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3 year old and sleep PLEASE HELP!

(22 Posts)
LuLuDoLoo Tue 04-Feb-20 05:27:15

Hi. My adopted son has just turned 3 and has been with us since he was 18 months old. His lovely foster carers said that he consistently slept through the night for the 9 months he was with them. He has been with us almost 18 months now and I think he has slept through the night maybe 4 times! He goes to sleep between 6.30pm and 7pm no problem (as long as he doesn't fall asleep in the day - even 5 minutes of sleep in the day and he is awake until 9pm earliest!) but then wakes up around 10pm for a good hour or two, and again for a couple of hours somewhere between 1am - and 4am. EVERY NIGHT!

I feel like we have tried almost everything (short of paying for a sleep consultant which we cant afford). We have had health visitors out, spoken to the post-adoption support team and even the child psychologist within the adoption support team, and they all say we are doing everything right and don't know what to suggest. We have consulted with an OT about sensory issues as well. We both work, and have an 8yo daughter and it is really starting to affect us all. If one more person tells me that is all about having a good routine I may smother them with my unused pillow! LOL.

We have tried room sprays, using my perfume and clothes in his bed, weighted blankets, teddies, kiddie meditation, music, white noise, total blackout, night lights, a memory foam mattress, lavender in his bath, winding down the whole house an hour before bed, magnesium supplements, no late TV, reduced sugar, soothing him, a bit of tough love plus a whole host of other stuff - which sounds like a lot, but this has been over the last 18 months so have given each thing a good few months to work before changing anything. Im at my wits end.

I have considered that he may now feel safe and consequently he is able to start processing his trauma which may be keeping him awake, but Im not sure how to help him with that. He isn't overly upset when he wakes, but he will get frustrated and start to cry out every 15-20 minutes as he seems frustrated he cant sleep. It's like he is waking from a nap and is WIDE awake but knows he should be asleep! He never tries to get out of bed either.

Anyway - if anyone has ANY suggestions, please fire them over. I promise I won't smother you with a pillow!

OP’s posts: |
UKABC Tue 04-Feb-20 06:30:32

Hi. It seems that you are going through a lot with your 3-year. I can really imagine how the lack of sleep is affecting your household, including your daughter. You say that he might be processing his trauma, however he may also just be doing it for attention (i.e. he knows he will get a response from you). It seems that you have tried everything, but have you tried disciplining him when he does this? - explaining to him that it is not appropriate that he cries in the middle of the night and explaining to him that if he does this that you will take away a privilege (e.g. no tv the next day, no chocolate). I’m going to get crucified by others for suggesting this, but it seems that your situation has spiralled out of control.

Sugarfreejelly Tue 04-Feb-20 06:34:42

Have you tried letting him sleep with you - either in your bed or in your room in a different bed?

Spanneroo Tue 04-Feb-20 06:45:45

I was going to suggest co-sleeping or rooming in, too. If it means you all sleep then surely it's worth it. You probably won't need to do it for long, and can reintroduce his own room in a couple of months once his sleep is back where it should be.

jellycatspyjamas Tue 04-Feb-20 07:32:40

You sound knackered. I’m not sure I have any useful suggestions - my two slept well initially but now can be up and down though not to the extent your two are.

One thing that saves my sanity is ever few months my DH or I will book a room in a local premier inn type place and get a good nights sleep. It means the other deals with the kids overnight but you do feel better just for getting some rest. Might be worth thinking about as a temporary respite for you and your partner.

jellycatspyjamas Tue 04-Feb-20 07:40:05

I have considered that he may now feel safe and consequently he is able to start processing his trauma which may be keeping him awake
He doesn’t sound like a child who feels safe tbh, and it sounds like he’s never slept really since he moved to you. I don’t say that to be mean but it may be you need to spend time really working on attachment - maybe doing theraplay exercises with him, hide and seek type games, and talking him through his routine etc. All the “external” stuff won’t help if he’s feeling anxious in himself. Do you know what bedtime was like pre-foster care - if that was a traumatic time for him he may really struggle with nighttime.

Poor soul, you sound worn out.

