Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 206 or Dream Land

Now, we have already established that the days of my life is just a slice of Perfection Pie, so you might think that is true of the nights, as well. You might think that. You'd be wrong. Oh, so wrong.

When it comes to sleep, the night has never been my friend. As a child, I was held hostage to constant, horrendous nightmares. I dreaded going to bed. As soon as my mother would click off my light, I was paralyzed by fear until sleep finally took over. This was made much worse if I was unable to fall asleep before my parents went to bed. I felt a proximal safety while they were awake but that was completely lost when I would see that hall light go dark. I would then lie there miserable and afraid, sometimes for hours. All I wanted was to sleep in the safety of my parent's bed.

This problem has followed me well into adult life. No! I don't want to sleep with my parents. But I have had sleep problems all my life. As a teen, I learned a few tricks. I was allowed a TV in my room. I could then fall asleep to the warmth of a technicolor screen. And as a college student living on my own, my insomnia became a tool rather than a hindrance. When I no longer had parents who cared if I banged around the house all night, I learned to use the time. I was comfortable with 4-5 hours of sleep (and 2-3 hours was not unusual). In that time, my house was immaculate, and I was never behind in my schoolwork. (Oh! What I would do now to be able to live a 19-20 hour day. Alas!) I still needed the television on almost constantly but no longer confined to a bed in a dark, quiet room, my mind was not allowed to run amok. And if I woke from a nightmare, there was the TV waiting to say I was not alone.

So as a parent, I was very concerned about my children feeling safe at bedtime. I was going to be available to them as they needed -- going to sleep, in the middle of the night, whenever. They were never going to suffer as I did, darn it! Well, any of you who watch Dr. Phil know, you create what you fear. And I created terrible sleepers.

I inadvertently taught them that they NEEDED me to sleep. To feel safe in their beds. Which has not only affected their sleep -- it has destroyed mine. No longer an energetic 20-something who could survive with mere moments of shut-eye, I crave sleep. No, I need, Need, NEED sleep. And this is pretty difficult to get when one arm has lost all circulation holding a six year old and ribs are in danger of cracking as a toddler walks her way up and down my side ALL night long. (And of course, all of this happened on one half of a bed -- you know Dad got his full half of the bed!) I have not slept longer than 90 minutes in a row in YEARS. I mean it, years. No hyperbole.

So with last week's move, we got the kiddos a really cool new bunk bed set and insisted that the days (well, nights) of Mom's bed being an Open House were over. But we live in an apartment so the old Supernanny/Ferber/Whatever? method that involved white knuckling hours of my children screaming in misery was out of the question. So I have resorted to rewards (bribes) and staying in the bedroom until they fall asleep (for now). And we are making progress. In fact, my three year old is sleeping better than ever. She has trouble going down but once she's asleep, she is out! And stays out. My six year old is having a harder time but he's doing it with a little middle of the night coaxing.

So you would think that I was doing the happy dance, right? Well, sort of (still not comfortable with that phrase -- sort of. Oh well. Back to topic.) I realize that in some ways, I have replaced my sleep issues with my kids'. Now that they are out of the bed, I need to learn to sleep again. UGH! Will I ever conquer the night? And how do I make sure my kids still know that I am always there for them, even after dark, without going back to having a family bed?

What about you? Do you have issues with the Sandman? Do you let your kids in your bed? If so, when and how did they become independent? Sleepless minds want to know.


CaneWife said...

I am an awful sleeper. And I will admit, I have a super hyperactive imagination (and yet I insist on watching horror movies). It's not so bad when my husband is home, but when he is out of town? Hoo boy. There are nights when I just don't sleep.

However, I have been very careful not to project that on to Turtle. He sleeps beautifully in his own crib in his own room. He loves it there. We are not yet at the monster stage, which will be tough for me, but I've been collecting tips (monster spray and such), and hope to implement them.

I'm sure he'll sleep with us sometimes, after a particularly bad dream or if he's sick, but I don't think a once in a while comforting will lead to bad habits.

Good luck getting your nights back. I know it's tough.

Alyssa S. said...

I'm truly blessed in the sleep department. As a kid, I had a real bad time with the dark (still do) and with an overactive imagination, had some doozy nightmares, but my sister told me (she's older)me when I was about three that if I had one of my stuffed animals in bed with me that nothing bad could happen. That really helped me. Oh yes, and the fact that I'm practically a narcoleptic and fall dead asleep about 2 minutes after I close my eyes! The dolly did more for keeping the bad dreams away. Getting to sleep was rarely an issue.

