Sandman Has Left the Building

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime in the last few months, Charlie seems to have given up on one of my all-time favorite past-times: sleep.  Around four nights a week (it could be more–my brain may be trying to protect me by blocking some of this out), he gets up in the middle of the night. It could be two in the morning, it could be four, but once he is up, he up. Specifically, he will scream his brains out until he’s allowed to watch TV. If it’s four or later, he would also like a slice of toast.

At first, it was a complete nightmare. We rock him, give him water, give him food, sing to him, try various medicines, and on and on until I was fairly certain my head was going to start spinning around like that girl in the exorcist movies. Or something. I know I seem melodramatic, but almost everything seems life or death at three in the morning with a screaming soundtrack.

And then we discovered the TV situation. Plop him in front of the TV and he’s happy as can be. Curls up in front of, plays with a few toys, and meanwhile, Dad and I are getting our much-needed rest. Granted, it would be even better if we weren’t listening to Rachel Coleman crooning “baby signing time,” but I’ll take it over the screaming any day.

Some nights, he’ll eventually call out to be put back in bed. Other nights he falls asleep, cheek pressed against the floor, a puddle of drool forming and you know what? I don’t move him for fear the screaming will return.

So, we’re not dying any more, but the larger question is, of course, why won’t he sleep? Has something changed that I don’t know about? Is there something I could be doing to guarantee he gets eight hours of sleep, in a bed, and not say, partially glued to our plastic wood floors? (My mother of the year award is in the mail, can’t you tell?)

We spoke with the neurologist about it and she said we could give him a *smidge* of medication if he did this, but really, if he doesn’t want to sleep, he ain’t sleeping. I don’t think a frying pan would work. And, also, both the neurologist and I aren’t wild about over-medicating a preschooler.

I’m not sure what to do. He seems fine–he’s just a lousy sleeper. I want to fix things, but I’m not sure where to start. Could it be pain? Could it be a regulation issue? Has he magically become The World’s Lightest Sleeper? Does he need a special mattress? Or night light?

I’m asking you, lovely people of the Interwebs, to hit me with your absolutely best thoughts on sleep. Do we just ride this out? Has this happened to you? How do you handle it? Would you handle it? I’d love advice from anyone on this topic–don’t have to have a special needs kiddo. Really, I’m desperate. If it worked for your ninety-year-old grandmother, I’m open to it. We’re not going to die, but I would like to say that I’ve tried to improve things. If nothing works, then at the very least, maybe I’ll feel a little less like Mommy Dearest.

boy playing with a sesame street toy

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Comments

  1. This same thing happens to our son approximately 2 -4 nights per week…more so when “something isn’t right” or we can clearly identify illness. For our son, it severely impacts not only his sleep schedule but ours as well. Additionally, his school hours have been affected too, which has been tough.

    No amount of additional medication ever helps our son with this issue…we have to deal with the underlying illness reason(s) if we can figure them out, as he isn’t skilled yet at describing health specifics other than “hurt” or “pain”.

    I will say we find Melatonin helpful at initial bedtime but not for the situation you described and we do use it nightly. I hope you find the solution(s) Charlie needs and everyone gets back to lovely, uninterrupted sleep!

    • I can usually tell if he’s “sick,” but a lot of times he’s clapping and kicking and generally trying to party. I am wondering if maybe he needs a softer mattress or a different pillow or something, so he doesn’t feel the need to get up and party.

  2. My three-year-old daughter with special needs goes through this every few months (nightly waking and crying). I have no idea why it happens. The first night or more, I rock her or sing to her or do whatever pacifies her until she will return to her bed. I always make sure that she is well and not sick or hurting (I’ve found her with her foot stuck between the bars of her crib before). Eventually, though, the only thing that seems to stop this from becoming a nightly habit is to let her scream in her bed until she finally goes back to sleep (if the scream changes so it sounds like she is hurt, of course I go back in there). Almost without fail, the following night(s) she will sleep through the night (or is quiet, at least). When she has random nights of waking, I have a few tricks that I try… sometimes, I give her a doll to hold and tell her to say, “Don’t cry, baby. It’s sleeping time.” She is nonverbal but likes to try to repeat sounds one syllable at a time. Then, I tell her she needs to be quiet so the baby (doll) can sleep. Or, I give her a book to hold — she loves books even though she is blind. We’ve ruined a few books this way, but I think sleep is well worth it. When I do take her out of her bed, I try to stay in her dark room with her. Eventually, she usually leans over toward her crib — a sign that she’s ready to return. Some nights are just really bad, but luckily those are fairly rare.

