The night walker

So…the boy has always been a restless sleeper. Always. He only sleeps well when touching another person. His father can cope with that…I can’t. I just can’t sleep with someone else’s head on my pillow. And it was fine when he was a baby. Even aged three. But the boy is six now, and big. The cuddles aren’t that sweet anymore. Neither are the feet in my face.

So he goes to sleep by himself just fine. Then he wakes up (presumably to pee). Instead of heading back to his bed, he detours to ours. And we get up and put him back in bed (not always nicely). Then the problem starts. He can’t put himself back to sleep without someone there. If we tell him to lie down and try, he’ll wake us up again in about ten minutes with a “Mommy! I can’t sleep!”. This has been known to happen four times in a row, with us putting him back every time. This whole episode is usually repeated at least twice a night (around eleven, and around two or three). I’m not getting enough sleep. He’s not getting enough sleep. No one is happy.

We can solve the problem by one of us (Daddy!!!) lying in bed with him until he falls asleep. If he has someone next to him, he doesn’t even wake up. BUT…Daddy doesn’t wake up after he lays down. I’m okay with that…it means I’ve got the king sized bed to myself. But it’s not really helping the boy learn to put himself back to sleep!!!

Any bright ideas? It’s not like “cry it out” works at age six. And getting up and down to put him back to bed gets really old after about the eighth time. I’ve tried bribery. No luck. He just says “It doesn’t matter how much I want to…I just can’t get back to sleep.” I’ve tried punishment. That has NEVER worked on the boy…he just gets more stubborn. His sister sleeps by herself just fine. She even manages to climb back into the top of a loft bed and go back to sleep (I’d struggle with that!). This is just something about him…he likes contact.

A friend said that her boy was the same at six, and that he’s grown out of it (he’s fifteen now, so I’m glad to hear it!!!). But the interrupted sleep is really not good for me, or for him.

Clues, wise mammas?

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41 thoughts on “The night walker

  1. So…things that we’ve tried:
    bribery
    punishment
    patiently putting him back every single time
    giving him a time after which he can climb in with us
    giving up and one of us sleeping in there
    playing musical beds so that he and daddy end up in the big bed and I sleep in his (this works really well!!!! sigh….)

  2. Well, we could always start that commune we joke about, because Lily is the exact same way. RJ and Lily could share a bed and all would be perfect.

    But, aside from my deep and total sympathy and empathy, I got nothing. Because we’re doing the same damn thing right now.

  3. My parents had a rule that I had to count up to … 1000, I think … before I could complain about not sleeping. Counting is a really, really good way to put yourself to sleep. Doesn’t matter what you count or of you just run though the numbers.

      • Count backwards though. Start at 1000 (we usually do 500 though but your kids are smarter than mine) and count back to 0. I find that if you’re counting up your brain is focused on it because it’s something you do naturally but if you count backwards then your (or my..) brain gets bored and just goes to sleep.

    • We’ve done that and sometimes with a few twists. I ask Lucy to count all the people who love her and I help her start, “mama, daddy, Clara, Grandma…” and ask her to see how many she can get. I know there are at least 100, but how many more can she think of? She can call out for more help if she gets more than last time.

  4. Liza was like this… and honestly… I just did what you guys do b/c I figured we needed sleep more than we needed a battle at 2am.. and damned if she didn’t work herself right out of it.

    • Thanks, Katie. That’s actually reassuring. And I’m kind of tempted to go with the whole “whatever it takes for everyone to get sleep”…which is how I’ve parented all along. But I have to get the other parent on board…. But I suspect that it’ll be just like it was when we had newborns. I could do anything that I wanted, with absolutely no effect other than driving me mad. And then they’ll just grow out of it. :)

      • exactly… I can’t remember when it ended…it took a while… I remember moving from me reading books to her in bed to her reading to herself and then me coming in for a lie down and cuddle…during the REALLY rough night terror years I spent more time in her bed or with her in mine than naught.. but actually when Kelly moved in 3 years ago is when I remember it suddenly just ceasing. it was as if she felt really secure and she’d read herself to sleep etc.. she got a tv in her room last year so now she may watch 20 minutes or so then fall asleep… and now I have a teenager who regularly says “I’m heading to bed I’m bushed” and it’s only 930 so I’m not complaining :-)

        but yeah I always figured sleep was more important than whatever battle we would have and I just let things run their course and work themselves out and it always seemed to work out ok in the end!

        • Amen. I’m absolutely certain no kid in the world ever came home from the Prom and said “Mama, will you snuggle me? I can’t sleep.”

          All things pass eventually- and then you miss them. (H told me in no uncertain terms that, while I was welcome to a bit of a cuddle last night, it was more for me than for him and I shouldn’t expect it forever. Le sigh.)

