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No sleep for over a year

(56 Posts)
HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 10:38:05

Apologies for the long post but man desperately seeking help please!

We have two girls - 3.5 yrs and 9 months, both absolutely brilliant happy girls but have a huge problem with the 3 year old at night. She's a dream during the day and excellent with her little sister but I've now not had more than about 4 hours' sleep in a night for the last 13 months and probably only a 2 hour stretch at a time max which is really taking its toll, moreso as I have a demanding job and can't be functioning at 100% there as a result of this either! Prior to this (early last summer would being the last time she slept through) we've had patches of say 6 weeks where she's slept through but to be honest she's never been the best (colic as a baby, big operation when she was 1 plus the usual regular colds, teething etc!).

My wonderful wife has her hands full with the baby so I've been looking after the toddler at night but over a year is now getting ridiculous! She and the little one have moved in with my parents this week while I try and crack it as otherwise the 3yo wakes the baby all night and then it's all 4 of us walking around like zombies the next day. We tried this last month and they moved out for about 3 weeks but had no joy.

The problem isn't that I have to sit in with her, or sleep with her or even getting her to sleep - it's that she just regularly wakes and wants to know I'm there (sat outside her door). Trying to break it this week has been a nightmare, I've been letting her cry when she wakes for 2 mins, then checking on her, then 4, 6, 8 etc. but she's been scaling the stairgate so I've had to rush up while she's on top of it so that she doesn't fall off and down the stairs. The next day I bought a big 4 foot high dog gate, she was then getting boxes, stools, the rocking caterpillar thing - anything to help her climb up and over. The next day my wife emptied virtually everything out of her room so last night she got piles and piles of clothes emptying all her drawers to make a clothes mountain to climb up to try and get out - it's ridiculous (though would make a good comedy sketch!). Anyway, she's black and blue all over her knees and chin from climbing up it which is heartbreaking and this method doesn't seem to have any positive effect other than risking injury and even less sleep than if I sit outside her door or sleep on the floor in her room.

Has anyone here been through anything like this and have any advice on getting her to sleep well at night? If I'm at the bottom of the stairs and call up she seems to be happy with that as she knows I'm there - she doesn't seem to need to see me - but obviously I can't be doing that when wife and baby are home...

Thanks in advance, willing to try anything!

SecretSpy Thu 18-Aug-16 10:44:04

I'm not sure that crying it out or trapping her in her room are really suitable for toddlers hmm

It sounds like there's some separation anxiety and she needs the reassurance that you are there to get back to sleep.

Is she in nappies at night or dry? If she's out of nappies she really needs to be able to go to the toilet at the very least, put the gate on the top of the stairs instead of the bedroom door if you are worried about falls.

I'd consider putting her a mattress next to your bed.Or next to her bed for a parent to sleep on. Most young children start to sleep through eventually, I'd prioritise sleep first and sort out the 'where everyone sleeps' bit later.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 10:55:37

Thanks for the reply. She's in a nappy at night - putting the gate at the top of the stairs would be a big worry as then as soon as she's over it she'd be tumbling straight down them. At least with it on her door there's a bit of landing for her to fall on first.

I've been sleeping on her floor on a mattress for many months now which is what I'm trying to break - sorry, re-reading my post I didn't make that bit clear...

53rdAndBird Thu 18-Aug-16 10:58:43

What's she doing when she wakes up and you're sleeping next to her? Does she wake you every time she wakes? Does she want reassurance from you or is she just noisy and that's what's waking you?

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 11:00:27

She wakes and will lie on me or say Daddy or put her hand out to find me until she knows I'm there.

It's when I'm not in the room that she gets up and shouts for me until I come up.

53rdAndBird Thu 18-Aug-16 11:24:10

You must be exhausted.

Slightly off-the-wall suggestion: can you get a video monitor and have it work the other way round, so she can see you downstairs? I have seriously considered doing this with my own awful-sleeping toddler (our video monitor works on an old iPod). Obviously you don't want her to have a birds-eye view of your bedroom all night, but might help with the transition?

Otherwise, the only things that have helped turn my horrendous sleeper into a slightly-less-horrendous sleeper have been doing tiny tiny baby steps so she doesn't panic and scream the house down. So, "I'll come in and reassure you, but you can't come out of your bed into mine" for the first part of the night, and slowly push back that time until midnight, then 1am, then 2am, etc.