    If you can’t figure out anything else for your son, what if you bought a small TV to put where he could see it from his bed? You could buy one that has a timer you could set to turn off at some point… That way, all you have to do is turn it on when he wakes up, and then you get to return to bed. I usually am completely against TVs in kids’ rooms, but if this was the only thing that would help my daughter (and me) to sleep, I would certainly consider it (as long as I didn’t think she’d start to expect TV anytime she was in bed…). Good luck!

    • Ok, wow, that is certainly a good idea. We don’t have cable, so it’s not like he’s going to end up watching something terrible–just a DVD. And I do much prefer him sleeping in his bed and seeing the TV than sleeping on the dang floor!

  3. Lorena @lamaschida says:

    Hi Katy,
    I was having trouble sleeping lately (not cuz of a screaming child, of course) & I was so cranky! I couldn’t go back to sleep. I also was leery of medication so I decided to try Melatonin and WOW! I want to tell the world about how great it works! (you’d think I sell the stuff) It makes you sleepy but not a zombie. You don’t get that weird drowsy jittery feeling nor is it hard to wake up in the morning. Maybe you could give Charlie a little at bedtime or right when he wakes up, it works in like 20 mins. He’ll be back out in no time. Maybe his clock is off cuz of the shorter daylight. It really affects some people. Anyway that’s my 2 cents, best if luck to you!!

    • Hadn’t considered the lack of light issue. It’s interested because I certainly have responses to light. Lots of people love Melatonin, but I worry because I’m allergic to it. Nothing serious, but I throw it right up.

  4. We had the same problem. Then we all moved bedrooms and forgot to plug the monitor in for a week. My fear was the babies were screaming for hours and we couldn’t hear. But if they were it didn’t last more than a week. They’ve slept through the night ever sine and it’s been over a month.

  5. i’m the worst person to ask about sleep considering my now 7 year old started sleeping through then night a year ago becuase i put her on Trazadone.

    L has never slept. never ever. even when she was an itty bitty baby, she’d just look at me with her big bug eyes and i would consult my “what to expect the first year’ and scratch my head. This is befofre i knew.

    i’ve done everything. I’ve even taken her to two sleep speciailist, all so she could be diagnosed with ideopathic sleep disorder (translated: we don’t know why she doesn’t sleep) I tried melatonin, clonidine) We were doing OK unti Agust 2009 and she was sleeping about 4-5 hours a day. I was 10 weeks pg with my 4th. I had typical, but busy 4 and 2 year old. We had switched L’s Ritalin afternoon dose from 5 mg to 10 mg.

    She started sleeping 1 hour in 24 hour period. She was hysterical crying about how she was so tired and couldn’t sleep. i reduced her afternnon dose and she still wouldn’t sleep.

    i was done at that point and told her neurologist that someone needed meds for sleep and I don’t care if it was her or me.

    She’s been sleeping 8+ hours since then.

    i’m obviously not advocating drugs but I felt like i didn’t have a choice.

    My one friend (who daughter had severe CP and also didn’t sleep) often said that we now know why sleep deprivation is such as effective form of torture.

    • Kristin–I don’t think anyone thinks drugs are a good first line of defense, but when it’s affecting everyone else.

      There’s a little girl who does ABR with us and her ability to regulate sleep was destroyed by her brain injury. The only way anyone gets through the night is with medication and she’s happy, thriving, and doing better than one could imagine.

