Getting the Kids to Bed

graphic reading "Little Joy Map"

When I had Charlie, I was firmly in the Attachment Parenting camp. He slept in a crib next to my bed, and I made no attempt to regulate his sleeping. At night, when it was time for bed, I would rock or hold him until he fell asleep.

With the twins, I did much the same thing until last March. The twins picked up a small virus in January and for the next TWO MONTHS one of them awoke every at hour. At least. I was also six months pregnant. To say I was tired does not even begin to cover it. I was a zombie. I was half a human. We had a college girl come to help out during the day with the twins and I pretty much just slept the entire time she was here.

I started to seriously consider sleep training. A big problem with that, however, is that if one twin wakes up and cries, they often wake up the other one. Next thing you know, you’ve got screaming in stereo, and if Charlie gets woken up? He doesn’t go back to sleep.


Grocery store flowers–that’s how we roll.

I eventually did what I would call “Ferber Lite”–gradually reducing the amount of liquid in their night bottles until they stopped crying for them. I got them down to one waking a night and considered that a blessing. Last month, when I started implementing a routine, that was the first time they both started sleeping through the night consistently. At 19 months.

To prepare for this month I read a bunch of books about sleep training. A LOT. I could go on and on, but today I’m just going to tell you a few of the most interesting things I’ve learned:

  1. Babies don’t wake up at night because they are hungry. Even babies who are fed continuously via feeding tube will wake up several times during the night. (This one actually blew my mind a little bit)
  2. People sleep in 90 minute cycles and wake up often during the night–we usually just put ourselves back to sleep without thinking about it.
  3. Sleeping pills help a person sleep, on average, about twenty minutes more than if you weren’t to take a sleeping pill.
  4. Human used to have two “sleeps” with a break of about an hour in between. If a person is deprived of all external cues they will gradually start to sleep this way again.
  5. Before the invention of the light bulb, people slept about ten hours a night.

Hmmmm. . . have I piqued your interest? What sorts of things would you like to know about sleep?


Best buddies.

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  1. I’m curious about the effects of sleeping with the TV on. My oldest (10) sleeps with a TV on every night. He is scared of the dark and likes the light. Is this bad for him?

    • Meggan down below is correct: blue light can make it harder to fall asleep because it mimics natural sunlight and can interrupt the production of melatonin. A light source like a low-watt light bulb is preferable. Melatonin is important, and at least one book I read seemed to think that one day we’ll realize how bad all this artificial light is for our health.

      One good tip for at least getting the melatonin production underway is to dim as many lights as possible about thirty minutes before bed. This helps to get the body ready for sleep and begin producing.

    • Sleeping with the television on is not that good of an idea, though many many people swear that is the only way the could sleep through the night. The constant flickering keeps the brain active and not allow for a restful sleep.

  2. Kathy, I used to do that as a child not because of the dark but I was scared of the quite. I did it till I graduated college. I have no idea if its good or bad but I did have nightmares about what was on if the show was at all scary. I still do it when my husband is out of town on business though I put it on a cooking show so there’s no chance of anything scary being on. My 3 year old recently acquired a fear of the dark so we got him an owl “lantern”. It has a timer on it so it will turn off after 20 min or you can have it stay on all night. It’s a soft white light that won’t interrupt his sleep (I read somewhere that blue light is bad for sleep) but it doesn’t get warm so he can keep it right next to him in bed. If he wakes in the night and gets scared he turns it on, but it’s also bright enough that he can look at books or play a little in bed before he falls asleep. It’s helped a lot with his fears. If you are concerned with the tv being on maybe you can try that. It’s about $20 at Baby’s R Us or you can buy them online.

  3. I believe the 10 hour a night before bulbs. When I took Sam’s kindergarten year off to homeschool, I slept between 9 and 10 hours a night and never felt like I needed a nap unless I was ill.

  4. I think I would GIVE UP electricity if it meant we could go back to sleeping ten hours a night. I always try to tell my husband that I and the kids, and most people in general, really should sleep more than we do, but he insists he functions best on five or six hours of sleep a day. WHAA?

    • There are a few–very few–individuals who naturally need only a couple hours of sleep. Most people who claim they do better on five or six hours are actually running on adrenaline and caffeine. In the long run this is bad for your health, but it’s difficult to convince people that they actually need many more hours of rest than they are currently getting.

  5. Wait… I would have thought that by decreasing the feeding amount, the babies would wake up sooner to be fed, due to hunger. Our son will be born Monday – I’m all for pointers on getting a baby to sleep!!

    • Aleta: The best thing you can do with a brand-new baby is put them on a regular routine of Eat/Play/Nap. Brand-new babies don’t sleep for long stretches, but putting them into that routine early is the advice that pretty much everyone gives for getting baby to fall into a good sleep habit. My favorite book on this topic (after reading like a million) is The Baby Whisperer.

  6. Oh I realised early on with my girls that they were never up because of being hungry.. they just like to torture me LOL. Just kidding.
    My girls didn’t start sleeping on their own and through the night until about almost 2 as well and honestly one of them still wakes 2 – 3 times a night. And like you I had to insist that they understood sleeping was a good thing. It was a slow gradual process but I love that I now get at least 6 hrs. Glad you got them to sleep. 😀 loving your topics

    • The good thing about the twins at this point is that if they do get up, these days, they tend to just chatter and play for a little bit and then go back to sleep without bothering me! They’re not perfect, but they are a lot better than they were.

  7. Somewhere along the way I read that we have to give babies the opportunity to learn how to put themselves back to sleep.

    Have you read anything about sleep and sensory integration issues? My 10-year-old has autism and lots of associated sensory issues (sometimes too much input, sometimes too little, etc., etc.). He was on melatonin and Tenex, now takes melatonin and Clonidine. With no meds he is awake until at least midnight and up by 4 for the day. He is just unable to calm his body down.

  8. Yes, Janet. I think that is totally true. Kids need to learn to fall asleep without rocking/bottles/etc. I’ve been terrible about this and had to work a lot harder with the first three kids. With this last one, I did a better job and as a result he sleeps better. He also like never fusses, but I think that’s a personality thing.

    I have not read anything about sleep and sensory integration. BUT! I think that’s a great topic to explore. I will read up and get back to you.

  9. If I could sleep for 10 hours a night, I know for a fact my life would be so much better in every way. 10 hours…wow. I used to think my kids were the worst sleepers. They actually may have been at one point. But now that Merrick is 4 and he only wakes up screaming bloody murder 3 times a night, I feel kind of lucky. I just do not know how I would handle twins.