Sympathies - it's awful.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 12:40:23

Thanks, the video monitor idea isn't a bad one, just trying to think how it could be implemented. If I just used one the other way round she'd hear every move we made downstairs and if we muted it then wouldnt be able to talk back / reassure her which I think she would need! What we need is a two way monitor with video that one end can be muted...

InsaneDame Thu 18-Aug-16 15:12:00

Can't you just tell her at bedtime that you are only sleeping in the next room and if she wakes and calls you just shout out to her that you are there and to go to sleep? Does she have her door open? Another option would be the door shutting technique combined with a reward chart.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 15:34:27

Yes that's what I've been doing and it works but can't do that constantly when the baby is back as she'll be woken every time which is a lot!

She usually has fallen asleep on the sofa with her milk by the time I get home from work as she's so exhausted so I carry her up to bed asleep and shut her door. She'll then usually wake up for the first time at about 8:30pm at which point she'll get up and open the door and I then can't close it again while she's awake without all hell breaking loose.

I haven't heard of the door shutting technique so will have a Google now, we have done a reward chart but there's really no reasoning with her in the night regardless of promises of treats/rewards the next day...

She completely understands what she's doing to the point where she'll discuss with Grandma or anyone else that she's being naughty at night.

Thanks for the replies so far.

InsaneDame Thu 18-Aug-16 15:36:59

Also, this 'regression' seems to tie in with the latter stages of your wife's pregnancy and the birth of dd2 so I expect a large amount of it is separation anxiety/lack of one to one time so she is 'reconnecting' in the nights. Does she nap still?

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 15:37:59

I've bought some walkie talkies so will give those a go tonight!

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 15:39:40

You're right, it started when she was around 6 months pregnant. She doesn't still have a nap in the day, that was dropped about 3 months ago.

Would it still be separation anxiety this far on from the little one being born? She's always got on with her well and been a great older sister.

Thattimeofyearagain Thu 18-Aug-16 15:40:06

Sympathies to you all. My ds was an awful sleeper for nearly 2.5 years ( no longer than 1:5 hours at a stretch, at least an hour to settle) .
Do you have a nhs sleep clinic your hv could refer you to? It saved our sanity!

Jennywallpaper Thu 18-Aug-16 15:46:20

Have you tried putting her to sleep in her bed instead of carrying her up when she's already asleep? Maybe that's confusing her as she's feel asleep down stairs and then woken up in her bed. We did this with my son and it took awhile but he sleeps through all night now, we take him up read him a story and then he falls asleep himself. If he wakes up he just gets put back into bed. We also have a new baby so we had to stick to put him back to his bed so he wouldn't waken her. Good luck I know how hard it is when they are crying for you!! smile

InsaneDame Thu 18-Aug-16 15:46:22

I expect what was separation anxiety to begin with has evolved into habit but she obviously enjoys the interaction with you at night especially since she doesn't see you all day. Our baby monitor has a 'talk' option - you press a button and talk down it like you would a walkie talkie. Things will get easier over time - this is from the mother of two non-sleepers! (Eldest was perfect from 4yo, still struggling on with 2.5yo!).

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 15:50:33

Thank you. I will find out if we have a sleep clinic locally. The carrying her up already asleep is probably 50% of the time, the other 50% if I put her in I need to stay within earshot, either sat outside her door or in our bedroom so she can still call out to check I'm there before dropping off

LMGTFY Thu 18-Aug-16 15:52:09

Oh op I feel your pain, we were zombies for so long it nearly broke us. I would suggest taking the gate off her door and making sure she can access your room at night, explain to her where you will be, show her how to find you and wake you very gently if it's an emergency as you are very very tired. Make her a reward chart with a target of something she really wants/wants to do if she gets up less than x times or or stays in bed for x hours/nights. Keep a steady routine every night before bed and stick to your guns returning her to bed silently each time she gets up. I hope this passes soon, dh and I slept in shifts with ds2 he was so bad.

AlexandraEiffel Thu 18-Aug-16 15:52:12

I'd go about it the opposite way. She's waking up and worrying you're not there, and you're not, so her fears are confirmed. I'd focus on reassuring her you are there so her fear dissipates.