  6. I’ve suffered with intermittent insomnia for years but it recently became unbearable. My integrative medicine doc put me on magnesium and B6 at bedtime and it works like a dream. I’ve never been able to handle anything stronger, including melatonin. But this combo really helps to quiet the mind in a very gentle way.

    Best of luck to you. It can be crazy-making.

    • The B6 thing is really interesting because the ONE medication he takes is actually known to decrease levels of B6. I think I may see a vitamin regimen in our future.

  7. Katy, is you find something that works, let me know!!! I don’t know whether Charlie’s sleep issues are at all related to any medical issues or anything, but Brogan (my 2 year old) has to be in the runnings for the world’s worst sleeper award…! I’m starting to think he may never sleep well. Most nights I get up AT LEAST as often with him as I do with my 2-month-old. And even though he does go back to sleep, most mornings he decides it’s time to start the day any time between 5am and 6am. I’ve tried cutting out his day time nap. I’ve tried putting him to bed two hours later. I’ve tried most everything I can think of, but it seems that he just isn’t capable for sleeping more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, and that he seems to think that he doesn’t need as much sleep as other kids his age. Waking up to someone banging on their door in the middle of the night isn’t pleasant… Like I said, if you find something that works for Charlie, I’d love to hear about it!!

  8. I am a light sleeper. And just like Charlie when I’m up, I’m up! About 16 years ago I started only sleeping about 4 hours a night!!! That was a real bummer!! for about 14 years I have been taking generic benedryl. Mine is totally a hormonal thing. Even the benedryl doesn’t work when I have PMS!
    I don’t think you should give Charlie any meds. He’s young enough to form a good sleeping pattern.
    Does he nap in the afternoon? If so I’d stop that. As nice as those afternoon naps are, nitetime sleep is better!
    Does he get too much caffeine?
    Too much Candy?
    Curb which ever 3 hours before bedtime.
    that TV Thing works for me too. An hour of it and I’m ready to go back to sleep. Experts say not to let the TV be your babysitter but I wonder if those Experts have sleeping problems.
    Maybe try some of those soothing nitetime lotions for babies.

    • Yeah, those experts, I’m not sure. Seems to me, everybody has their own way of getting and staying to sleep. I could never sleep in front on the TV, but a lot of people need it to feel comfortable.

      He doesn’t nap when he’s home with me. School has naptime, but oftentimes he doesn’t nap there either—he’s a lousy sleeper all the way around.

  9. Heh. One of my long-time blogger friends goes by the moniker mommy~dearest.

    I like Andrea S’s comment – for all non-illness poor sleep issues. Inside her answer I see her addressing a developmental issue. Set-aside Charlie’s age and seemingly sudden night-time waking – she recommends what is recommended to most parents. Reassure and leave the child to put himself back to sleep – very important learning. If you re-establish the baby-put-to-sleep methods – that’s what you get. Her tv in the room is very practical, hopefully will work but be prepared for any one technique to not last forever. Because he will grow.

    Sleep like hunger, and even breathing, are controlled in the brain. Not surprising that sleep changes over childhood and over the lifetime.

    • I understand the learning part, but I don’t think of it as a “baby” thing–I think of it as a self-preservation thing. He and I could probably gut it out, but my husband starts losing his lunch when he gets woken in the middle of the night.

      • Did you notice Andrea’s ‘gut it out’ lasted one night? Please believe me when I say 99.99% parents go through this. Choose your time. Choose your method. If you want more references/parent posts/testimonials – I can refer you to a couple of recent ones – from the autism community. Sleep problems are not diagnosis-specific. The whole scope of Andrea’s answer is what I meant to emphasize – rather than ‘gut it out’. Her ‘tricks’ seem to prompt the child to ‘learn’. More specifically, I like what Andrea said in her comment.

        • Well, we were letting him cry it out before because we didn’t have any other option. Now that we have the TV to soothe him, well, I’m not sure I’m capable of letting my child scream repeatedly when he could be quietly watching TV. That might make me a horrible person/parent, but I think it’s true.

          I do like the idea of learning, though. Charlie is fully capable of turning on a TV. I’m thinking maybe just letting him sleep close enough to one, that if he wants to wake up and watch TV, then he can do it himself. I’m still mulling the whole thing over.

