Sleep Regression Happens Anytime
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
I want to share my recent experience with my 11 year old boy having sleep issues.
A couple of months ago, my great sleeper was struggling to go to sleep at the beginning of the night. This had previously happened for a couple of nights before, but then he got back in to the groove and was fine. This was going on a little bit too long for my liking, but I was sure it would right itself.
As a result, he was getting over tired and started waking between 3-4am and needing more help to go back to sleep. He was tired, he wanted to sleep and was crying with distressed, but couldn’t do it.
My husband very sweetly would take him back to his room to resettle him (as I’m the grumpy one when I’m woken), but for a couple of nights he accidently fell asleep on the floor. BIG MISTAKE!
My son now thought he needed someone there to help him sleep. He was getting anxious and clingy about going to bed and genuinely worried about waking in the night and not going back to sleep. I explained that we couldn’t sleep on his floor, so he either tries on his own or moves to his brothers bunk bed. So he chose to move.
First night was great! I thought, good - a couple more like this to get him back in the habit and things will go back to normal – happy days!
After that first night, ironically moving to his brother’s room made it worse. He was disturbed more (his brother is a heavy breather/snores!). The peak was him waking and coming in to our room 8 times from 11.45pm-3.30am. We were all exhausted – apart from the heavy breathing/snoring brother!
Things had to change. We were all struggling to function. We were all over emotional, grumpy, unmotivated, snappy, eating and craving sugary food, clumsy and taking far too long to do the simplest tasks. The worst thing was I am an experienced sleep practitioner and I couldn’t solve things!
I had done all the right things, my children have the same bedtime routine every night, they go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Screen time stops early, they have a long wind down of reading books or colouring, have lots of fresh air; they eat well – what could I change? How could I make it good again? How can I have a full night’s sleep that I desperately wanted?
So what was my plan of action, how could I reset him? How to change his mind set that he CAN sleep full night as he has done for over 10 years?
His bedtime routine was good so I looked at his environment and his body.
His room is quite noisy, especially when its windy – was that waking him and scaring him?
Probably. What could I do to help that? Moving room wasn't an option, but my hubby and I moved the furniture in his room round to give him a clean slate and stop the negative association. He was excited about the change which was positive and I offered him earplugs which I taught him how to put in correctly.
I suggested if he wakes, rather than coming to wake us, he puts on calming music which he thought was a good idea. This give him more control. Also, by getting up he will wake up more so it takes longer to go back to sleep.
I explained that we all wake 5-7 times in the night; the trick is to know what position you get in to go back to sleep. So we worked on recognising that.
I looked at his bedtime – he was struggling to go to bed so was he going to bed too early? I shifted his bedtime backward by 30 mins.
The final thing was his bladder. I really pushed him into drinking more water during the day rather than the evening. I got him a new water bottle which reminded him how much to drink by certain times and made sure he goes to the toilet before switching his light off. Sometimes he doesn’t need to go, but then he wakes and struggle to back to sleep. If he goes, it’s a full nights sleep for us all.
I found not having a plan to start with was the trickiest thing (with the sleep deprivation). I found it made it stressful and you end up grabbing at ideas that may or may not work. When I did have a plan, I had to believe in it because doubt is the biggest enemy. Doubt eats away at your confidence and determination. To have a plan, stick to it and give it your all is the best you can do - and patience helps. I had to give it 2 weeks to see if the changes worked. Fortunately, they have and my son has learnt new techniques to help him sleep wherever he is.