I have children the same ages. I lie with the older one to sleep. If he wakes in the night he comes in with us. Sometimes my husband will take him back to his bed and sleep with him there. Plenty of musical beds, but he's never left alone if he doesn't want to be. We all get sleep, just in different locations and combinations. When he wakes, it's never prolonged as he gets immediate reassurance so we all just go back to sleep. He often climbs in with us without anyone noticing. He'll grow out of it. My view is let them do it when they need to, then they'll not need to as they've never has to doubt it. Why battle to get them to do something they're maybe not ready for? Sounds like a lot of hard work to me.

oldlaundbooth Thu 18-Aug-16 15:58:15

'I've been sleeping on her floor on a mattress for many months now which is what I'm trying to break'

This is contributing to her not feeling safe at night and wanting to know you are there. If you keep doing this, she picks up on the fact that you are protecting her form something - which is understandable really.

Next time you put her to bed, calmly but firmly tell her that you are downstairs. She sleeps in her bed, Daddy sleeps in his.

Do not sleep on a mattress next to your child!

If she gets up and crys, take her back to bed and repeat the message more forcefully - 'Sleep time now. Don't get out of bed, it's night time'.

DS has tried this a couple of times and it might be against the grain but a bit of a bollocking and he's asleep two minutes later.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 16:01:29

Well I guess the reason being that I've done it that way for over a year continuously now (and intermittently before that) and she simply hasn't grown out of it, the softly softly approach has done us no favours at all (whereas everyone I've known who took a harder line early on has none of these problems).

Where do you draw the line and stop? It may sound a bit selfish but we're effectively prisoners in the house and have been for a long time. We can't even get as far as having a meal in the house together let alone go out for one.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 16:04:20

oldlaundbooth that's exactly what I've been doing recently with no success, 3 weeks of it last month...

melonribena Thu 18-Aug-16 16:08:53

My ds is just 4 and very like this. He wakes 2/3 times a night and just hates being by himself.

My tips that have helped us...
1- stay with your dd while she goes to sleep in bed but make it clear that once she's asleep, u r leaving to go downstairs, but there's nothing to worry about as you will hear her if she calls.
We found that ds went to sleep secure and slept longer as he knew we were there if needed.
If she dozes off on the sofa and is transported to bed, she will wake up in a different place and may worry where u r.

2- when she wakes, go in, settle her and reassure her but make it clear u will leave when she's asleep but will come back if she needs.

3- I did this for a few nights, reassuring and settling, no crying but making clear I was going back to my bed but would come back if needed.
After a few nights he just stopped needing me as he knew he could have me if he needed, iyswim?

She clearly needs reassurance when she wakes, give it to her but under your terms

AlexandraEiffel Thu 18-Aug-16 16:13:25

Personally I don't draw the line. I'll let my son draw it when he's ready. But then I'm not bothered about going out so it makes no odds to me. And I like snuggling up together.

I do believe though that if you let them do it when they need, the need dissipates. Me drawing a line wouldn't remove the need, and would just create a battle which I don't see the need for. I remember as a child being scared of the dark, seeking reassurance and not getting it. I was scared of the dark until my late 30s. The need didn't go away by ignoring it.

But obviously not everyone thinks the same, nor are all children the same.

I know of plenty of people who take different approaches, who also have problems. And I'm sure you do too. People aren't always entirely honest.

HollyMaingate Thu 18-Aug-16 16:26:12

I agree they're all different and thank you - it just doesn't seem to be the answer for her unfortunately.

Melonribena this is exactly the method I was doing last month - surely we should have seen some progress after 3 weeks? She knows that I'm on hand, if she shouts out while I'm in bed I call back and reassure her and I don't need to go up each time - the problem is I can't do this with the baby there and I would like them both back home with us at some point.....

GraceGrape Thu 18-Aug-16 16:36:40

I too have a 3 year old who isn't a very good sleeper. I'm afraid the only thing that works for us is for DH to sleep in the spare room and for her to come into bed with me when she wakes. At least that way everyone gets to sleep. She used to come in about midnight but has gradually stretched until about 5am. Do you have a way of rearranging the sleeping arrangements?

Also, how well does the baby sleep? If ok, then maybe you and your wife should take turns with the 3 year old. Otherwise you could end up getting really frustrated and resentful.

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