  10. Has there been a change in the environment around your house – are there loud trucks driving by our a train? Is there something new waking him up? I have heard of kids who are super sensitive to noise (although I guess it could be lights shining in his window from traffic as well) who wake up early in the morning due to loud noises. Their parents didn’t even hear the noise until years later…years of the child waking up at 4 am.

    • You know, Rebecca, I’m not entirely sure. It could also be new awareness. I know that we have lots of school buses wizzing past in the mornings and it’s possible he’s more aware of that sound now that he rides the bus himself.

  11. I have 4 children and 3 of them have problems sleeping. My daughter is a light sleeper so we have purchased a white noise maker. This has made the world of difference. My one son can not sleep with lightness, so I bought the room darkening curtains and that made a huge difference. And my final son has general problems sleeping, we have used melatonin, but now we use a natural sleep aid gel, we buy it at http://www.naturesinventory.com. You just rub it on the front of their pajamas and/or pillow and it really helps my son sleep.

    Good luck.

  12. Katy,
    I think sleep issues with our kids are unfortunately common. Our kids are different; but we had sleep issues with E from when she was ~1.5 yrs until now, 5.5 years old. Before she was verbal, she would wake up EVERY NIGHT screaming; we figured she had gas, or dreaming, or lonely–we rationalized as much as we could. I was worried she was having seizures, but lucky for us she wasn’t. I wondered if painful muscle spasms woke her up, but I never have figured that out.
    It continued…FOR YEARS. We’d have a good week here or there, but the mystery issue remained. We tried being sweet. We tried toting the hard line. We tried the Ferber method. Everything ended in my husband and I at our wit’s end.
    Once E started talking, we got some answers. One night (when she was 3) she woke up screaming, I said “what’s going on, Elena” and she said “I can’t help being bad!” and started screaming again. Unwittingly, we had sent her the message that the act of waking up was misbehavior (instead of the screaming). I figured we had sent her the wrong message; we just couldn’t figure it out. We still had years of sleeplessness, infighting between us parents. After “our last bad night”, where E was screaming for four hours, asking us why we didn’t love her, acting, for lack of a better word–possessed–the parents trying best not to yell, I called psychologists. Eight of them; I was desperate. We settled on one.
    MAGICALLY, things have worked themselves out. 4 months later. It is like a dream. We’re still far from our goal–independent nighttime, going back to sleep alone– (the physical component of this is out of reach right now)–but this is worlds apart from where we were.
    Obviously Charlie and Elena are different kids. And I know you don’t have tons of free time. My advice would be to get help NOW. I’m not sure a sleep specialist would be the best bet; maybe a psychologist–but a third party to help you and the husband figure out (and stick to) a plan for Charlie, or at least a regimen long enough to see what works and what doesn’t.
    This is a difficult time…you’re not alone, though.

    • I’ve been thinking about a sleep study to make sure he doesn’t have apnea issues. If not that, well, then, a psychologist might be something else to look into.

      • I thought about mentioning that too. Stephen was an awful sleeper until we got his tonsils and adenoids out at 2.5 years. His recent issues with night-waking were due to his bed (see my other comment). With the apnea, though, he fought naps, GOING to sleep, and was up 5-10 times per NIGHT. It was miserable for all of us.

  13. Lack of sleep is hard on everyone! Emily has had a few nights lately where she will wake up 3 or 4 times in a night. She will be crying for a bit. We come in, comfort her and turn on a musical toy and leave. Eventually she will go back to sleep, but wake up again in a few hours. This has happened many times in the last few weeks. It is odd because she has always been a good sleeper and even still does 2 naps a day. We could not figure out if she was having nightmares, if her teeth were bothering her (she is working on those last 2 molars), if she had stomach troubles or something else. We just go through the list of possible ideas, all the while wishing she could just TELL us! It is very hard. Not life-threatening by any means, but sleep deprivation is not good for anyone! I will I had some words of wisdom for you. I hope you are able to figure out a solution.

