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Adopted children and sleep issues

(10 Posts)
poppystellar Thu 21-Jan-16 23:05:14

I really need help with sleep! Dd (5) has been with me since she was 2 and a half. Apart from the first six weeks (honeymoon period) when she mostly managed to sleep 7 til 7 - and I was busy being pretty smug about how well she was sleeping (that'll teach me) - she has always had problems with staying asleep.

She goes off to sleep in her own bed in her own room with no fuss. I do have to stay in the room with her but it usually only takes her about 15 mins to fall asleep. The problem arises when she wakes up in the night (anytime from 10pm onwards though most often around 1 or 2 am). She is often upset and can't settle herself off to sleep again. I know this is fairly common not just in adopted children but it is doing my head in.

I am a lone parent and after trying many things I eventually settled on a mattress by my bed in my room which we call her emergency bed. It took quite a while to get her in to a routine where she was able to take herself off to her emergency bed if she woke up and settle herself off to sleep because she knew I'd be coming up to bed at some point soon, but she mastered it. Or so I thought. It worked quite well (not perfectly and not every night but for a lot of the time) for a good while (many months possibly even a year or so). Recently she has reverted to needing me to come upstairs when she wakes up and won't go in to her emergency bed without me. This is really draining me.
Tonight she went off to sleep at 8, woke up crying (well whimpering) at ten, I checked she was ok (talked to her from bottom of stairs) she went in to her emergency bed then half an hour later got up again and stood at top of stairs whimpering 'I need you'. I am now lying on my bed hoping she has dropped off in her emergency bed and feeling like I am in the middle of full blown sleep regression. Nothing major has happened in our lives recently. She seems happy at school and with her friends. It has taken so long to even get to this point with sleeping that I can't face having to devise new ways of trying to get her to stay asleep. I am so tired and drained and generally exhausted. I work, luckily from home most of the time, but even so, these interrupted nights are really affecting my ability to work, concentrate and generally function like a sensible human being during the day.

Does anyone have any suggestions for helping my gorgeous daughter to learn how to stay asleep please? Anyone??! Thank you

Biffa44 Fri 22-Jan-16 12:04:51

DS slept well for the first few months but then suddenly started having problems about going to bed, staying in bed, falling asleep and staying asleep - he would be up multiple times in the night. The only thing that worked was making a verbal commitment to him that I would stay with him until he went to sleep and then would sit with him each time he woke until he went back to sleep. It was hell for about four months being woken up to 6 times a night and both he and I have been very, very sleep deprived. However, it has paid off and he is now (mostly) going to sleep within 15 - 20 mins (I/we still sit with him) and he now rarely gets up even once in the night. When this does happen, he sometimes still wakes me, but has started to take himself back to bed after checking in on me/us.

I think it was a case of him just needing to know that we, this house, this bedroom, being alone here is 'safe' for him and it has taken some time for this to start to sink in. I hadn't understood how utterly draining being sleep deprived is, and sitting in a child's bedroom being quiet for hours on end is pretty boring (I fell asleep on the floor more than once) but actually, it hasn't taken too long and (fingers crossed) that investment in time and lack of sleep will mean much better night-times going forward.

I really do hope you find something that works for you both very soon.

Kewcumber Fri 22-Jan-16 12:22:12

DS is 10 he still wakes up once or twice a night and will generally get in with me then - I have learnt to live with it. Though he doesn't wake up crying - if it's before I have gone to bed I just say "I'm not in bed yet, I'll see you later"

I just try to get to bed a little earlier to catch up on my sleep - it's harder at the moment as DS is having a bit of a crisis so there is no way I can do anything except let him as I am his "safe place". I am feeling rather sleep deprived and generally crap at pretty much everything just now!

Sorry that's really not very helpful is it! I just don't think there's a way to make a child sleep once you got the normal sleep hygiene things in place. I can only speak for DS knowing him as well as I do - he needs me because he really does need me (IYSWIM) he genuinely has fears about being alone and they are worse after dark.

I would go to bed at 10 with a tablet and read in bed/play on the internet personally but I don't know what you feel about that.

mybloodykitchen Fri 22-Jan-16 13:39:52

I think what kew said is really true. You can't make a person sleep. Any sleep training is going to be potentially damaging so I would view all those methods with extreme caution.

My bc is the same age as yours. We still co sleep for most of the night, dc doesn't self settle. I'm telling you this because what helps me is to know that this is 'normal' and that it will probably be over fairly soon.

Being sleep deprived is hellish though and you have my sympathy. You also need friends who will listen to you moan about being tired without recommending controlled crying or a variant thereof.

mydutifullaunderette Fri 22-Jan-16 14:00:05

Regrettably, like Kew I have had to make some sort of inner peace (ha!) with the fact that LO continues to have a lot of night-waking. Am also a single parent, also some years post-placement. I go to bed early, it's the only way I'm not even more insane grin I know that LO is waking through fear/anxiety/other powerful emotions. LO would love to be asleep, and is not torturing either themselves or me on purpose. However, it's bloody hard to remember that when you're woken for the third, fourth, fifth time in the same night, and when it's like that most nights. But I try.

