Finding the Positive in Sleep Regression
When sleep regression interferes with our nightly schedule I can either get mad and frustrated, or I can find something good about it.
“Why won’t you go to sleep?” I pleaded, looking at my 16-month-old son.
Bedtime and naptime have gone pretty smoothly for months, but recently something caused a disturbance in the force. One night of fighting would be a fluke, but it didn’t stop at one night. Oh no. Instead my little guy would be awake for an extra two to three hours at night.
Since I work from home, I save a lot of my work until after my kids are asleep. That works out OK for me most of the time, provided they go to bed on time. But every minute they delay sleep cuts into my “office hours,” which in turn cuts into my own sleep. Occasionally one or both of my children struggle with going to sleep at bedtime. Oftentimes we have an idea what caused the disruption in their schedule. The usual suspects revolve around naps (too short, too long, too early, too late or skipped altogether).
The first night my son fought sleep was frustrating and annoying, but I figured I could finish my work the following night. Then it happened again. And again. My heart pounded in my ears, the stress rising as I desperately tried to get him to sleep. None of my past tricks worked. He was completely disinterested in going to bed.
I got mad.
There’s no way that helped the situation. I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew it wasn’t good for either of us if he stayed up. Didn’t he understand I have work to do?
As he placed his little hands on either side of my face and jabbered in my face—I stopped. He looked so sincere and sweet with his little toothy grin. Of course he didn’t understand why I needed him to go to sleep!
I hugged him and kissed him, his little face lighting up. I talked softly with him and let him play quietly for an hour or so. While he refused to sleep, I couldn’t sleep or work easily. Instead of being angry, I decided to savor these stolen moments.
It’s not always easy to stop and cherish these kinds of moments while we are living them. I made a concerted effort to back off when he showed resistance. I had to let it go and enjoy some one-on-one time with him. During that time I noticed he was close to cutting another tooth and thought about all the new skills he’s working on. I tried to remind myself that sleep regression is normal and a short phase even if it feels like it drags on forever.
He stayed awake later for several days, then went down right away the next. I cheered too soon and became annoyed again the next night when he refused to sleep again. This went on for a couple days. Even though I wanted to scream in frustration, I needed only to look toward my daughter’s room to know it won’t be long before he also sleeps well through the night in his own room. I can make it through this phase—and so can you!
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