    • Thanks, Dawn. I know we’ll figure it out and if we don’t, well, at least we’re getting some sleep now even if it is less than ideal.

  14. Oh boy Katy, how I feel for you. For the first few years my son was a bad sleeper. Right after his delivery the midwife said to me ‘go get some sleep, he will sleep for most of the first 24 hours’. Yeah right – he hardly slept in the first 24 hours and sleeping was an issue for a long time after that. Now he is a good sleeper but I suffered long enough to know a crappy nights sleep is one thing, having them as a routine is a nightmare. So my thoughts are….. if Charlie is ready to eat at 4am, is hunger what wakes him. How early before bedtime is dinner time? Is he a good eater? You could try topping him up with a warm full fat milky drink just before bed. Is he waking up because he’s cold? (I ask this because my son never keeps his blanket on and if he wakes early its usually because he’s cold). If its not either of things I too would give the cry it out a go (but when I did eventually do that it was easier because my husband is deaf and slept on regardless of Timothy howling). It might be that Charlie has just gotten into the habit of waking and hopefully wouldn’t take many nights of crying to turn the habit around. As a mum of a child who had a seizure disorder I always have in the back of my mind that an overtired kid is more prone to seizures and that the brain needs sleep to develop. It was these thoughts rolling around in my sleep deprived brain that made me determined to sort it out, one way or another. So though I don’t have much to add to all the other wise replies, stick with it – you WILL find something that works. You have survived admirably through so many challenges already!

    • Yes. The seizure thing scares me as well.

      The idea of a habit is interesting–it’s certainly a possibility.

      We do feed him right before he goes to bed–his appetite is incredible–but I will make sure that we are giving him something super-filling in case that’s the issue.

  15. Hi Katie
    It is so hard to know if this is a typical child problem or if it’s a special needs child problem. With my typical son he was a really bad sleeper as a baby and we did the cry it out thing when he was 9 months old and he became a great sleeper. But when he was about 3 he started not sleeping well and my husband figured out that he needed a night light this worked.
    Now with Annabelle she has always been a bad sleeper we use a white noise maker otherwise she’ll wake up with the smallest of noise she requires to be the right temperature not to hot or cold and we give her melatonin. We have never let Annabelle cry it out it just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do for her.
    Has anything changed in Charlies diet I know some foods that Annabelle is sensitive to or allergic too causes her to sleep badly even with the melatonin it’s worth keeping a food diary for a few weeks may be you can see on the nights he woke up if it links to certain foods he ate during the day? Just a thought.

    • This is interesting because we’ve been letting him eat school lunches with the rest of his class. Perhaps a food diary is in order or maybe just trying packing a lunch and see if there are changes. . .

    • Great idea with the food diary!!! I can’t believe no one in the medical community has suggested this to us yet. Thanks!

      ~Another sleepless parent 😛

  16. It could be night terrors K. Mine went through this too..at various ages might I add. In Charlies case it may just be enough to wake him up for good….also..are you sure he’s awake?? You wouldn’t believe how many times mine have cried, played, etc..while I thought they were awake, only to find out later that they were sleep walking..it’s freaky, but it happens..and…this too shall pass….

    • I was going to mention night terrors, too. Our son has these from time to time and I think the terror part is for the parents. He wakes up screaming and cannot be consoled. In the end we have to wait until he truly wakes up (putting him in bright light was the only thing that worked last time, and even that took a while). We allow both of our youngest kids to snuggle in bed with us to get back to sleep. We have just found it’s the easiest way for everyone to get enough sleep.

      I was also going to ask if he would listen to music instead of the TV. When I was a kid my parents always played music for us to drift off to sleep with and even into my adult years I found it helpful. I finally had to give it up when I had a roommate who needed absolute silence to sleep.

      • KDL: he falls asleep to music and then we shut it off for a while. Maybe I should try leaving it on.

    • Well, that’s an interesting thought. I mean, the lack of sleep doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all–maybe he’s not really awake?

      Neurologist suggested night terrors, but seems to be happy at first and then mad when we don’t want to play.

