Talk

Advanced search

who has the sleep problem - my toddler or my husband?

(24 Posts)
tigermoth Tue 19-Nov-02 12:19:01

toddler: a 3 year old who is hard to settle, but will go down by 9.30 if he's had no day naps, lots of exercise and is allowed to fall asleep in the 'big bed'. Once asleep is moved to his own room.

50/50 chance of sleeping through till 8.00 am approx. Other nights wakes up once, usually at 3.00 am. Wants a drink or a nappy change. Comes to see us in bed, is tended to and moved back to his own bed PDQ. Falls asleep in minutes.

Once a week or so, has a bad night - wakes up two or three times, but always quick to sleep again.

Me - tend to ds, then fall alseep in minutes too.

Husband - light and fitful sleeper, wakes up every night at 3.30am. Seethes with rage seeing me asleep so peacefully. Even if ds does not wake up, dh automatically wakes in anticipation. Then he can't get back to sleep for the rest of the night. He is lucky at the moment because he works his own hours, so can sometimes catch up on some sleep during the day. But he's hoping to start a new job with regular hours and is really worried about his sleep patten.

He thinks the toddler is at fault. If he was sleeping through every night, dh says he could then break the waking up at 3.30 habit. I can see this, but I also think the toddler's sleep patten is OK and improving gradually - even his settling at night. The settling at night doesn't affect dh anyway since dh doesnt go to be till 12.00 pm usually. Dh won't move out of our bedroom temporarily, says it wouldn't help anyway, since he can hear ds getting up anywhere in the house. He's tried sleeping pills and herbal remedies like nytol - they knock him out for an hour then he wakes up again.

He looked askance when I mentioned more exercise during the day. In fact anything I suggest goes down like a lead balloon because 'you sleep at the drop of a hat so how could you possibly UNDERSTAND what it's like' etc etc.

Bad news for my dh, I saw our GP this morning and he thinks the problem lies with my husband, too.

Any suggestions welcome.

Java Tue 19-Nov-02 12:26:35

It's yout husband definitely - mine can fall asleep when I'm talking to him in bed.

SoupDragon Tue 19-Nov-02 12:32:43

I think the problem's not with the toddler too...

Can you let your son have a non-spill beaker of water by his bed? May remove one of the main reasons to come and see you at 3am. Make out that it's a really big honour to be allowed to help himself to his own drink of water.

I do sympathise with your DH though - I have problems dropping back off to sleep if I wake in the night too. Now I try not to worry about it and use relaxation techniques I learnt when having hypnotherapy prior to DS2s birth (walking down steps to a beautiful beach, getting more relaxed with each step down)

Not sure how you're going to help him if he won't listen to you though. Just concentrate on "curing" your toddler's waking habits.

Good luck

aloha Tue 19-Nov-02 12:34:24

Hmm. Personally, I'd find it very hard to be woken every night by a three year old, BUT if it isn't your ds waking your dh, I don't see how he can take the blame. And it isn't his fault your dh isn't going back to sleep. And your dh won't accept any suggestions, which isn't very helpful either. Does your dh drink coffee or alcohol in the evening? Does he exercise during the day? These may be causing fitful sleep. Also, the daytime catching up will play havoc with your dh's sleep cycles, ironically. He will have to stop the daytime sleep if he wants to sleep more deeply at night. Sleep specialists recommend only going to bed when very tired and waking up at the same time every morning - roughly six or seven hours after the bedtime - as a good cure for insomnia. So if your dh goes to bed at midnight, he should be up by 7am at the latest every day, and not sleeping during the day no matter how much sleep he lost at night. This has been shown to be very effective at quickly (within a week) promoting longer, deeper, less fitful sleep in studies (guess who wrote a feature about sleep recently!). The bottom line is, your dh isn't three and IMO needs to take responsibility for his own sleep. BTW If you did want to encourage your ds to sleep through more regularly, I personally would probably drop the night time drink cold -turkey for your ds as he will be waking for it out of habit.

aloha Tue 19-Nov-02 13:03:11

Hmm. Personally, I'd find it very hard to be woken every night by a three year old, BUT if it isn't your ds waking your dh, I don't see how he can take the blame. And it isn't his fault your dh isn't going back to sleep. And your dh won't accept any suggestions, which isn't very helpful either. Does your dh drink coffee or alcohol in the evening? Does he exercise during the day? These may be causing fitful sleep. Also, the daytime catching up will play havoc with your dh's sleep cycles, ironically. He will have to stop the daytime sleep if he wants to sleep more deeply at night. Sleep specialists recommend only going to bed when very tired and waking up at the same time every morning - roughly six or seven hours after the bedtime - as a good cure for insomnia. So if your dh goes to bed at midnight, he should be up by 7am at the latest every day, and not sleeping during the day no matter how much sleep he lost at night. This has been shown to be very effective at quickly (within a week) promoting longer, deeper, less fitful sleep in studies (guess who wrote a feature about sleep recently!). The bottom line is, your dh isn't three and IMO needs to take responsibility for his own sleep. BTW If you did want to encourage your ds to sleep through more regularly, I personally would probably drop the night time drink cold -turkey for your ds as he will be waking for it out of habit.

