Monday, November 12, 2012

4 A.M.

Our poor 3 y.o. is going through a phase where he's afraid of things that go bump in the night (more specifically, "monster aliens, robots, and bad guys.") Which means that right now, bedtime at our house can be a bit of a battle. We are trying to work with him against those imaginary demons, but mostly for now, it just feels like we are battling our son. Some nights are worse than others, and we go through streaks of good and bad. Yes, we've tried most anything. Snuggling until he's almost asleep; limiting nap; reading; sitting outside is room; monster spray; ignoring him; loving him; putting a stuffed bear "on guard" outside his room. We are consistent in that we don't let him get up again, and always lead him back to his room. Experience with our older son tells us that consistency is key, and that he will eventually grow out of it.

While bedtime can be a challenge, what really kills me is when he wakes in middle of the night. When our boys were infants, we fell into a rhythm. Feedings typically came at around the same time every night, and we were lucky; they were up to be changed and fed, then back off to sleep. My body adapted, and I learned to go with it.

But now the nights aren't so predictable. Son #2 is not up every night, but he's up regularly, and it's not always at the same time of night. I'm don't get angry with him; he's a small child, and helping him is my job. He only wants mommy (never daddy!), and once I'm awake, it can be hard to settle back in.

Those are the hardest nights: when I can't fall back to sleep. Last night was one of those. I'm not certain what time I was awakened, but I know I was still awake around 4. Have you seen 4 A.M. lately? It looks something like this:
Turns out, 5 A.M. looks like that, too.

If you struggle with fatigue at all, you know how precious sleep can be. Some nights, once I'm awake, my brain turns on and I can't turn it off. Other nights, my anxiety about needing rest won't let me sleep (a sick irony).

Here are the strategies I have employed to try and fall back asleep once awakened:

1. Focus on breathing. Take deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Exhale fully.
Let your breathing fall into a pattern and allow yourself to drift off.

2. Body scan. I learned this relaxation technique in a yoga class, and often it's quite effective. Starting at your toes, and moving up to your head, focus on each part of your body, relaxing yourself and releasing tension.

3. Read. Keep the light low; you don't want to wake yourself up more than you are. But, grabbing a magazine or book can help distract the mind and allow yourself to drift back off to sleep.

4. Make a list. If I've got a lot of things swirling around in my head, then getting them down on paper often allows my brain to relax. I can simply worry about it in the morning. Admittedly, I have made the mistake of doing this in the dark, and was unable to read my own handwriting in the morning. So, for this, you should allow yourself some light, too!

This article at recommends that if after 15-30 minutes you still can't sleep, you should get out of bed and do something boring (keep the lights low, and don't sit in front of any screens, though!). This is a good tip, and one I should have used last night.,,20193962,00.html

Some of the same tips were recommended at Uncommon

As dark and long as the night was, I did eventually fall back to sleep, and much to our children's delight we woke up to this:

I'll try to make up for my lack of sleep by going to bed early tonight, but this is another place I struggle. I often let my To-Do list get in the way, but hopefully I'm smarter than that tonight.

How about you? Do your nights ever get in the way of your days, and vice versa?

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