From the moment my babies were born the first question I was asked was “Are they sleeping through the night?”. Well the fact was my boys never slept for more than 4 hours at a time until they were eleven months old and I thought that I was the exception and that babies were supposed to sleep, you must have heard the sleep like a baby quote and thought that is was a good thing! So at what age should kids be sleeping though the night?
Well, what I have learned over the years is that ALL children are different. Maxi started sleeping through from 7.30 till 6am from around a year old and even now at ten, he is asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed, but is pretty much always awake before 6am. Mini on the other hand has only just started sleeping through the night without coming in to our bed and he is nine years old!
I have battled constantly with Mini’s reluctance to sleep and this is what I have learned:
How to cope and help a reluctant sleeper
- Be consistent. We have a bedtime and regardless of whether he is going to go straight to sleep both the boys go to bed by 8.30pm each night. The same with lights out by 9pm for Mini.
- Get all the distractions out of the way first. Set a routine, make them go to the loo, take water, get their books, brush their teeth etc in a certain order each night giving them NO EXCUSE to get up.
- Be strong. Controlled crying never worked for us (it was me and the husband who always curved before the boys), but if that works for you then there is nothing wrong with that,
- Try everything at least twice. Now I know this is going to sound odd, but kids change and so so seasons. What might not have worked last time, might this time. In fact the reason Mini is sleeping through is down to a change of bedding and bed (more about that below).
- Consider either white noise, music or even audio books. Audio books are what works for Mini, even if he can not sleep, he loves listening to the books and relaxes.
- Do not compare yourself to others. Competitive parenting is so destructive. I used to think that I was a crappy mother. I was the reason my child didn’t sleep through, they were picking up on my issues. You do what works for your family. We bought a superkingsized bed and decided that we were happy for Mini to join us each night figuring he wouldnt be in with us when he was 18!
- Find a support system. Twitter, facebook and the blog have been vital to me during times when Mini has been refusing to go to bed or go to sleep. Find your village and ask for support. Do you have a grandparent that can help by putting your child to bed a couple of nights a week giving you a break?
- It is a phase – this is a mantra that I used to repeat and repeat. It enabled me to keep on keeping on. Find yours, it might be that all this will pass, or I am not alone. And you certainly are not alone, lot of kids have issues with sleep, as do lots of adults. Just look at me, Mrs Insomniac!
- Cut out screens near bedtime. There is research showing that screens can interfere with circadian (sleep) rhythms, so try removing them from your children at least an hour before bed.
- Keep it dark. A lot of parents swear by blackout blinds in the summer.
For us, it has been learning to pick up on Mini’s clues and also listen to him. He has an essential oil diffuser in his room, a lumie light and also relaxation CD’s and at nine we are teaching him to self settle again! Also, check out what not to do!
So about six weeks ago Mini stopped coming into our room during the night. Just like that and we had to think about what had changed. Well, it was two-fold.
Firstly we changed his bed. We had been gifted a set of Darwin bunk beds beds from The Great Little Trading company over the summer. These bunk beds are great and the mattresses really comfortable and secondly we changed the bedding. We moved to a higher tog bedding and a new pillow from Slumberdown. We were sent a ‘Truly Washable’ pillow and duvet set.
Doing this made me realise that the duvet and pillow both the boys had were from when they moved into a bed from their cots which was a long time ago (they are nine and ten) and the same with their beds and mattresses.
I have never been one for having winter and summer bedding. As an adult I just keep the same duvet on the bed and add a blanket in winter. But this has now changed, especially as seeing what a difference it made to both the boys sleeping! Plus I can also say that the Slumberdown ‘Truly Washable’ pillow and duvet set have washed really well (we had a sleepover and a drink was spilt on them a week after putting them on)!
So what about the bed? Well I am not sure if it is something to do with feeling more enclosed (sleeping on the bottom bunk), but he has really loved it. It could be a coincidence, but I am not willing to take a chance)! The beds were pretty simple to put up. In fact me and my bestie installed them (well she did most of the work). They are our second set of bunk beds as Maxi has bunks in his room as we envisaged the boys sleeping together, but a lark and owl do not fit well together in one room. I love the style of the Dawin Bunk Beds and they will look great as single bed too. I love that they are full sized singles and therefore, can be used as the boys get bigger.
So this is why I say try everything at least twice! You never know what has changed.
What are your tips?
I think all your points are great, especially about not comparing notes either with other parents or between your own children. I have one brilliant sleeper and one child who takes half an hour to fall asleep each night and is up before 6am each day. He was my second and I couldn’t think what I had done wrong to start with…then I realised it’s just the way he is!
Great tips, all mine have been totally different when it comes to sleeping but routine and consistency have been the most important factors in getting them to have a good nights sleep 🙂
I think sleeping through the night is something that means different things to different people and I eventually realised my son was sleeping through, but he was just an early riser. I think it’s wise to ignore what other people say as there’s no need for additional pressure for you and your child.
“Sleeping through the night” is such a bone of contention with many people. I used to feel stressed when I had little ones as my friends would say theirs were sleeping through the night and what they mean was they were actually putting them down at 11pm and getting up at 4am to feed them which ISN’T sleeping through! Never ever compare!
My 2 boys couldn’t have been more different, the oldest never slept at night. We did controlled crying with him twice and slowly over the years we got there. The youngest however genuinely slept through the night from 10pm to 7-9am from the age of 6 weeks. I didn’t sleep a wink at first because I always thought there must be something wrong! Then at age 2 we moved house and he wouldn’t sleep alone. He slept in our bed till 4 years old. I think sleep is one of the biggest causes of stress for parents especially as all kids are different and there’s really no right or wrong way to deal with it but there’s so much guilt. And you’re right, one of the first things people ask new parents is “is the baby sleeping through?” And then they offer usually unwanted “advice” and criticism.
What some great tips, I can’t imagine how had it is to deal with a non sleeper. x
I never had sleep issues with Emma, Jen, so I couldn’t advise but I am very glad you have found ways to help Mini self soothe, I am sure your sleep has been a million times better too since!xx
I have had two sleepers and 4 non-sleepers and have treated them all exactly the same. Thankfully we are coming out the other side now and Sebby has started sleeping through, although he is poorly at the moment so not currently
My oldest is such a light sleeper and always waking up and waking us up – he has been like this since he was born! I think some sleep patterns are just ingrained in our children aren’t they? I always hated hearing about perfect sleepers when he was younger but now I have one, his sister – not that I benefit as he still wakes us up!!
Syd (aged 4) is still in with us. Until recently he didnt have his own room and couldnt share with a sibling as the age gap is too big. Now his big sister has headed off to uni he in theory has a room (in term time at least) and while he loved decorating it and playing in it he is adamant he is sleeping in with us FOREVER! I reality I know he will move when he is ready, and for now we have a kingsize bed with a single bed pushed up against it so that we all have enough room. I just go with the flow, and having two much older kids I know that these years are fleeting really.
Great tips and so useful to me at the moment as my youngest who is 14 months has never slept all night yet, I too am feeling like a crappy mum as he just does not sleep. I am so tired but like you say i just need to remember it wont last forever and it is so true that every child is different as my girls have slept no problems. I love the look of those bunkbeds they look very stylish and comfy xx