One of the things that can be most frustrating about baby and toddler sleep disturbances, is their inability to tell you what is causing the problem.
Recently, Immy (who is now 33 months and usually a good sleeper in terms of going to sleep and staying asleep) has been waking in the night. Sometimes only once, more often two or more times through the night. Sometimes she wakes with a cry as from a dream, sometimes she just calls out to us. And she is also waking in the morning much earlier than she was.
Those who know me well, know that I need my sleep and that I am not a morning person so the combination of night time disturbances and early starts is making me a much less pleasant person to be around! Don’t get me wrong, I know that this is part of parenting. I have friends with babies and toddlers who have had much longer term sleep issues than we have ever had with Immy. But honestly, knowing that doesn’t help when I am falling out of bed bleary eyed at 3 o’clock in the morning. However you child sleeps, you get used to a certain status quo and whenever it changes, it means an adjustment for the whole family.
So what could be causing this latest adjustment? In our sleep deprived desperation, we have considered;
Is she warm/cool enough given the recent change to warmer weather?
Changes in weather call for changes in heating or cooling, sleep attire and bedding.
Is she waking as she needs to wee?
Now completely day trained, Immy wears a nappy for sleeping. We have not yet attempted night training, mainly because she is still in a cot and cannot get to the toilet by herself and us taking her requires getting her out of her bed, a sleeping bag, pjs and the nappy to get to the toilet. When we move her to a bed in the new year, it will be much easier to tackle.
Is the brighter (very) early morning light waking her now that we are moving into summer?
Is she waking from dreams?
We think so. Immy recently felt afraid when another child of the same age wouldn’t let her out of a cubby house. It really upset her and she has been talking about it on and off for almost three weeks now. Sometimes when she wakes, she is calling out, “Open,” and I think it is dream related.
Honestly, I don’t know that there is just one cause. I think at different times each (if not all) of these factors have contributed. All I know is that I was getting tired and grumpy and that we (as in Dad 101 and I) were both getting frustrated and snappy! So what have we done?
Firstly, we have tried to get back to our basics. Making sure the evening is as calm and un-rushed as possible in the lead up to bedtime. Sticking to our routine of bath, books and bed. Calming her as she settles into bed with her favourite bedtime songs.
We have tried to ensure that her room is at a comfortable temperature and that her pjs, sleeping bag and blanket are all suitable, sometimes this means changing things around a bit as we are going to bed if the temperature has dropped in the meantime.
When it comes to the night waking, if she calls or cries out we try and respond quickly to re-settle her before she wakes all of the way up, going in to soothe her with soft words and a song or two, a cuddle if she is upset. Most of the time this is enough to get her back to sleep.
For the morning wakings we are trying a toddler clock which let’s her know when it is okay to get up (and get us up!) This seems to be helping her understand that even if it is light, it may still be too early to call out, that she should try to get back to sleep.
And in the daytime, if she brings up the incident in the cubby house, we listen and acknowledge her feelings calmly and reassuringly.
So far we haven’t eliminated the night waking although these things all seem to be helping to reduce the number of times she actually wakes. I guess we will just have to stick with it, knowing that bubs, tots and kids sleep differently to adults, and that this will eventually change again too!!!
What are your strategies for dealing with night wakings? What strategies do you return to when it all goes pear shaped???