          • My sister didn’t stop going into my parents’ room to sleep with my mom until she moved out of the house at 24. But that’s a really unhealthy dynamic there, so I’m sure that in less dysfunctional families, it doesn’t happen.

        • Yeah…I gave up last night at 2 am and let him sleep in the big bed with dad and I went and slept in his bed. We all got plenty of sleep and we were all coping much better this morning. I think I’m just going to have to stick to “whatever it takes” and have faith that he’ll grow out of it eventually.

  5. We went through something similar, except that I really liked sleeping with my kids. For a long time, it was the boys and I in the king-sized bed and my husband in the younger boy’s double bed, but then he (the husband) got tired of that and kicked us out of the king, so the three of us shifted to one of the double beds. Eventually, my older one just started wanting to sleep on his own (except for a couple more winters, when he would still come in to get warm), and eventually the younger one kicked me out of his room, too. He won’t even let me kiss him goodnight anymore, because that’s for babies. So, the good news is that yes, eventually they do want to sleep by themselves, because only little boys sleep with their moms. The bad news is that he may be 8 or 9 before that happens.

  6. I can’t sleep well with my kids, either, so I sympathize. I’m barely able to co-sleep with my husband let alone my squirmy little ones! My oldest has never had a problem sleeping on her own and she was in her own room at 6-weeks-old. I don’t think she’s come into our room at night more than 5 times in her whole life.

    Her little brother is totally opposite and we’ve gone through long stretches where he’ll come into our room each night. He’s just not a good sleeper. Every night (every night!) bedtime is a huge ordeal and I keep asking him why since there hasn’t been a day in his life when he didn’t go to sleep. He denies it of course, he doesn’t go to bed every night! Then someone has to sit in his room until he falls asleep (usually DH, who then also falls asleep for a couple of hours). Then DS wakes up sobbing sometime between 10:30 and 12:30 most nights and has to be comforted back to sleep. DD was easier as a newborn than this guy is at 5.

    For the past year he hasn’t been coming into our room at night aside from thunderstorms. Instead he’ll end up in his sister’s room a few times per week. Some nights we’ll just set up her trundle bed in advance, or we’ll use that as the carrot at the end of the stick — if he stays in his bed all night, on Friday he can sleep in her room on the trundle bed. Could you put a bed roll in DD’s room for him to crash in? My daughter sleeps like a lumberjack (like dad) and isn’t bothered by him being in there at all.

    I wonder how many of our 2nd born kids are like this?

  7. We’ve had different struggles with each.

    Mira still has a hard time going to sleep. And she wakes up in the middle of the night 1-2/week. But, 2 years ago, it was every night and then she’d be in our bed. Now, she comes in for a hug and then almost always goes back to bed.

    Isaac wants someone to cuddle him at bedtime but will usually fall asleep super fast. He and Mira are both sleeping in his room right now and there are a number of times when she’s complained, “How can he DO that?!?” But if he gets up in the middle of the night, or early morning, he ends up in our bed. And he’s quiet and sneaky so often I don’t even realize he’s there until I start waking up in the morning. So, it’s not as disruptive as DS is for you.

    DS sounds more like Mira was and then for her the co-sleeping thing is what got us enough sleep until she grew out of it a bit. Knock on wood :)

    Good luck!

  8. All I can think is will the cat sleep with him? I don’t think y’all have a dog, right? I just thought maybe that would be “somebody” but not one of you somebodies.

  9. I hesitate to write this because it’s not what you want to hear, but we’ve been dealing with this more or less continuously for eleven years. My elder son craves contact at night. There was a big improvement around age 7 or 8 – before that he had to be in our bed every single night – but he’s still in our room most nights. My elder son is the securely attached one, and this is the only classic adoptee trait we’ve ever seen in him. My younger one had the rocky attachment history, but he has always slept like a stone.

    We now have a pallet at the foot of our bed with a sleeping bag and a camping mattress. He has to at least try to sleep in his own bed but if he can’t fall asleep or wakes in the night he moves into our room. Usually he stays on the floor but if he’s too anxious he ends up in our bed. When daddy’s traveling, as he is this week, he skips the floor and just takes his father’s spot. At some point with adolescence arriving I will need to call a stop to that, but I’m not sure when.

    • We’ve done that too – mostly when there are bad storms or when it’s too hot to sleep without AC (has stopped since we got AC for his bedroom) – and it was more when his Dad traveled.

      One night I woke up to hearing “Mom?….Mom? MOMMMM!” from under my bed. LIttle guy had rolled over in the night and woke up pinned under the bed. lol MIddle of the night I had to lift the bedframe AND move a small boy at the same time. Aaaah Memories.