Clarabeau78 Tue 04-Feb-20 07:42:19

Our stories are almost identical so here is what we have done not saying its right but it has worked for us.
We co slept for about 8 weeks and we had lovely sleep 😊 he had no problem at all so I thought sleep is not the problem it's the in own bed. We integrate him slowly into bed with a reward so after sleeping a few nights he could have a reward then a few more nights and repeat extending amount of time to the point he now does it naturally and the reward stopped.
If he does wake up and is naughty and we have had some epic meltdown he looses something. He loves playing with hubby in morning b4 my hubby works so if he continues waking up we say daddy too tired coz u woke him up so he can't play which he doesn't like and 9 out of 10 times works so he generally stops shouting for daddy. If he then has no energy next day or tired I explain that because he did what he did etc we can't do that today which again he hates and don't get me wrong we have tears anger the lot but I persevere and reiterate how it was his silly bedtime that has stopped him having this day and again we might have it a couple of days but he does understand the importance of sleep = what he can do the next day.
We have had times when we had to repeat and start over but each time in our bed less and less.
He has a gro clock which he has used time and time again but since b4 christmas it works he wakes up maybe for a drink occasionally comes in we repeat night night see u in morning and goes back. If he has one star at 6 he can play or read in his room and at 7 Sun out he can wake us up this has worked really well.
We explain importance of sleep for all of us and he is logical child asks lots of questions so like the science behind sleep which helps.
I will say he was 4 at Christmas and this has probably worked since about summer so 3.5 so a bit older than your little one so he might not understand as well.
I hope this has given you some hope and maybe some light at end of tunnel.
Best of luck.

tldr Tue 04-Feb-20 09:24:36

Does he have something to do in his bed? My LO used to be awake for a couple of hours between midnight and 2 every night but he’d lie in bed in the dark just playing. (We could hear him singing with the teddies or doing the ‘bang zoom ooof’ thing with action figures.)

He was great at going to bed at bedtime too. Straight out. At the time I remember reading that having two sleeps in one night isn’t uncommon so I didn’t worry about it too much (which was easy because it was usually contented babbling and only occasional crying).

He only had a plug in night light to see by. Eventually he stopped.

Hang in there - I know it’s tough when you’re short of sleep. 💐

Kyriesmum1 Tue 04-Feb-20 09:26:43

A lot of our foster children struggle with sleep. Can you ask the health visitor if they are running any sleep programme courses in your areas?

We do the sleep programme for all our foster children and they are usually sleeping better 2-3 weeks into the programme.

Happy to give you some tips if needed? Xx

Jannt86 Tue 04-Feb-20 10:33:47

We are having similar issues with our LO. Angel sleeping when she first came then at 18MO suddenly decided 'I don't like sleep any more and I definitely don't like sleep in my own bed' grin we are managing to get her off to sleep in her own ed and if she wakes early in the night we can get her back to sleep quite easily but if it's later in the night I'm afraid she just comes in bed with us. It's just not worth the battle and my number one priority is her comfort and trust in us. We've just ordered a superking bed so that should tell you all you need to know grin What works for us if we're getting her to sleep in her own bed is being consistent with bedtime and wakeup and minimal interaction once lights are out. A hand on the chest and no talking. Our LO responds well to this. It can be a nightmare in the middle of the night (ours has had us up 4 hours a couple of times) but just stay consistent with dark lights and no talking and it should get better. Have a drink lf water available too if you don't and do a quick nappy change/toilet break but don't get sucked into 'games' with this. A lot of people recommend weighted blankets too although we haven't tried this yet. Good luck xx

sunshineandskyscrapers Tue 04-Feb-20 17:34:58

Do you feel like your son is getting enough sleep in total? Does he actually seem tired during the day? Night waking in little children isn't necessarily a sleep problem in and of itself. It becomes a problem when it disturbs others (and clearly it does in your case) and if it's causing the child not to get enough sleep.

I've always tried to separate out those issues so priority 1 is that the child needs to get enough sleep, priority 2 is that the adults get enough sleep and last priority is that the sleep happens at socially acceptable times.