Just in case it's any of these things: has anything moved/changed in your LO's room, casting scary shadows or anything? Has the pre-bedtime routine changed at all, in terms of timings or sequence? Is there anything causing you worry that LO might be picking up on? Could it be a delayed reaction to triggers of Christmas? Is there something new at school that's worrying them? I know it's hard to remember, but it is really good that your DD feels she can let her feelings out to you, and that when she turns to you, you will be her safe place. That speaks a lot to the strength of your bond.

What can help a bit is LO being absolutely certain I am checking on them. So, just before 11 when I know they're likely to wake, I go in and stroke their hair and whisper to them that they're safe, they're doing well, and I will be back to check on them a little later. Sometimes they half-wake but just need a bit of cuddling and rocking; sometimes it helps them settle back into deeper sleep in seconds. I do it again a couple of hours later, ideally pre-empting them at usual waking time again, but sometimes I miss that window. In the morning, I make a casual comment about how I checked on them in the night, and they were safely sleeping. I think it helps LO feel they are not on their own, and be a little less scared.

I've also turned my bed around so the long side is against the wall - that way if LO needs to sleep in with me, they can take that side and I can fall asleep without worrying they will fall out! I do, I really do understand that lack of sleep is brutal, especially when we're working while LO's are at school/nursery. Other than reminding you to go gently on yourself, and take care of your own needs wherever you can by resting (even if not actual sleep), I wish I could offer a magic solution but I haven't found one yet. flowers

poppystellar Fri 22-Jan-16 14:24:50

Thank you everyone for your lovely kind comments and reassurances. Good to know I am not alone. I think I was just feeling a bit mental last night (and this morning, and probably most days). I think I will try going back to our old routine of staying with her til she falls asleep whenever she wakes and try to remember that she still needs the same reassurance and sense of safety she needed when she first arrived. It's very easy to forget she is a sensitive little soul dealing with complex issues and feelings when she is so lively and chatty and smiley and confident during the day. Thanks all for helping me remember this.

knittingwithnettles Mon 25-Jan-16 11:30:26

I think a lot more people co-sleep than you might think Poppy - it is not just confined to the toddler years. All three single mothers I knew, one of whom had adopted dc went from child in their own room to pragmatic co-sleeping, because it just worked. I'm not single mother but all our kids have co-slept with us at one point and the most needy slept with us until he was at least 8 years, on and off (I mean getting into bed with us when he woke in small hours) And it was NOT a problem because he slept beautifully then.

I read your post and I can just remember how frightened and scared I used to be in the night as an (unadopted) child at that age, nightmares about trying to find my parents and getting lost in dark corridors. I think it is one of those things that culturally we have forgotten how to do, co-sleep I mean, or share rooms. Have you thought of just making her real bed in your room, rather than just an emergency bed? You could always use her room for extra storage/dressing room. I know that an adoptive friend of mine used to sleep on the floor next to her child's cot, before a year later realising it was so much easier if they just stopped pretending to have separate sleeping spaces.

I posted this because I think there is a lot of secrecy concerning co-sleeping with older children and because my friend who adopted somehow felt it was not allowed for her to co-sleep at the beginning when her child was very small, outside rule book etc, although now it feels like perfect sense.

poppystellar Mon 25-Jan-16 15:11:01

Thanks knittingwithnettles. The comment you make about your 8 year old is very reassuring. Things are better and the 'emergency bed' (a real bed in all but name!) is working for us. Long may it continue smile

mybloodykitchen Mon 25-Jan-16 17:59:47

I would echo the fact that many many more people cosleep 'by stealth' than we realise. I'm a bit of a hippy parent but I know lots of completely 'normal' people who would, after a while 'admit' that their 5/6/7 year old pops into them 'sometimes. Just when they are ill, y'know' and when you get to know them better they 'admit' it's actually most nights from about 1 am smile

And most people around the world cosleep I would imagine. Very few of us on a global scale are really lucky enough to have two rooms or more to sleep in!

Hels20 Mon 25-Jan-16 18:38:01

I completely empathise with how draining it is not getting any sleep. Our adopted DS slept beautifully for the first six months so I was lulled into a false sense of security...then the waking up started to happen.

He still rarely falls asleep without me or DH being with him (the only advantage is we get to read lots of stories to him which I know is good from an educational point of view!) and when he comes down (it was 5 times a night after big changes like starting school) we give him a cuddle and then usually take him back up to his room...but if DH is away - I will let him sleep with me. We too had an amergency bed in our room for a year which sort of worked - but often he would want one of us (usually me) to cuddle him to sleep.

I think it is all about reassurance. He always sleeps brilliantly on holiday because we are all sleeping in the same room.

The only way I cope is by going to bed at 8.30pm...(I don't make it to even 10pm...) because I can't function on lack of sleep. I remember once going to bed at 6.30pm (!!) because I had had no sleep the previous night and I had a blissful 11 hours sleep!)

You are not alone. And eventually it will resolve. Hang in there.

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