My children have never slept and it’s tearing us apart. Please help.

(156 Posts)
2020in2020 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:15:21

Another night of tears and shouting. We have 2 DD’s aged 7 and 4 - yes, that’s 7 and 4 years old. Neither has ever reliably slept through the night and it has now got to the point where I start to physically shake at the onset of bedtime routine as it causes so much anxiety.

We have tried everything. They co-slept at birth, in cot at 6 months. Controlled crying, gradual retreat, gro-clock, god knows how many night lights, reward charts, bribery, punishment, moving them in together, moving them back apart, redecorating bedrooms, new beds... literally everything.

They both struggle to fall asleep. The 4 year old has to have someone with her but she can take up to an hour to fall asleep, and always wakes in the night and either comes to us or I go to her bed.

The 7 year old can read herself to sleep and has slept through occasionally but it never lasts and recently she’s started claiming she can’t fall asleep.

It’s making all 4 of us absolutely miserable. I can’t seem to find anything UK based about older children not sleeping and sleep training has not worked. Believe me I have tried. We absolutely can not afford a private sleep consultant and I’m not convinced it would work. Does anyone know if I went to the GP they could give me anything? I spend most nights in tears and as I write this my husband is crying with my 7 year old as they had a huge argument as we actually came to bed early and she woke us up. I honestly can’t cope with this anymore.

OP’s posts: |
Inpeace Sun 03-Jan-21 21:22:12

Sleep is a huge issue and I sympathise totally

I would say take all the easy options you need to get through this as the children will eventually seek their own space.

I remember a friend buying the biggest bed she could find and simply her kids sleep
In with her and her husband so they could all sleep.

knitpicker Sun 03-Jan-21 21:25:05

I have heard of Melatonin being prescribed- worth a try. I feel for you - my eldest never slept

2020in2020 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:27:46

Thank you for replying. We just don’t have the space for a bed big enough. Plus I think it is co sleeping which has caused the issues. I could cope with the sleeping with us in the night, if they would only go to sleep by themselves. We get zero time as a couple to ourselves, I’m studying part time for a degree and falling behind because I spend every evening upstairs trying to get them to sleep then I have to go to bed myself to make sure I get enough sleep as I know they will be up and in my bed in a few hours. I do appreciate the reply though x

OP’s posts: |
2020in2020 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:30:50

Thank you knitpicker, I’ve heard of it too but it seems to only be for children with conditions such as ADHD. I am going to call my doctor in the morning, she is lovely and aware of my mental health issues so I am going to say not only am I worried for my children’s health and development - which I am, they always have dark circles and are frequently grumpy - it’s also adding to my own issues. I wish there was a magic wand. My 4 year old is now snuggled in bed with me and I love her so much but I just can’t keep doing this.

OP’s posts: |
sausagepastapot Sun 03-Jan-21 21:31:39

NEOM sleep spray is brilliant, the range includes a reed diffuser, sleepy lotion, sleepy candle and the whole shebang, try that?

I bought a heat up lavender face mask from Amazon, its amazing and my 7yo loves it.

Lavender plug ins, malted milk drinks for them both?

Lush sleepy cream is very good.

A light/lamp/torch they can switch on themselves if they wake up and a pile of books or a diary they are allowed to write in if they wake up

GalOopNorth Sun 03-Jan-21 21:32:27

A weighted blanket really helped my DS.

You can get them for about £30

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DaanSaaf Sun 03-Jan-21 21:32:35

Will they sleep with each other?

BlueCookieMonster Sun 03-Jan-21 21:33:06

What about gradual retreat, or just sitting with them until they fall asleep.

You have my sympathy, my children take ages to get to sleep. Fortunately (or unfortunately) one of us works shifts and the other at home, so we tend to get our couples time during the school day.

Do they chat to you when you’re with them? We’ve made our presence with the kids a silent time, if they talk we leave. I did a lot of my own degree on the bedroom floor of my kids room, you have my absolute sympathy.

AIMD Sun 03-Jan-21 21:35:41

Ah that sounds awful. I struggled through the baby years with little sleep and a reason I won’t have a third child is only due to lack of sleep. Luckily mine are 4 and 6 now and sleep ok.

Is there anyone who can help with bedtime. Someone like an aunt or grandparent to give you some respite and maybe to try settling them? You sound at breaking point.

Do they have nighttime anxiety, maybe some techniques aimed at lowers anxiety might help. Sometimes the reward type techniques can make anxiety worse.

If you think it might be that I found some info on hey Sigmund Facebook page helpful.

LaTomatina Sun 03-Jan-21 21:36:16

Oh this sounds rough. I guess you've tried stuff like sticker charts and straightforward bribery... A sticker on the sticker chart every night they go to bed without a fuss, a small treat of their choosing after 7 consecutive stickers, a larger treat for 3 weeks....?

CatherinedeBourgh Sun 03-Jan-21 21:36:33

My dc were like this, I just took a laptop to their room and sat ontheir bed doing my work until they fell asleep. Took hours, but was quite nice in the end, and not lost time for me.

PearlescentIridescent Sun 03-Jan-21 21:37:14

Oh OP I'm so sorry that sounds awful. I have no experience of this but is there any way a new pre bed time routine could be introduced with militant precision? I'm wondering if the psychosematic effect of say a magic lavender bath could convince your older DC that it's effective?

