's asleep. The trick with her is to play it loud. Then it's like she's tricked into thinking we're not trying to lull her to sleep or something.

But my kids are weird, and advice from me usually doesn't apply to anyone else. Take it or leave it

We read Ferber and Weissbluth, which I found helpful (Ferber more so than Weissbluth). You can't read the summaries of the methods on the internet, you really must read the entire book (but as a reader, you probably don't have a problem with that. I'm lazy, so tried the "internet summary" method first, which didn't work).

None of my children slept well; they all had to be trained. It sucked. They cried. I drank a lot.

But now they all sleep well (of course they won't now, because I typed that) and it was so so SO SO SO worth those hours of horror.

If nothing else, I found the Ferber and Weissbluth books taught me a lot about the nature of sleep, and gave me some things to think about regarding my own sleep habits.

As for the climbing out of the crib you may want to know about crib tents. My daughter had one until she went into her big girl bed. It is like a little tent that goes right over her crib. It is made of mesh so it is soft (she also loved mesh so it was like heaven for her) and there is a zippered door.

Just a thought.

I've really got nothing except maybe to just cut his nap a little shorter? From one sleep deprived momma to another!

Same problem here too! Please please let us know if something works for you. My son is a month younger to Owen so I'll suffer one less month. hehe. But seriously? I have no idea how to make it better :( Why he so vehemently resists sleep os something totally beyond me! He still wakes at nights and some nights insists on us picking him up for at least 40 mins! Which is no fun when he's 33lbs! So please share!!!

When mine was eighteen months he suddenly decided that sleep was not his responsibility. Yeah right. We started walking a mile a day and he gradually changed his mind. ;) We did a 1/3 mile in the morning, before lunch and after dinner. Good luck... ;)

Hi Beth, my first thought was let him nap a lot earlier. Both L & T nap(ped) from 11 AM - 1 PM) If I happened to put them to bed later, I was bound to have bedtime trouble... But it's hard with schedules, I get that. Planning a life around naps is easy with one, but with two, not so much.
I really don't know what else to say, but wish you all the best & good sleeping vibes!

Sounds like my squeaker... we finally gave in and got rid of the nap and stuck him in front of the tv. I hated hated hated to do it (lose the nap), but i LOVE LOVE LOVE that he goes right to sleep when we put him down at 7. That is really tough some evenings due to our schedule, but it is worth the quick bedtime routine for peace! If he naps, he's up until 9:30 or later -he takes FOREVER to fall asleep. He wakes up between 6 and 6:30. Of course, he is a little older than owen, but seriously, if we had done this sooner, we would have been much happier. My eldest, well he still naps. and he is up at the same time in the morning.. but he enjoys his alone time in the evening (since he's the big kid!) Best of luck and whatever works. Crying it out never worked for us, and squeaker could climb out of any crib you gave him. (We couldn't do the crib tent either).

I didn't read all the previous comments, so I may be repeating what they said. Anyway, I'd do whatever your bedtime routine is, but start moving it 5 minutes earlier each night. My little guy is pretty close in age to yours I think, (he just turned 2) and he goes to bed around 730, gets up at 6 and naps from 1-3ish.

Kids that are overtired will often sleep worse and wake up earlier, so maybe getting him to sleep earlier will get you some extra sleep. Good luck! :-)

We move bedtime back 15 minutes every two days to adjust a time. If things get out of whack over a weekend or holiday we do the same thing to gradually get back on schedule. Our son sleeps in 10 hours blocks no matter when we put him down, so the clock means very little to him, however bedtime cues such as putting on pjs, brushing teeth etc will make him think it's later than it is. I always do what another commenter suggested and start warning him that it is bedtime an hour or so before hand.

I don't have much in the way of advice here. I think Owen probably needs more hours of sleep than he's getting, and that could definitely be why he's not sleeping WELL (in my experience, it's cyclical like that). But as for how to actually translate that into a concrete process of how to get there? I got nuthin... at least, nothing you haven't already tried.

Putting my son in the crib to figure it out for himself worked for us, but only because he quits crying less than 10 seconds after I shut the door behind me. Turns out all that crying when I tried to coax him down gently? Was all a show and not real trauma. He had my number.

OK... here is what worked for me... I put books on the shelf near the bed (reachable for viewing). I would put her in bed and give her the books and she'd read them again and again till she fell asleep. I'd sneak in and put them back on the shelf and in the morning she'd find them and read them until I came in to get her.

You could put little toys to play with, or new books,,, etc..

When she got older and I taught her some numbers - I THEN got her a digital clock - and told her not to get up till the first number was EIGHT ! She could read or play quietly... but not to come out of her room till EIGHT...

AND it worked ! ! ! ! (and now that they are grown up.. they read like crazy... so it worked X 100) ! ! ! ! !

I have no real advice as I am in a similar situation, just dialed back later (kid falls asleep sometime between 10 and 11 with parental intervention, but her normal wakeup time is 9:30 so I can't complain on that end).

On the days she doesn't nap, she is asleep by 9:30 within 5 minutes of being put in the crib. But there is no way she can really give up her nap for good, she still naps for a good 2 hours every day. So we are just sucking it up for now. I predict she will be giving up nap time within the next year.

Does Owen let Chris handle bedtime at all? My husband and I finally devised a "schedule" where we would take turns being the bedtime parent. That way at least every other night we get a break.

I definitely think that since he gets up so early, you could push lunch and nap up earlier and then bedtime, too. Possibly he is fighting it so much because he is overtired at that point. When my kids are overtired, they get into what we call "must stay awake mode" where they do everything possible to do just that, stay awake! I would never recommend cutting a nap short. Toddlers especially need their sleep. No sense in messing with it. I have always lived by the "never wake a sleeping baby/child"...unless absolutley necessary. Another thought is moving him to a big bed. Didn't I read somewhere that he climbs out of the crib sometimes? I fear kids getting hurt, so if they can climb out, I move them out. If you do that, you'll need to put a gate in his doorway so that he can't wander around after midnight to see what's on TV or get a snack. I wish you the best of luck. Evenings will be so much nicer when you can get him to bed at 8:00. You'll have so much time to yourself! I always envy people who could get their kids in bed at 7:30. 8:00 is the earliest in my house, and it is so nice when we actually achieve it!

My 2nd is almost two and she sleeps thusly - she wakes up anywhere from 5-6, naps from 10:30 til whenever, usually 12:30 or 1:00 and we start bath and bed routine at 6:30 and she is asleep by 6:50 or so. It sucks that she wakes up so early, especially because I have an infant that is usually going back to bed right when she gets up, but it's when she needs to sleep, I find. I also recommend reading a book about sleep - like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Even if you disagree with his plan for sleep (he doesn't care so much if the kids cry), I think forewarned is forearmed when it comes to sleep.

I have two boys (4.5 and 2) for whom sleep is the dirtiest 5 letter word that ever existed. That one fact alone is probably what's keeping us from having a third.

No advice, sorry. Just a sympathetic, "You are not alone."

Post a Comment

Remember personal info?

So the Fish Said...

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear.

- Walt Whitman

Meet the Fish

I want to get a pet duck and keep it in the bathtub.
I am addicted to chap stick and altoids.
I am freakishly flexible.

World's Most Beautiful Child


World's Most Handsome Child


Other Important Things

Clive Owen

Clive Owen
Pretend Celebrity Boyfriend

RSS Syndicate this site (XML)

Design by Emily

© Copyright 2004
All Rights Reserved.