  17. I see others have already mentioned this, but he is at the age for nightmares. Emma went through this, and I think it is particularly normal at this age–insanity maker, but normal. I think it is entirely appropriate since he needs the tv as a distraction to go back to sleep. Not sure if anyone above mentioned Melatonin. It helped Emma at this age.

  18. What type of bed is he sleeping in? We just went through this ourselves… We switched our 36lb, 40″ tall almost 4-year-old to a full bed, and he’s been sleeping a LOT better. He had been waking up, getting out of bed, and banging on the door until someone went in to his room, because he wanted to play. We think he was waking himself up trying to roll around in the smaller bed. Just a thought…

    Hang in there! I know it’s rough.

    • I’m so grateful to you guys! He is still in a baby bed. He’s not huge, but it’s not a lot of space. Also, I think those baby mattresses are stiff as a board–perhaps something a little softer.

  19. Mom in Maryland says:

    We’ve had so many sleep issues with our now one year old too (she had bacterial meningitis at one month old and has various medical/neuro issues because of it). We’ve had nights where she woke up screaming, I think because she got too hot under the blanket – she’s extra sensitive to temperature changes because of her brain injury – or other nights, it did seem like she had been having a nightmare. We’ve had other nights where she’s hungry and wants a midnight snack – NOT a bottle, ONLY food. Other nights, she wants to be with me, not in her crib. Other nights, she needed to be more upright because of either a congested nose or reflux. The list goes on. What we’ve found that has helped… the Baby Einstein Aquarium – she finds the bubble noise soothing… her stuffed animals on each side of her in her crib… a noise machine in her room… and the real winner is her vibrating crib mattress. It’s battery-operated and whenever I hear her stirring in the middle of the night, I go in quietly, push the button and it helps her fall back asleep. Here’s the link to it online – http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3900077 This week, she’s been waking up at 4:30 AM because the clocks were set back (her internal clock says it’s 5:30 and time to wake up).

    Does it seem like maybe like Charlie is scared when he wakes up and you’re not there? This might sound weird, but maybe you could put a photo of you and your husband in his crib/bed as a way to comfort him.

    I know how exhausting this must be! Hang in there!!!

    p.s. I love your blog and love reading your updates : )

    • This vibrating mattress thing is very. interesting. Charlie sure did like his vibrating seats when he was a baby. Hmmmmm. . .

      Oh, and thanks!

  20. Oh dear, I might be the only one with a “crazy” suggestion. He might just want you- to smell you to make him think your there. Capt. Chaos did this & now Little Man is doing it & thankfully, the same thing I did with Chaos is working on Little Man. I take the shirt off my back & give it to him. Really. The t-shirt that I had worn all day that smelled just like mom, or the t-shirt that I slept in, did the trick with both my boys. He wakes up screaming, I go in, give him my t-shirt or my nightie & go back to bed. Then, all the boys in the house are happy:)

  21. I’m so sorry. I have no advice. My brain injured almost 3yo is a horrible sleeper. I rarely sleep a full night, and only now thanks to a night nurse. And, we do drug her with whatever we can use at this age (which isn’t much) and sometimes it still doesn’t work. No fun.

    • Jenny:
      I seem to recall that your daughter was injured sometime after birth. Is that correct? We know a little girl with a similar situation and her ability to regulate sleep was completely destroyed. They actually give her something like three times the allowable dose on some incredible drug and even that only works some of the time.

      • Yes – she had a brain injury at 11 months old. She is able to “fall” asleep on her own in the evenings (finally), but if she wakes up, will stay up. She takes chloral hydrate (and we throw in melatonin sometimes too) to sleep, and we slowly have to increase the dose as she builds up a tolerance. I know a kid with a birth injury who is a worse sleeper than mine, though – and has been on the max dose of all kinds of things, without too much effect. Thank goodness we’re not there yet. However, I do know that after they’re a bit bigger (not sure how much) our doctor said there are many more options for sleep medicines that they know work well on kids like this.