For now, is there any way you and DP could sleep in shifts? A bit different because we have a baby and toddler and 5 year old so wake ups are inevitable, but I go to bed very early while dp deals with any night wakeups. Then I feel refreshed even when woken in the early hours as I've had a good 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I then do all the morning stuff and give DP a bit of a lay in. And even if you both have to be up at similar times, could you perhaps alternate nights so one of you deals with them all night but the other gets a good night's rest. If you are all not sleeping at least this way one of you gets a full night every other night? You'd need to go hard core to make it work - ear plugs, eye mask and possibly even setting up in the furthest room possible away from the DC.

But anything to give you and your partner respite must be worth it at this point

Serenschintte Sun 03-Jan-21 21:37:33

That sounds really really hard. I think it probably is time to talk to the Gp.
The other thing I wondered was: you have listed a lot of methods that you have used - how long did you try each one for? At least 10 days to two weeks I would suggest before it decided between you and DH that is isn’t working.
I have to say for older children I like the Jo Frost method - it’s minimum attention and your girls are old enough to understand that night time means sleep.
Lastly are they tired enough at night - by that I mean - no screens (at all including tv) an hour before bed, a bath and calm wind down routine with a calm story and dim lights, trip to the toilet. maybe a warm drink - but not of they then wake in the night to wee. A set bedtime - probably a little later for your 6yo. It needs to be consistent and routine so they know it comes before and signals sleep time.
During the day some form of physical exercise- a walk, trip to the park, scooter ride/playing outside in the garden. To tired them out.
www.jofrost.com/importance-sleep/

Sunshinegirl82 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:37:43

My 4 year old DS still needs someone with him to fall asleep and often takes ages. DS2 is only 20 months and co sleeps from first wake. It's tough going and I really sympathise.

I'd say that I'd focus on what it is you actually want to achieve. Obviously in an ideal world they'd be asleep but if what you actually want is time with your DH would you settle for them being in their rooms reading/playing quietly? If so maybe focus on trying to achieve that? Take the pressure off for them to actually go to sleep?

I have trouble falling asleep and use podcasts/audio books to listen to as I drop off. Might that work for your older DD?

Paperyfish Sun 03-Jan-21 21:39:00

I was prescribed melatonin for my nt non sleeper. Was 2014- so guess might have changed rules- but worth an ask.

Noti23 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:39:19

I would start enforcing a rule that even if they can’t sleep they must stay in their bedrooms between so and so hours. Tell them they can read or colour, do quiet activities- as long as they sit in bed. Leave a lamp on but not the main light. It will take a while for them to listen but stick to your guns and keep putting them back in their room. At this point the most important thing is that you and your do get some rest x

nyenc Sun 03-Jan-21 21:40:22

OP, your youngest is 4 years old. You can still access HV support (until she is 5)

I would call the office in the morning and see what support they can offer. You could mention you also have similar troubles with you older one and don't want youngest to go the same way. See what they say and you could always see if whatever you learn can be used for the 7 year old too.

LittlePearl Sun 03-Jan-21 21:40:31

We had a lot of problems with our youngest and in the end we just kept an old mattress on the floor in our bedroom and he would just come in half way through the night and settle on it.

Not ideal but it stopped the conflict and meant our sleep was less disturbed. It wasn't long before he stopped coming in at all.

Andi2020 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:41:21

What about walking and excercise does it help

Wallywobbles Sun 03-Jan-21 21:41:34

My eldest had audiobooks all night. I am a terrible sleeper from a family of terrible sleepers.

My view is as long as they rest and leave you alone forget the rest. The only rule is they leave you alone. They can read to sleep until midnight if necessary or listen to audiobooks all night but unless they are sick they are not ever to come to you.

It's an alternative view that should help your sanity and alter the family dynamics. I'd also not be telling anyone who is likely to judge.

My psychiatrist recommended locking them in their rooms but I wasn't ok with that.

Good luck.

2020in2020 Sun 03-Jan-21 21:41:44

I’ll have a look into the NEOM stuff and weighted blankets, and try a lavender scent in the room. We tried lush sleepy cream and it didn’t work, made them smell lovely though!

We have let them sleep together in the past but they still needed me to sit with them and one or the other always wakes up. I’ve told the 7 year old she can read if she can’t sleep but she just cries and won’t do it.

Yep I do tell them they aren’t to talk and if they start talking/fidgeting/messing around I leave.

The thing is they honestly don’t seem to care. I’ve been nice, I’ve sympathised, I’ve tried to be gentle, I’ve been firm, and then in more recent times I’m ashamed to say I have really lost my rag and both shouted and sobbed at them.

I feel I have utterly failed them, as babies I felt confident having them close to me as they slept was the right thing to do but now I feel as if I’ve set them up for a lifetime of poor sleep associations. All my friends and relatives children and babies sleep. How have I got this so wrong and fucked up to this point. It’s not normal. I feel like a totally shit mother. I was only good at this when they were babies.

OP’s posts: |
Fancycrackers Sun 03-Jan-21 21:42:53

This sounds tough OP sorry.

Just a few thoughts but what is their diet like and are they full enough before bed time?
Also recommend lavender spray as part of their bedtime.

Horehound Sun 03-Jan-21 21:42:57

I agree with a pp in that it seems like you've tried so many things but are you giving up on then too quickly?

It sounds horrific but you need to stick to one and try it for like a month. Do not give in

Yogaposer Sun 03-Jan-21 21:43:03

Oh OP you have my complete sympathy. My eldest was a very poor sleeper, she didn't start sleeping through until age 4, the toll on my mental health and marriage was horrendous.
No advice as such, shes 7 now and sometimes still wakes up.

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