An hour in the dark to fall asleep - is this normal? - Mothering Forums
Co-sleeping and the Family Bed > An hour in the dark to fall asleep - is this normal?
Zenmama1's Avatar Zenmama1 07:24 PM 06-27-2013

Our bedtime routine consists of bath, snack, brush teeth, books, lights out & mommy or daddy lays with our 2.5 yo DD in the dark until she falls asleep. We usually start the routine about an hour before lights out. But it is driving me crazy that one of us has to lay in the dark with DD for anywhere from 30 mins (on average) to an hour. Usually it takes an hour if I move bedtime earlier. If I move bedtime later it still takes about 30 mins. And it has to be dark. If lights are on she won't fall asleep. Is this normal? Is there any way to change this? At nap time she is usually asleep with 15 minutes. Why is it so long at night? I am too tired and restless to sit in the dark for this long each night. Any advice is appreciated.

Thank you!

skycheattraffic's Avatar skycheattraffic 10:14 AM 06-28-2013
It's what our routine is like with my 27 month old. The only thing that makes it quicker is when she misses her nap (she's hit or miss now, won't nap anywhere but the stroller or carseat so misses nap often). Half an hour is pretty bearable for me but 45-60 minutes is more difficult to bear. White noise (a fan) is helpful for us but falling asleep in the evening is the hardest. Big hugs; we'reright there with you!
Zenmama1's Avatar Zenmama1 12:27 PM 06-28-2013

Thanks Sky! I guess that is good news and bad news. Good that nothing is out of the ordinary. But bad that it is just something I am going to have to deal with. You are right it is more of the 45 min plus days that get to me the most. I have been thinking of two things that could be contributing to this. Let me know what you think:


1. Maybe her sleep needs are changing and she needs less sleep? We were doing about 14hrs/day. But the No Cry Sleep Solution says they need about 13hrs at this age. Maybe she shifted and I am trying to keep her the way it was. Maybe I need to shorten her 2.5-3hr nap to 2 hrs?


2. Maybe we need to stop holding her & letting her lay on our chests to fall asleep at night. Could this be too stimulating for her at this age? I will really miss the cuddle time, but maybe I need to teach her to lay next to me to fall asleep? Makes me sad to think of that but I guess it is all part of them growing up. And I know it will be hard for her. She does love to snuggle.

skycheattraffic's Avatar skycheattraffic 12:46 PM 06-28-2013
I think the sleep needs are an average guideline. Some kids will need a bit more, some a bit less. Mine averages 11-12 hours per 24 hours unless sick. Any attempt to get more sleep into her fails miserably. I've never had luck with shortening naps, they always resulted in a nuclear meltdown; worse than missing the nap completely. It can be worth a try though, for sure; your kiddo may not mind. If it makes things worse, it's easy enough to simply stop waking her smile.gif

I don't think cuddling her is too stimulating or you'd know it with talking/playing/monkey business. I lay with my DD, arms around her if she lets me and about half the time she pretends to nurse. If the cuddling wasn't working for you that's one thing but I don't think it's hurting the situation. Maybe tweaking the nap to earlier might help if she tolerates it.

I wish I had more ideas for you!
mylove's Avatar mylove 07:27 PM 06-29-2013

I think it is completely normal. My almost 4 year old is the same way now (at times) and she was this way at 2. I will say that dropping her afternoon nap has been the best thing ever for us (she was 3 years, 3 months at the time and we had a good 6 months of sleep torture). Most nights she will fall asleep in 5 mins at 6:30 and sleep until 6 or so (this is b/c she doesn't nap). Before dropping the nap, she would take an hour or 2 to fall asleep and wake up a 4am. She woke up at 4 am everyday for 2 years. She was the child who needed less sleep than all the books and all my friends children. After 3 weeks of not napping, everything involving sleep improved. I'm not saying that you should elimnate her nap, but it made life here much better. 

We do have hard nights, where it takes her a little longer to fall asleep. What I do is lay with her for a good 15-20 mins and then I tell her I am going to sit up. I sit up in her bed and wait til she falls asleep. I have found that once I sit up, she falls asleep faster. I think I am overstimulating her laying beside her. Some nights, though, I can lay with her until she falls asleep. I have just learned to read her and tell if I am preventing her from sleeping. 

McGucks's Avatar McGucks 08:18 PM 06-29-2013
30 minutes is a minimum here, and our son will not let DH near him when the lights are has been that way since he was born, and he is well into his 3s. It can be maddening.

If it goes over an hour or sometimes less if I've just had it, I give up. DH then does a snack or reads to him while I take a quick sanity shower or grab a snack myself.

Lately, for nap, I have tried nursing him, then staying right next to him in bed and patting his back until he falls asleep. This goes over better some times than others. Very occasionally, it works at night.

I never wake him from nap...he is guaranteed to be in a very bad mood. I, too, have zero luck with making bedtime earlier or later.

Waking him in the morning does help him go to sleep a bit earlier at night, but not more quickly.