  22. Charlie isn’t maybe going through a growth spurt? Normally happens round the half-year marks i.e. 6, 18 months etc. Growth spurts do seem to affect sleeping. If there’s anything that works for you, I’d love to know. Magnus is a very bad sleeper.

    • Nelba: He is SO going through a growth spurt. He’s gained at least a pound (that’s a big deal for us) and is getting longer too.

  23. My son has delayed myelination and he is a poor sleeper. Just as Charlie does, he’ll wake at 2 – 4 am or 1 – 5, bascially pick your former party hours ;). He’s ready to play, cuddle, whatever but he is not sleepy at all. We’ve tried pretty much everything mentionned here since we both work and are pretty picky about not falling asleep at our desks hahahah.

    Seriously though, two things help.

    1. melatonin 3 mg liquid form 30 minutes before bedtime. For a while he was on 2 mg liquid and 2 mg time released, but the time release ( to keep him asleep) didn’t work very well because we had to grind it (dysphagia) and if we left it in quarters he would gag. There is a patch available in thte States but not in Canada. Im going to check up on it because if I accidentally skip a dose of melatonin at bedtime it takes me over two hours to get him to sleep. When we skip it at bedtime zand give it when he wakes up at night it doesnt work as well.
    2. When we but him on our spare bed on the nice comfy feather bed , he sleeps well. I do think that the fact that he has limited movement and gets even more hypotonic at night means he has problems moving to stay comfy and asleep. I’m certsin his extra firm crib mattress does NOT help and so we’re switching him in the next couple weeks. He’s 2 and a half anyway and i try to keep things normal for his upbringing, so out with the crib !

    I’ve spent nights awake reading about this, and a lot of special needs kids have this type of insomnia. We’ve tried sleep training but he gets so neurologically wound up that he can’t calm down and has startle reflexes for days after. Totally counterproductive since we try to keep him calm to avoid these in e first place. He can’t move at night so leaving him to play with toys is out of the question. We roxk him and take turns taking shifts. Thank god for husbands!

    I’m asking for a sleep study just to make sure that we’re not missing something fixable, but I’ve talked it over with hubby and doctors and we’re not ready to medicate at this point, although I am not completely ruling out for the future – perhaps when he’s older and can communicate more how he feels on the meds. Right now I would just be muddying the waters in his case, although I totally understand the parents who have taken that step for the benefit of their child. It takes a lot of courage to do so.

    • These are both things I’m going to look into–a Melatonin patch and the mattress. His mattress is so uncomfortable, that can’t be good if you’re already a poor sleeper.

  24. Ruth Evans says:

    All of my 4 kids seemed to go through this at between 2-3 years old. For all we tried a variety of things. A combination of graduating to single beds, bedtime snacks, and most importantly a nightlight mostly worked. Whenever they are especially wakeful we plop them in our bed and turn on a DVD while we sleep. Room darkening shades seems to help them sleeo till at least 6:30. Right now, all of them 8,7, and 4’s have been wakeful at some time in the night and we have had a crowded bed. I blame the time change.

    • That time change is no good! I do think it’s time for him to move to a “big boy” bed. I’m not sure if it will help, but I’m going to try it. Bedtime snacks is a good idea as well. We were pretty religious about this, but I think we’re slipping a bit.

  25. Hmmm…. A few things we have used for our little man:1.a noise machine( white noise) it helps drown out any other house sounds and keeps all sound on an even keel. 2. I have found that Isaiah can get himself in a bad habit very quickly, so be careful about getting him up etc. 3. Black out curtains.4. We bought a night light called ” The good night light” and it helped him get out of the 5:00 in the morning thing(the habit I was talking about) It is blue ( for the moon) at night and turns yellow(sun) in the morning. You set the clock on back. He knows that if the sun is not “up” he can’t be either. He knows to try to go back to sleep. It has worked wonders. Of course, your little guy is too young for it right now, but wanted you to be aware of it.
    His seizure meds used to make him sleepy, he grew out of that nice little side effect though.

    • Oh, tell me about the meds! We used to be on phenobarb and he slept like a champ. We didn’t have these issues at all until we switched to Keppra, which has fewer side-effects. Sadness.