As for my kids, I learned by seeing the nightmare my sister went through with her kids. From day one, we refused to let the kids sleep anywhere but their own cribs and eventually their own beds. As they got older, we did have to eventually contend with them getting out of bed and had to deal with putting them back into bed over and over. At two and four, they both are really good sleepers and are content with being in their own beds.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Definite sandman issues in this corner. Though of a different nature than yours. I have never been able to just get in bed and fall asleep. So envious of people who can naturally do that. It's not night terrors or anything. Simply that my mind will NOT turn off. And I could get in bed and lie there, awake, tossing and turning and thinking, for literally hours! That was the norm for me and I just lived with it when I was young and when I was a SAHM for 20+ years. But a couple of years ago I went to work full time and had to start getting up at a decent hour and foregoing a mid-day siesta! Melatonin wasn't cutting it so I called my doctor who obliged me with a prescription for Ambien and I was like WOW! I can get in bed and go to sleep! Awesome! Flip side is that I am now an Ambien "addict" and cannot sleep without it. :( Oh well. I guess there are worse things!

Oh ... and when my son was little we made him sleep on a pallet on the floor when he needed to be close. Our bed was off limits except for very rare occasions!

Laura said...

I thank God everyday that I personally have never had sleep problems. I also thank God that I never had to deal with the children sleeping in my bed issue. My daughter went through a phase when she was 3 where she would wake up at 4am every morning and want to crawl in bed to snuggle for a while. Other than that they've been really good about going to sleep in their beds.

Tiffany said...

I haven't been a good sleeper since I started having kids. My kids are great sleepers though!!

One Photo said...

One of the best pieces of advice our pediatrician gave me was that children need to learn to fall asleep on their own and that the earlier you do it the better. If they do not learn it in early childhood chances are they will always have problems. We had this conversation at my daughter's 4 month checkup when he asked me if she slept well and I said yes, but that either my husband or I would rock her to sleep each night, which took about 20 minutes or so and after that she was fine. He told me we needed to stop doing that immediately unless we wanted years of broken sleep. So we did - the first night we stood outside her door in agony listening to her cry for about 15 minutes. The next night it was 5 minutes and ever since then she has been a wonderful sleeper. So I thank my lucky stars we got that advice when we did.

SO - stick at what you are doing with your children. It must be so hard to do, but you are doing the absolute best for them if you want them to have a life in which sleep issues do not register.

They will ALWAYS know that you are there for them, morning noon and night, because you are. Once or twice my now 3 year old has had a bad dream and wakes up, in which case I always go to her, and after a while she is calm enough to go back to bed and fall asleep again.

Hope that helps! As for your own sleep issues I don't know what to suggest, there must be plenty of research on ways to try and conquer it or maybe you need to do something out of the box like visiting a hypnotist?!?

Nancy C said...

Sleep is one of the hardest things about parenting. There's a book and an opinion for everything, but I believe that you know your family, you know your needs, and you will do what you know is best.

Sorry, that's vague, but you've gotta trust your inner voice with this one.

TS Hendrik said...

I completely identify. I had horrible nightmares when I was a child. More than that though, I had a fear of sleep. I never cared for the feeling of giving up control. The same way that others don't like anesthesia for that feeling, I didn't like sleep.

I've gotten better as an adult, but I still have a lot of problems.

Robin said...

Oh thats a tough one..that is not a problem that I ever dealt with much..but for many it is very hard to seem to be taking steps in the right direction...and they willl know you are there for them..start a bedtime ritual..a tickle..a book and something that you make up on your own with each child..have it be a special time..then they will know you are there..

Tired Mom T├ęsa said...

I had nightmares as a kid too. I hated going to bed. I've also been afraid to have passed this along to my kids. My daughter does seem to have nightmares but they only seem to bother her for a bit here and there. I do love going to bed nowadays. I so look forward to it at the end of the day just to plop down in my comfy bed. I used to have nightmares into adulthood, but have found that cutting caffine completely out of my diet and cutting down on sugary snacks before bed really helps.

Good luck to you! I hope your sleeping issues get resolved and you awaken refreshed soon.

Traci said...

Thank you, friends, for your kind words of support and offerings of help. I really appreciate it. Small update - as I write this, they are asleep in their beds! Fingers crossed.

Corrie Howe said...

I learned to fall asleep to radios and TVs too. However, my trouble is not stopping my brain. So listening to something boring helps slow my brain down enough to sleep

Claudya Martinez said...

I spend my whole day waiting for bedtime, then I lay in bed and can not sleep because I know my daughter is going to wake me up. Then she wakes me up as I'm just about to doze off. Sometimes I'm so tired I bring her into bed with me and my husband has the nerve to say he didn't get enough sleep when I have a numb arm and heard him snoring.