elliott Tue 19-Nov-02 13:06:46

Hmmm, well I'm afraid my sympathies lie mainly with DH, as the poorer sleeper in our relationship too!! I must admit if it were me and a 3 year old, I would be trying almost anything to help him to sleep through the night as I would find it hard to cope with that kind of disturbance long term, whereas for you it isn't a problem. This issue of mismatch between partners sleeping habits has come up in a number of threads and often seems to cause conflict.

Aloha's suggestions are obviously sound ones, but frankly I wouldn't feel very motivated to try them if I knew I was going to be disturbed every other night anyway. The only other thing I can suggest is ear plugs - but dh would probably need to be in another room as well to avoid disturbance.
But the other thing that crosses my mind is whether dh is a bit stressed/depressed - can cause early morning wakening - he seems to have major changes on re work - could these be contributing to his poor sleep?

Tillysmummy Tue 19-Nov-02 13:37:19

I can't be of much help as the heavy sleeper in the relationship but I know dh is often woken by dd crying out in her sleep and then he can't get back to sleep and the more he worries about it the more stressed he gets and the more difficult it is for him to sleep. This morning is a good example, she cries out at 5.30 and then he lies awake although she doesn't wake up till 7.

Must agree to the benefits of exercise during the day and maybe if he stops stressing about it so much it won't be such a problem. Sounds like he's lucky with a flexible work situation at the moment so why don't you suggest he just relaxes a bit and it doesn't matter if he can't go back to sleep and that way he may start to relax a bit.

tigermoth Tue 19-Nov-02 13:37:29

As your messages have shown, there's no cut and dried answer to this - apart form java's. Thanks for your 100% support!

I've tried suggesting relaxation techniques and limiting alcohol at night (dh will drink of an evening, not enough to get blootered, and stays away from coffee).

Aloha, I totally agreee that daytime naps play havoc with night time sleep. If todders can't have them without night problems (bearing in mind they need more sleep than adults) then why should a grown man? It's very encouraging to hear that poor sleep patterns can be modified in a week or so if you go to bed tired and wake up 7 hours later. I am secretly hoping that if my husband starts this new job, the rigid hours will be good for his sleep pattern. He'll have a few nightmare days and then exhaustion will kick in at night. Am I being heartless and belittling my dh's problems in hoping for this - probably.

Elliott - great, a light sleeper answers! you're totally right about dh having no motivation until ds is sleeping though regularly. That's exactly how my husband feels. He thinks I can't take on board how much the toddler will sabotage his efforts. He wants the toddler to change first.

We have discussed the drinking water problem and I have agreed to put a beaker in the toddler's room and tell him he must drink from it. I hope this might work, though I'm not holding my breath.

Bugsy Tue 19-Nov-02 13:45:31

My sympathies are entirely with you Tigermoth!!! Your dh should not sleep during the day and should cut right back on his night time sleep for a few days. No more than 6 hours a night. If he does that for one week, he'll stop waking at 3.30am!!! I'm not kidding either, that's what they do at adult sleep clinics. No catch up during the day and restricted sleep for a few days and all of a sudden, the person who "never" sleeps through the night does.
I'm a really light sleeper and I used to have terrible trouble sleeping but these days I am always so exhausted that I drop back off immediately.

aloha Tue 19-Nov-02 13:51:12

Maybe the new job will help. For this to work fast though he has to get up at the same time every day including weekends! I suppose that just as your dh has no motivation for changing until your toddler does, so do you have no motivation for changing your son's behaviour as it doesn't bother you. Therefore I think your dh should be much more proactive with your ds as he is up anyway(!). For the sake of marital harmony maybe you should agree a plan of action eg ds is supposed to stay in his room, dh to be responsible for taking him back there everytime he gets out and telling him calmly that at nightime he must stay in his bed. I suspect he doesn't need to drink at night, and in fact, the nighttime drinks could be the cause of the needing a nappy change. Would this work?

tigermoth Tue 19-Nov-02 14:08:58

thanks, bugsy! good to have more support for the 7 hour method. I tentatively suggested adult sleep clinics to an angry husband at 4.00 am last night. He dispu8ted their existance!

Aloha, dh already helps with getting the toddler back to bed

Batters Tue 19-Nov-02 14:32:03

Tigermoth, not much advice for you I am afraid, just sympathy (for you, not dh ). I take it your dh has tried warm baths before bedtime, milky drinks etc?