      I like this night light you’re talking about–you can reason with him although he’d prefer if you just did everything he says.

  26. I don’t know, but I am also desperate, so if you do end up trying something and it works please email me or call me immediately, because chances are I will be running on 2 hours of interrupted sleep and I am open to anything and everything too. And with that, I’m off to bed before Merrick and Mia start their nighttime routine of screaming for no reason whatsoever every 5 minutes.

    • Toni–I’ll definitely be reporting back–this is like a school science fair project or something.

  27. Okay so I have 2 not good sleepers. My son who is 1.5yrs is still nursing at night. I know I know I should wean him already but he is so cuddly. Anyway the only way I found to get him to adjust back to sleeping through the night (he has rare days or even weeks when he does). Is to make it not comfy when I get him up. Instead of picking him up in a dark room, getting his blanky and rocking/nursing him back to sleep. I turn the lights on, change his diaper in the cold room with cold wipes and walk around the house once or twice with all the lights on. Then I turn the lights off, get his blanky and nurse him back to sleep. We tried cry it out but he just complains, yells, complains, talks, but doesn’t sleep. Anyway worth a try. We have to do this every time he gets off schedule (most recently from day light savings time). Good Luck, I feel ya with the lack of sleep, I am like a new person when I get 6 hours in a row.

  28. So LJ has been doing this too! it’s out of nowhere! I always blame the teething because it seems to take him forever but I don’t think that’s it. Maybe they’re having growth spurts? I’ve heard of “typical” children having this problem. I don’t know how long it lasts, though.

    Good luck! It sucks because we just got on a good sleep schedule this year where he finally started sleeping through the night and now we’re back to this again! it REALLY sucks for us because he’ll wake up from 2-4 and sometimes go back to sleep but then his little brother is up at 5. fun times!

    • Christy: I don’t know how you do it! I guess us moms just do, right? Sending good sleep vibes your way!

  29. I definitely wouldn’t medicate; I think you should ride it out and his sleeping pattern may just be changing a bit right now,at least in my opinion. Maybe stick to one specific night routine for awhile and see if that helps too.

    Also, Im an extreme light sleeper as well, I hear anything I’m up, maybe also just monitor to see if thats it.

    Hope he gets some good rest soon.

    • Lynette in Utah says:

      I know that children thrive on routine. Maybe take a look at what time you are putting him to bed and waking him each day. If it isn’t at all consistent, then that could be why he’s doing what he’s doing. If he’s put to bed at a regular time (whether or not he’s asleep at that particular time doesn’t really matter), his body will adjust. And the same with wake time. Have you ever heard of or read the book “On Becoming Babywise”? It’s EXCELLENT. While I don’t advocate every single word in that book, the premise of the book is that children need routine and consistency with nap times and bedtimes/waketimes. I have four children, ages 7 to 5 months-old, and all four of them sleep between 10-12 hours at night (yes, the baby, too). Anyway, sleep is important and perhaps his just needs some “tweaking” to get it to where he’s not waking up at the same time in the middle of the night…I hope I haven’t overstepped my bounds…Mostly I just wanted to recommend that book. I realize your son is not a baby, but the principles in the book are universal: children need routine and consistency. These same principles are discussed in “The Baby Whisperer” — but I don’t recommend that book as highly because I feel like the woman condescends to the reader, which I didn’t appreciate (you know, she makes a mom feel like she’s an idiot for not figuring things out without consulting her first). Just my opinion, though.

      I have no idea if any of the above is helpful, but I want you to know that you’re normal. And fine. :) And perhaps this is all just a phase he’s going through. I hate that answer, but that may be all it is… :)

      • Thanks so much for your input, Lynette–definitely not an over-step as I was asking for help!

        I agree that routines are very important for children and believe in them very much. One of the problems I find with a special needs child because the amount of appointments they have in a given week often prevents you from keeping to that schedule that is so important. It can be frustrating to have them on one schedule and then have it messed up after just a few days.

        We are working on things and have seen a lot of improvement. Inching along!