Good luck, mama. It is really hard, and sometimes really boring. When I get too upset or resentful, I remind myself of moms who have not been able to have children or even parents who have lost children and would give anything to have my problem. It can help.
skycheattraffic's Avatar skycheattraffic 08:59 PM 06-29-2013
Originally Posted by McGucks View Post

Good luck, mama. It is really hard, and sometimes really boring. When I get too upset or resentful, I remind myself of moms who have not been able to have children or even parents who have lost children and would give anything to have my problem. It can help.
Thank you for posting this thought. It has helped me see my current situation (36 weeks pregnant and chasing a 2 year old) in a new light. I've been having resentment issues and frustration and reading this has provided a reality check. It's very helpful to challenge some of my intrusive, inaccurate thoughts - I am in counseling about it and this is another tool I can turn to. Thank you again. hug.gif
McGucks's Avatar McGucks 10:12 AM 06-30-2013
I do not think your thoughts are at all "inaccurate "!

Much as I love my little one, he drives me totally nuts most days...and if I was 36 weeks pregnant, I can assure you I would try very hard to jettison the guilt trip! You are doing awesome. Give yourself buckets of credit, ask for whatever help you want, and hang in there.

I do not think I have a single day (um, maybe a single hour) where I do not have some resentment or frustration. Some of it is that our child is kind of tough, but some of it is that, straight up, raising children is, for most people, REALLY DARN HARD. Especially when you do a decent job of it. SIL tosses her kids to MIL about half the time (and she is a SAHM), including overnight...that seems less hard than what we do. Doesn't mean we are "doing it right," just that I do think It is hard to be a mom!
Zenmama1's Avatar Zenmama1 07:46 PM 08-04-2013

Thank you so much everyone for your support. I just changed the title of this thread from 30 minutes to an hour. I really need to vent because it has taken over 2 hours to put my DD to sleep tonight. I feel so angry...I know it's not healthy to feel this way night after night. I just feel like screaming. I am at my wits end. I am so sick and tired of the bed time battles. And I feel terrible that this time has gone from loving and sweet to angry and resentful.

I used to cuddle her to sleep but she has become so obnoxious about it that I can't handle it any more. She rolls around on top of me, thrashes side to side, and doesn't lay still until I say in a very stern almost mean voice "lay down and go to sleep." Or I threaten to get up and leave the room. I hate talking to her like that. But nothing seems to work and I am so confused about what to do to fix this problem. I've tried getting her to lay next to me on the bed and offered holding my hand. But now she is pushing the limits with that. Asking to hold both holds, needing to hold my hand in a certain way. Waking up in the middle of the night demanding to hold my hand. So I tried giving no physical contact. Well you'd think I was torturing her by the tantrums she throws...which last well over an hour. It really seems like she NEEDS to have some kind of physical contact. So I don't know whether to stick to this no contact thing, in hopes that she eventually learns to put herself to sleep or give in to her "need" for contact. Have I created a monster by cuddling her to sleep to long? I have also tried giving her a stuffed animal or a blanket instead which she likes to throw across the bed in protest. Man do I have my hands full with this strong willed little girl!

I am considering dropping her nap. But she is only 2 1/2 and she used to take a 2 1/2 hour nap each day. Isn't kind of sudden to just drop that? I tried yesterday and she was pretty good most of the day but got really whiney in the afternoon. I was able to get her to bed at 7:30 after about 20 minutes of rocking her in my arms. But then she woke up every hour for the first 3 hours, and then again at about 4:30am. Should I just go this route because it is easy? Will the frequent night wakings stop? I really hate to drop the nap - I like my alone time.

Ugh this is all so frustrating I feel like banging my head against the wall. And then running out the door screaming like a crazy person lol. Please tell me what to do here, so I can keep my sanity.

Littlebmama's Avatar Littlebmama 10:02 PM 08-04-2013
I certainly don't have the answers you are looking for but I can sympathize with your nighttime struggles. I am trying to nightwean my son as I am currently pregnant and don't feel like I can nurse two babies all night long. I will spare you the details of the drama that has ensued. All that being said every time I get to the point where I can't take it and I'm so frustrated my DH and I stop and think about how our son is feeling. We have always given him all the cuddles, holding, nursing, etc that it took for him to fall asleep and get through the night. That is what we taught him and all he knows. I am picking one small goal at a time to focus on and trying to remember that slow small steps will still get me to the finish line. Maybe cutting all contact or her entire nap is too much change all at once. We dropped one nursing session successfully and when my son wanted it back I wouldn't give in. The first night it was an hour tantrum but two nights later he rolled over and went back to bed. Maybe you have enough mommy strength left to slow down with her and find the steps she can handle along the way. If you need to make big change because you are done then that is what you need to do so you can be a good mom. I'm sending you hugs and compassion.
Nightwish's Avatar Nightwish 11:38 AM 08-05-2013
She might be ready to drop her nap. I know there is a difficult stage when they aren't tired at bedtime if they have a nap, or too tired by 5pm if they don't have one.
I would try not putting her down for a nap and moving her bedtime earlier.
I know it's hard to give up the time you had for yourself while she napped, but look at the bright side: you might gain a couple of hours in the evening.
Gracecody's Avatar Gracecody 02:25 PM 08-05-2013

I am so sorry that you are going through this frustrating time. I think something needs to change, but that you need to pick one thing at a time so the change is gradual. I can't offer advice on the afternoon nap as my first two just stopped being able to fall asleep easily in the afternoon and that is when we dropped it.