He might be waking up because he goes to bed so tired. Could that be a possibility? If he's actually tired I'd reintroduce a nap. I know you said he'd be awake until 9 but might be worth a shot if it then gives you a restful night. My son at three and a half slept 9-6 at night and then 2-4 in the afternoon. It goes against what many people think is right for that age but it's still a routine, everyone got enough sleep, and it worked for us.

Moving onto priority 2, my son (he's now 4) has a whole range of cuddlies in his bed and also a couple of light up lullaby type things that he can access himself. He's also allowed to look at books with a soft light but not the room light. He knows that if he says mummy I'll come (no screaming needed. We still have a monitor), but he also knows that when I come it will only be for a short hug and a quick reminder to sleep or play quietly. Like others have said, the messaging here needs to be short, consistent and as boring as possible.

The only other bit of advice is that old newborn nugget of sleep when he's sleeping. I found having an earlier bedtime for myself even if it was just the odd night when I was really done in did me the world of good even if I had to get up in the night. Nap times are not just for kids either.

Mumtolittlesausage Tue 04-Feb-20 19:14:22

Our health visitor suggested carbs just before bed to ensure hes full and sleeps well. Maybe a slice of toast before bed. I know it sounds like a silly little bit of advice but you sound like you've tried everything else so I'm sure this wont hurt. Fingers crossed he starts sleeping soon xx

Strugglingmum73 Tue 04-Feb-20 20:13:03

Co sleeping is the only thing that worked here.

clairedelalune Wed 05-Feb-20 19:58:22

I'm suggesting cosleeping too... mine used to get up every hour on hour until I went to bed then would toddle in. Started putting down in my room and slept through... it's the knowing that's where you will eventually be. Being on their own for 12 hours is a LONG time. I doubt any professional would recommend it, but fir many it works

Jannt86 Wed 05-Feb-20 20:54:39

Hurray for co-sleeping! I'm literally just lying on my new superking bed and hybrid mattress that hubby has spent all evening putting together... I don't even care if 10 toddlers crawl into here. It's still going to be bliss.... goodnight everyone grin

Sugarfreejelly Wed 05-Feb-20 21:34:47

We bought a super king for this reason too! I know not everyone has the space but it makes co-sleeping so much more comfortable!

PoppyStellar Wed 05-Feb-20 21:47:20

Another vote for co sleeping. It was the only thing that worked after trying EVERYTHING else.

I'm not very good at sharing, I like my bed to myself too much so my version of co sleeping is an extra bed for LO who is not so little now right next to mine in my room

wheelsfellofflongago Wed 05-Feb-20 22:16:27

Kid try a later bedtime maybe 8pm

Play with him in room / books etc from 7pm with a red light emitting light .. you can get ones that then dim when you do the sleep routine. Red light is less stimulating so they say.

My son did the same not adopted though, I feel your pain he was always 2-4am up every-night. Maybe the above fixed him or he just grew out it!?

Where is he when you work, could that be the issue ? He just wants dedicated time with one of you. I found that in the night it's one-to-one, no wait a minute whilst I pop the washing on or make a phone call. That's why proper play before bed helps ( I think)

FairyBatman Thu 06-Feb-20 20:29:39

Hi, another vote for cosleeping. Also, you probably have but have to tried later bed, earlier bed, bring back the nap?

LovelyMamaof2 Thu 13-Feb-20 11:00:05

My son was never a good sleeper since being born so at the age of 3 I made my son stop napping which made him sleep soundly for 11 hours at night. I hope that could work for you

Jannt86 Thu 13-Feb-20 11:49:20

ITO bed times we're finding that about 19:30-19:45 is about optimal currently and are sticking to that. Any earlier and she's off the rails and takes forever to fall asleep coz she's not tired enough and also more likely to wake in the middle of the night, any later and she still seems to need the same amount of 'dicking about' time before she falls asleep and sometimes goes a bit overtired and hyper. Our next thing we're going to try is dimmed lights in the living room and bedroom whilst she has stories and wind down time. Not tried yet as it requires dimmer switches on the lights really.Good luck xx

2mums1son Thu 13-Feb-20 21:27:00

Have you tried the Sleepy Sounds app on iPad? Our son (now nearly 6) finds it really helps sleep. He has it for 1 hour usually, but if he’s unsettled we leave it on all night and it seems to work!

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