I too have a partner who complains bitterly about the lack of sleep he has, yet flatly refuses to come to bed most nights before 1 am. What is it with men?!

I think I have an article about sleep in a recent magazine (but as I have mother's brian so to speak can remember nothing about it at all), if you like I'll bring it along to the Xmas meetup?

Marina Tue 19-Nov-02 14:53:38

Another vote for Tigermoth in the great battle of dh vs toddler, light vs heavy sleeper. I'm a light sleeper too, Tigermoth, and my sleep has been permanently affected by having a 3 year old who wakes once a night and wakes usually quite early in the morning. At times I resent dh slumbering away, but he does always do his bit when bed-changing, sponging, medicine or whatever are required.
I accept that at the end of the day, toddlers rarely sleep through, ESPECIALLY if one of their parents is a light sleeper (this sort of trait is inherited, is it not?), and that it is down to me to sleep-train myself back to a full night. I don't blame dh and I don't blame ds.
Cutting out those daytime naps will help your dh, as others have said. At the end of the day, who is the toddler and who is the grown-up in your house? And who is the ever-fair, ever-scrupulous person caught in the middle of this one?

SueDonim Tue 19-Nov-02 16:42:26

A sticky one, this! I've had sleep problems at times (including now) and it is really miserable so no wonder your DH is grumpy.....but his attitude isn't helping either. One cause of early morning wakening is underlying depression so maybe that ought to be checked out first? Really, it doesn't need to be either dh or ds, you can work on both problems at the same time. Good luck.

elliott Tue 19-Nov-02 17:05:42

batters, would that be the article penned by aloha?

tigermoth, I was wondering about the nappy change too. Is it a dirty nappy or just wet? I must say I can't remember when I changed a nappy in the middle of the night, even in the very early days.

I still have sympathy for dh, even if no-one else does but I agree that its something you all need to tackle and he doesn't seem to be very amenable to change (what is his proposed solution?) Though sometimes when dh makes helpful suggestiosn to me, like 'you should take more exercise', I just feel like hitting him (even if he is right !)

bundle Tue 19-Nov-02 17:52:26

tigermoth, I believe there are half a dozen or so sleep clinics around the country. And as I think you're in London - there is one at the Cromwell but that's private, and I've visited one at the University of Surrey - but I've a feeling that there are also other NHS clinics, but you'd need a referral from a GP (they have v little training in sleep problems so can't usually help that much besides the commonsense stuff listed here)

inga Tue 19-Nov-02 19:49:00

Tigermoth, get him a pair of earplugs from Boots!
My dh has them. But I do think the problem is you dh's and not the toddler although I do sympathise.
Good Luck with the toddler.

tigermoth Tue 19-Nov-02 23:07:39

Thanks for the information about sleep clinics. I'll see if there is any info on them that I can access. If you happen to find that article, Batters, please do bring it along.

Marina, sorry to hear your toddler has disrupted your sleep, too - if you do manage to sleep train yourself, be sure to tell me how.

Elliot, the nappy change is always a wet one - not a messy one, so thank goodness for small mercies.

Suedonim - yes I wonder if my dh's sleep disruption is the sign of underlying depression. However he is a sensitive sleeper so even the smallist niggle can cause insomnia. He is nocturnal by inclination, too - up till the early hours, asleep till lunchtime in his youth. Both his parents are bad sleepers. When I stay with them I feel so guilty in the mornings - all three of them can look so long suffering at the breakfast table.

I have spoken to my husband briefly to check my facts. Bad news for me: He says our toddler wakes nearly every night and it's usually two or three times, not one. Either I am sleeping through more than I think, or one of us is wrong. I really only remember my toddler waking the once if at all for most nights in recent months. I think I will keep a toddler sleep diary to see what is happening here.

I ran the idea of a 7-hour sleep, extra early rise past him. He was not impressed, even when I told him it's a recommended method employed by adult sleep clinics ( ha - he admitted they exist in the cold light of day!). I said I'd heard the regime can result in better nights within a week or so. I know my husband and even though he shook his head at me, he will be mulling that over....

bettys Wed 20-Nov-02 10:51:12

Hi Tigermoth, just to say that I use to have similar sleep patterns to your dh. I suffered from insomnia, exacerbated by working night shifts and a habit of reading till 1 or 2 in the morning, then not getting up till 10 or 12. The two major factors that broke this pattern (which had lasted for years) was regular work hours and a child. Having to get up and put in a full days work whether it's at the office or at home with ds with no chance of 40 winks made me so knackered I went to bed and to sleep a good 2-3 hours before I used to. Ds wakes up and demands attention at 6.30 -7.00am but is in bed by 8pm, so it evens out hours-wise. He wakes in the night occasionally too, but both tiredness and habit now makes it easy to fall back asleep.