  10. Well…get his sister a double bed and let him crawl in with her? If he knew this was all right, could he do so without interrupting her sleep? Our younger kids did this a lot. The other siblings seemed to be all right with it, too. We used to say that we went to a lot of trouble and expense to make sure we had six bedrooms besides ours for the kids, and it was all wasted because they all ended up in two or three bedrooms most nights anyway.

    And they did all grow up to be able to sleep by themselves.

  11. No advice because we’re dealing with the exact same thing. It started a bit after we put him in his toddler bed. He will go to sleep fine on his own, but sometime between midnight & maybe 5 am, he’s in our bed. At first we always took him back, but he always returned. I’m different than you in that I can sleep with him in bed, so we just let him. Every couple of weeks he’ll spend the whole night in his own bed, so I don’t know what’s waking him up. But at this point we’re just hoping he grows out of it. Most of the time I’m sleeping so soundly that I don’t know he’s there until the alarm goes off.

    DD is a fantastic sleeper. Every one in a while she’ll wander in around five or six, but otherwise, I’m usually waking her up. DS & I talked about it recently and he said, “I love you so much & I get so lonely, and my stuffed animals aren’t real.” Given that we’ve just started OT with him for sensory issues (mainly stimuli-seeking) I guess it’s not surprising that he wants lots of cuddling. He’ll be one of those boyfriends who always wants to hold hands. Some girl will love that, hopefully!

    • Well, we bought a king size bed for this reason. It’s just that the boy has to sleep on the other side of his father…he can’t be between us. He likes to put his head on one of us and his feet on the other….

      No matter. We’ll sort it out. And one day I’ll look back and wonder why I wasted energy worrying about such a little thing. I just don’t do sleep deprivation well!!!

      • Sometimes DS will curl up at the end of the bed like a dog. I have no idea how that’s comfortable anymore, but at least I rarely get a kick in the face anymore. And luckily we have a guest room, so if one of us goes to bed late & he’s already there, that person can sleep in the extra bed. I don’t envy you the sleep deprivation, but having him sleep with us is definitely not as bad as potty training, IMO.

  12. One last suggestion – a heavy/weighted pillow or blanket – some kids seek that deep pressure/weight of someone next to them. A large pillow or a heavy blanket might help with that. FWIW , when my DH travels, I pile all the pillows on his side of hte bed (rather than spreading out across the Queen sized bed). Somehow it feels more reassuring to have that presence there.

    I’m not worried he’ll ask you to co-sleep in HS, but I’m totally there with you in nt sleeping well with a kid in the bed. My DH used to love having him there, so we had to ride that one out. It didn’t happen a lot, but it did happen, and eventually he grew out of it.

    • Hmmm. I’ve heard of the weighted sensory blankets. He kicks all blankets off (yet another reason that he’s delightful to sleep with!), but maybe a pillow or something would help… Though he does have at least 50 stuffed creatures on his bed. I have to kick them all off when I sleep in there!!! I’ll experiment a bit.

      • We have a weighted blanket. It’s not big enough to use on his bed, but they used it in school when he took naps, so we use it for that, or just to calm him down. We haven’t needed it for a while. And your comment reminded me that Gus also has about 12 stuffed animals and three pillows on his bed, minimum, at any given time. And some books and cars, too. I wish I understood it more, but I guess it’s just the way he is.

        • Off to ebay to find one…

          And yeah…I don’t get the bed full of toys. I vanished about twelve of them recently. But I made the mistake of putting them in the garage in a box instead of a bag. He saw them. They’re back, and he’s defending them fiercely.

  13. I can tell you for a fact they all grow out of it, at or before adolescence. Until then, we did whatever it took to get the most sleep. Our general rule was, you can come to our bed, but do not wake us (please!). I had one that used to like to sleep in the shape of an L, with feet extended into my tummy. We had a flat mattress under our bed to pull out on difficult nights. We got WAY more sleep just dealing with it and waiting for them to grow out of it. I promise, they will grow out of it!
    For fun, you might enjoy the book, The Cuddlers…or maybe you’ll just be able to relate.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Cuddlers-Stacy-Towle-Morgan/dp/0912500417

  14. At some point, I worked with L on quieting her thoughts in the middle of the night….if I said “just TRY to sleep” it would have increased anxiety. We did things like “thinking about a peaceful place” and systematic self-relaxation. It did gradually help her.

    The real problem is that kids don’t necessarily agree with adults on the reason WHY they should sleep in their own beds.

    • I know… what is with these children and their own agendas?!? When Jess was around 3, she said “Why should I sleep by myself when you and Daddy sleep in a bed together?” I really didn’t have an answer for that one.

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