My daughter used to fall asleep on my chest starting around age 3 because that is when I finally weaned her completely, and this took the place of nursing. If she fell asleep there I could just sort of heave her off me without her waking up. ;) But if it took her longer to fall asleep (beyond 10 min or so) this would get uncomfortable for me in a hurry and I would tell her I couldn't hold her anymore and lay with her in the dark til she fell asleep. I was just firm about this and she protested at first but got used to laying next to thing that eased this transition was to let her know I would tell her a story and then it was going to be time to be quiet and go to sleep. As long as she got her story she was pretty agreeable. The adventures of the bunnies that lived under the big tree in the backyard...


Two other little things - first, if you have an ipod/kindle/iphone etc. you could listen to audiobooks while she's falling asleep. I read articles and catch up on emails on my ipod while I'm nursing my little one to sleep right now, but the day will come where the glow of the screen is too distracting and I will switch to using earbuds to listen to audiobooks. Then at least you feel like you are 'doing' something. Second, you might try taking a walk after dinner if possible, I do this with my three and it really helps them burn off any extra energy and wind down for bed.

Ola_'s Avatar Ola_ 09:19 PM 08-05-2013

My DD is 27 months and it takes her about 30 minutes to fall asleep (this is not counting the whole brushing teeth, reading books, and hugs goodnight). If she's extra tired it can be a little less like 20-25 min but if something is off then an hour is not unusual. She falls asleep in her crib and I sit in her room in the rocking chair till she's asleep. We have the lights off and quiet music on and I use the time to read ebooks on my phone (with the brightness turned way down). I've found that doing something else makes me much less stressed and resentful about the time it takes, and I actually often stay there for a little longer to finish a chapter I'm reading, etc. Maybe you could do something with headphones - listen to quiet music, radio, or audiobooks? Reading might be tricky when laying with her.

newmamalizzy's Avatar newmamalizzy 09:48 PM 08-05-2013
I think you should revisit the idea of too much stimulation with you there. This happened with my DD, who went from bring the infant who needed hours of bouncing, jiggling, thumping, etc. to fall asleep, to a little girl who can get sleepy but not actually fall asleep until I leave the room. It was right around your daughter's age that I started leavingand your last post about her thrashing and whatnot really makes me think this could be part if it.
Zenmama1's Avatar Zenmama1 07:13 PM 08-07-2013

This is so helpful! I am so glad all of you have taken the time to give me advice. I agree I think changing one thing at a time is a good approach. I do feel like at this point in her life it will be too hard on my DD to just cut off physical contact. Because even trying to substitute a lovey or offer my hand has been a really tough transition for her - one that she isn't taking to. And because truthfully I really like cuddling with my baby. I do read books on my iphone after lights out. Its just at the end of the day I am so spent I don't have anything else to give. I can do it for a half hour tops. But for some reason 45 mins to an hour pushes me past my limit. Thankfully she has started letting DH put her to sleep some nights.

But back to the whole nap dropping thing. I am thinking of trying this because lately even nap time it has started taking her 30-40 mins to fall asleep..she used to be out in 10-15 mins. I am just does it usually happen? She dropped from 1 nap to 2 naps a day right around when she was a year old so I can't even remember what it was like back then. When they drop it do they bounce around...napping some days and then not napping others? Or should I just shorten her nap first and see how she does - she used to nap 2.5 hours a day?

What would be bed time and wake time suggestions for a 2 1/2 year old that doesn't nap? Thanks so much for your insight!

pt33333's Avatar pt33333 11:08 PM 08-07-2013
When my kids (9 and 17 now) started to take a long time falling asleep for naps was when we started dropping them. We switched to "quiet time" first. They'd sit in their beanbag chair or somewhere comfy and look at books or son other quiet play and I took time to sit, relax and maybe read. Some days they were tired and fell asleep but eventually that stopped.
Zenmama1's Avatar Zenmama1 07:02 PM 08-08-2013

Well good news! I let her skip her nap today because she was just too restless to fall asleep. She did pretty well most of the day, though at dinner she became a little onry - throwing food and her cup. I put her to bed at 7:00 after her normal bedtime routine and she fell asleep within 20 mins - in my arms of course. She woke up once since then because she peed and needed her pullup changed - she hates to be wet. And now I have my fingers crossed that the rest of the night goes well. I did really really miss getting an afternoon break though today :(

Tags: Bedtime , Bedtime Routines , Toddlers , Toddler