I suppose I'm suggesting that what worked for me was changing my body clock through being physically and mentally tired ie ready for bed and sleep earlier. It works for ds too. If he sleeps later than 7am it's harder to get him to sleep at night.

Could you suggest a week's trial of changing sleeping hours? Perhaps with a star chart? (Only joking!....I'm sure your dh wouldn't be swayed by the inducement of a new engine shed or whatever!)

berries Wed 20-Nov-02 13:22:10

Sorry, but a BIG vote for DH here. I can sympathise so much, after a child that wouldn't sleep for more than 1.5 hours at a time for 2.5 years. I am now a chronically bad sleeper in that if anything wakes me during the night, I find it almost impossible to get back to sleep. I can still remember the hell of being woken up 25 mins after you got to sleep. In the end your body decides its not worth it, just stay awake til the next call! I can also understand why he gets really grumpy when you suggest alternatives. IME its hard not to be depressed when you're getting next to no sleep. Can't help with many good ideas unfortunately. I have found that I am now better as dd does sleep through most nights (she's 5). Also, although DH can go back to sleep very quickly, he also wakes quickly, so he makes a special effort to get up to make sure I don't get woken up, as he 'loses' less sleep than me (and has a pleasanter wife to deal with). I also resorted to nytol - but the chemical, not the herbal. They only really help if you're not woken up in the first place, but I find they do help me get back into a more 'normal' sleep pattern when I've been waking at 3:00am for 5 or 6 nights. I have to say here, that if you are affected less by waking up than DH, you are probably the best person to stop ds night time habits. I found when I was getting up at night, I was far more stressed than dh as I know I wouldn't get back to sleep (and that didn't help either!). Sorry if I sound a bit strident here, but I used to believe 'if you're tired enough you'll sleep' etc etc and its a really unhelpful comment when you feel like you'll never get a decent nights sleep again. Please give him a big hug from me - he might feel better if he knows someone else has been through it (don't we all)

tigermoth Wed 20-Nov-02 18:52:16

bettys I can see them now, star charts for my toddler, my eldest son and my dh all ranged in a line on the kitchen wall! In my dreams! Your message reinforced what I believe, namely a regular day routine will lead to a regular night rountine.

However, then I read berries message. Bits of it could have been written by my husband. Many times he's said his body has given up on the idea of sleep and that tiredness alone won't make him fall asleep any more. As for being the one to get up and settle my toddler if he wakes - yes I would do it, but unfortunatly my dh often wakes up first anyway and the damage is done, so what can I do?

Just for the record, last night the toddler slept through - we both agreed on this. My dh also made a point of getting up after 7 hours sleep, and not coming home for a quick nap during the day, so he is giving this method a go.

aloha Wed 20-Nov-02 20:09:04

So glad things seem to be getting better. BTW the sleep training for adults thing isn't at trivialisation of the problem, it really does work for the majority of people. It's partly about regular habits (very regular, no lie ins and no naps) and partly about reducing your expectations of sleep - ie six hours of sleep is good.

Cecilia Thu 21-Nov-02 13:39:08

Sort of related but the opposite problem. My dh is unwell at the moment and having to sleep alot. Yesterday, I was mystified as to why my ds' monitor was flickering regularly as she was fast asleep. Realised monitor was picking up the sound of my dh snoring softly in the bed beside her!

Philippat Thu 21-Nov-02 15:08:58

Although my dd is only 13 months (heaven forbid she's still night waking at 3!), DH and I have both struggled with not being able to get back to sleep/or waking at the expected time.

While I'm sure it's driving you mad, I can totally understand that grumpyness that makes your DH impossible to reason with at the mo. I expect you tend to talk to him about it first thing in the morning - just the time when he feels least able to get his head around it and so it feels like you are nagging. To help with that one, I would recommend a lunch out without kids somewhere informal but nice where you can bash out a strategy.

We found the only solution (for our sleep, not dd's!) was to sleep in different rooms from time to time and for the one furthest away to abdicate responsibility for the child and to have a 'night off'. Even if you can still hear the cries, it makes a huge difference knowing you don't need to worry about it. That, combined with judicious use of earplugs, herbal sleep aid and lavender oil tends to work for us.

If your DH really really won't move beds, you might do him a favour and move yourself for a couple of nights.

Does your DH find it hard to sleep in hotel rooms with people walking past etc? My Dh does and he's used many of the same techniques now.

If necessary I go to bed as early as 8pm to get in a good chunk of sleep but I realise not everyone can manage that. Both of us tend to find getting up at 4 or 5am and doing something better than simply lying in bed awake but that's hard to do too!

Finally, Pantley's 'no cry sleep solution' might help all of you - it's got a section on mom's sleep at the back.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: