PLEASE HELP... desperate for bedtime ideas for 3-year-old DS!! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-14-2012, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm bawling right now, DS is hysterical, bedtimes are an absolute nightmare here!!!!! I feel like I've tried so many things, read so many books about sleep, and nothing works (or the few things that do work, don't work for long).

He sleeps in our bed. I'm totally fine with that, and he does have the option of sleeping in his own bed but he's never shown the slightest inclination. Left to his own devices, he would consistently go to bed midnight or later. We have tried bedtimes as early as 6pm and it's no use... The earlier the bedtime, the longer bedtime takes. I think theoretically 8 or 9pm would be ideal for him (to get ~12 hours sleep) and for our schedule.

He has severe anxiety and he's also just generally very high-needs and requires constant stimulation & interaction. He was in EI for a while for social/emotional/sensory issues but they were never able to help with bedtime. He stopped napping almost 2 years ago so he needs to get all his sleep in at night. With a midnight bedtime, he's only getting about 9 hours of sleep (not to mention I'm getting absolutely no alone time or time with DH when he's home, and DS misses time with daddy in the morning, the only time DH is home, since he sleeps so late).

I'm worn out & emotionally drained. DH isn't home at night during the week so I have to do bedtime by myself. He likes to be cuddled to sleep but it takes hours and I just cannot lay in bed for hours on end. I've tried reading myself books to keep myself in bed with him but he still drives me nuts, constantly asking for things or rolling around or playing or hurting me and never ends up settling down. I used to read him to sleep but he kept staying awake longer & longer. I've tried really soft, gentle, soothing stuff. I've tried letting him lead the way, and tried taking the reigns myself. We've tried tons of various routines. I've even tried strict, Supernanny-style methods on occasion (and against my better judgement), which just left us both in tears and still no sleep. We've tried playing music or audio books while he layed in the office chair, and that was the most successful thing yet -- but it only lasted a couple of months. It seems like once he makes the association between a bedtime routine and sleep, he fights it hard. He has never ever slept well, he hates sleeping, he's afraid of sleeping. He is waking less once he's asleep (down to 1-5 times from 30+ times/night!) But when I wake up in the morning, he almost always wakes up too and is up for the day, even if it's way too early. I myself can't sleep for more than 6-8 hours a night so I don't see how I can just stay in bed with him for the 12 hours he needs to sleep and I can't lay in the dark for hours cuddling him while I'm wide awake.

He gets tons of outdoor time. He doesn't eat lots of sugar or caffeine. He gets social time, active time, lots of learning opportunities, etc. We have tried blackout curtains, a nightlight, white noise, favorite doll/animal, weighted blanket, various temperatures, various pj's/nothing, homeopathics... I've tried waking him up at the same time every morning, letting him sleep as late as he needs to... He is very verbal but cannot provide any insight into the bedtime thing.

I'm so frustrated and sad and miserable and completely at my wit's end!! I need creative solutions. Bedtime cannot take 3, 4, 5+ hours every. single. night. This is tearing me apart and I feel like the worst mother in the world.

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#2 of 7 Old 07-15-2012, 12:47 AM
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You're a good mother because you are trying to find the cause of the problem.

I hope that stays with you for the difficult moments.

I have my own sleep issues, caused by food allergies. Mild reactions can still result in an adrenaline response, resulting in an inability to sleep. Also, my son at age three kept himself awake because he was afraid I would die (thanks to my parents telling him it would happen 'someday'). So there are many reasons for not sleeping. I forget, do any teeth come in at age 3?

Make sure he has had enough water.

If he asks for certain foods, he may be craving a nutrient, which might be keeping him awake.

It seems as though he needs to be exhausted before he can sleep. Keep trying different things and rotate past successful strategies. Maybe by switching routines you can have more success.

I'm sure lots of other mothers will have many more suggestions. You are not alone in having this kind of issue.

Good luck, and remember that your love and effort make you the best mother for your child.
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#3 of 7 Old 07-15-2012, 11:19 AM
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You said you tried the Supernanny method among other things; it might be why he's fighting so much the fact of being separated from you. I've read that babies and little kids increase the attached behaviour if they sense their main caregiver wants (needs) to separate from them.


My ds was the same, he would stay asleep, but wouldn't fall asleep if I was close to him. My dh too was working nightshifts and I was on my own.

What I would do is put him to bed in a different room (or you could let him sleep in your bedroom while you sleep in another room for a while). Have a talk with him and let him know he needs to sleep by himself, but he can join you whenever he wakes up, even if it's in the middle of the night. Then stay with him for 5 minutes, pat his back, sing a song etc. but don't lay down (this was an invitation to play for my ds). Then tell him you have to go, but you'll be back in 5 min, and leave the door ajar, so he doesn't panic.


This is what worked for us. At first, ds would wake up after a couple of hours and come to our bed every night; then once a week, and he gradually decreased his visits.


GL. Try to sleep in when your dh is at home, or take naps. It will make a huge difference.


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#4 of 7 Old 07-15-2012, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
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The 'Supernany' was a more recent and desperate attempt -- problems started since he was born & rarely have I made attempts to separate from him. But yeah, I don't think that method helped one bit. It was a last-ditch effort.

Anyway, the thing is, he will not stay in bed. I don't mean he only stays there for a couple of minutes -- I mean he will not even stay there for 2 seconds. If I put him to bed & tuck him in & kiss him goodnight and then do ANYTHING that doesn't involve me staying in physical contact with him, he jumps out of bed instantly. It's like there is a rubber band between us & he just bounces right back to me the second I step away. He wants to be on me or in my arms 24/7 which is physically painful for me.

I don't even mind staying with him if that's what he needs but it just doesn't work. The poor kid finally has realized there is a problem and keeps asking me what else can we try, what will we try next if this doesn't work. It's breaking my heart!

Thank you so much for the thoughts & encouragement. I do have a new routine I'm going to try tonight and am trying to get DS on board with it and hope it works, though really I don't have much hope. So discouraging!!! Very open to hearing other ideas...

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#5 of 7 Old 07-15-2012, 12:33 PM
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Hats off to you for all your efforts!


My intensely sensitive daughter could only sleep if protected from, or out of range of cell phone towers.  There are many buffering devices available now and metal fabrics for faraday cages ect...


Take him out of cell range for a weekend and see if that's effecting him.  Also, minimize/eliminate blue light exposure at & after dusk, yellow & red lights only in the evening.  You should be able to get his body producing melatonin at more favorable times.


I have been where you are....Keep trying!

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#6 of 7 Old 07-15-2012, 02:34 PM
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My oldest dd had sleep issues of a similar nature - so your struggle sounds very familiar.  




Some ideas that might be worth a shot:


I actually started this when she was older, but we have a basket for in-bed bedtime toys only - stuff like magnetic dolls, books, magnet drawing board.  It's right next to her bed (you could keep it out of reach then too).

Bedtime yoga - if he liked it, you might be able to start getting away from bedtime for a few minutes at a time and he'd have something to do while waiting (we like the toddler sleepy time yoga book).

For awhile, dd1 loved mimicking me 'making lists' in bed.  I'd sit there with a clipboard, maybe some books, and work out some lists for myself.  She had the same things (clipboard, paper, pencils), and would do that until she fell asleep sometimes.

There are some progressive relaxation kid books/books on CD's I've seen.  A boy and a turtle is one I've seen (we have another from the series, actually).

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#7 of 7 Old 07-17-2012, 04:46 AM
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First off, have you looked at sensory processing disorders? If he needs cuddles to sleep he sounds like my son and he has tactile issues. Stuff like a weighed blanket and changing the sheets if they are bothering him can help, for example. It's worth reading about.

Secondly, my boys have a very fine line between being overtired or under tired. When overtired they behave the same way as if they aren't tired! Hyper, refusal to lie down to sleep, irritable, etc. makes bedtime last for hours.
Mine will nap in the car, or when walked in the buggy, at around 12-1 ish. From trial and error they currently need a 40 min nap. Otherwise they are overtired and won't sleep!

He may well be chronically overtired so any way you can encourage a short daytime nap may actually help him to sleep at night.

Also have you looked at supplementing with melatonin? We have the bedroom pitch black to help our two. But melatonin can help kids drop off to sleep quicker than letting it build up naturally in a darkened room.

Good luck. I have twin boys who don't sleep well. It's not fun!
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