I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.
Some of it is because I have things on my mind. I spend my days writing progress notes and service plans and working with families to help them find ways to improve their kids’ behaviors and develop more positive and productive relationships. There are always tasks I know I haven’t finished or conversations from home visits that I haven’t been able to shake by the time I go to bed. There are also the typical parent and husband thoughts that keep me up, like how things are going to change when our new baby comes or thinking of ways to keep a strong relationship with Trudy while we’re both so occupied with balancing work and taking care of our family.
Turning my mind off is definitely the lesser part of the problem, though. I’ve always been pretty adept at turning off the work part of my brain when I leave (for the most part) and, honestly, I’m usually so exhausted by the time 11:00 or 11:30 come around that I’m practically sleepwalking as I make my way to bed. The problem isn’t so much falling asleep; it’s staying asleep.
I wake up at some point each night because I try to roll over or shift position and I notice that there’s something leaning against my back. When I glance over my shoulder, I see that Eitan has made his way into the bed, burrowed his way under our covers and nestled up against me. He doesn’t cry or call for Trudy or me when he wakes up. He just walks across the apartment into our bedroom and climbs up into bed. He’s usually been there for at least a half hour or so before I even realize he’s there.
Whenever this happens, whether it’s once or three times in a night, I pick Eitan up, carry him back to his room and tuck him back into his bed. Sometimes he sleeps through the whole process, which means I’m back in bed a minute later. Sometimes, though, he makes tearful protests; usually, “I want more snuggles!” And, before you say, “Awww, that’s so cute!” I’m going to remind you that when you’re constantly exhausted and achy because you’re eight months pregnant (I’m talking about Trudy, here), being woken up during the precious few hours of sleep you can actually manage each night is… irritating, to say the least. It’s annoying for me to keep getting up but I feel worse for Trudy; snuggles are great, except when you’re trying to get some rest because you’re so wiped from literally growing another human inside you.1
As I said, some nights are worse than others. One night last week, Eitan woke up around 3:00 AM and took an hour to fall back asleep. Earlier this week, Trudy was ecstatic in the morning because she thought Eitan had stayed in his bed the whole night. It turned out she just hadn’t woken up when I got up to bring him back to his room around 2:30 AM. Then, last night, Eitan came into our bed three times in the span of two hours (yes, I took him back to his bed each time).
We haven’t quite been able to figure out what’s waking Eitan up each night. We live on a somewhat busy street, but it’s hardly a main boulevard. It also quiets down, for the most part, after 11:00 PM or so. It could be the heat turning on, since Mother Nature is still apparently hanging out at the bar, even though she was cut off three weeks ago.2 Our working theory is that Eitan is still adjusting to living in a new apartment and, more importantly, in his own room. For a child who spent the first three and a half years of his life sleeping less than ten feet away from his parents, it takes some time to get used to the idea that they’re now in a separate space at the other end of the apartment. Add in the fact that there’s a new person on their way to invade Eitan’s territory and it makes sense that he would be looking for some added security.
Our interventions haven’t been fully effective at this point, but we haven’t pushed that hard so far. We’ve reminded Eitan that we need him to stay in his room each night before bed because all of us need the rest and we’ve toyed with the idea of a behavior chart to keep track of his progress. Part of the problem is that Eitan has so many toys as it is that if we were to propose a sticker chart, I’m fairly certain Eitan would laugh in our faces. We started giving one of his stuffed animals a giant hug when he goes to bed, transferring our “Mommy and Daddy Magic” into the toy so that Eitan can just hug the animal if he wakes up at night and get our love that way. The biggest change we’ve made over the last few weeks is that I’ve been taking Eitan back to his bed as soon as I’ve realized he was in our bed. There were some nights soon after we had moved where I just left our bed and slept the rest of the night on the couch because it was easier than fighting with Eitan and waking up Trudy (and, possibly, some of our neighbors).
We’re going to keep going the way we have been. Our assumption is that the light switch in Eitan’s head will flip one day soon and that he’s just going to start staying in his room, sort of how he began potty training. We’ll wake up one morning to the sound of our alarm clock or even birds chirping outside the window and realize that Eitan is still asleep in his bed or playing quietly in his room. We’re just hoping that day comes sooner, rather than later.
Did you have similar experiences with your kid(s)? What measures did you take? Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page!
1. It’s yet another testament to Trudy’s patience and endurance that she doesn’t flip out when Eitan asks for snuggles. If it were me, I could get woken up by a litter of three-day-old puppies and I’d still want to chuck them against the wall.↩
2. Meaning, it was 30 degrees last weekend, close to 60 on Thursday and there’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow.↩