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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dealing with sleep issues

Of 5, only one my children has difficulty sleeping. And even one sleepless individual sure can make an impact on an entire household! This is a response turned blog post intended for my friend Jeanne at A peaceful day. In her thoughtful post Things that go Bump, she talked about her normally well-adjusted sleeper having trouble dealing with fear at night, and the things they've tried to settle her. She brought up the question: Does anyone else have any ideas?

Here's my response :)

As to the root of the problem being behavioral or genuine fear, I'll say two things. We have found a little of both with our precious non-sleeper. She has never really slept well, but there have been times of her life where she could actually sleep regularly through the night. Because of various fears however and not being naturally inclined to peaceful rest, she has suffered (haven't we all?) many periods of time where for many successive nights she would wake crying. Some of the things we did to calm her and/or cope did not bode well, and actually did cause a habit of 'needing' to be succored in the night. But I think with careful parenting and much prayer, you will be able to discern the best thing to do in your situation.

Coping techniques we've used:
1) Prayer is always the first thing we turn to. a)Going into her room to pray for her upon her waking and calling out to us. This resulted many times in my husband falling back to sleep in her bed... b)We pray before she goes to sleep this has become a requirement. c)We have taught her that she too must pray when she's afraid - that is trusting God.

2) Allowing her to come to our room where she could prepare for herself a mat on the floor made available for the purpose. (She is violent in sleep - tossing and turning recklessly... we learned that she had to have her OWN domain) Knowing that she was allowed to come to us gave her some power, but then she had to decide if she had enough courage to actually traverse the hallway in the dark!

3) Providing a magic blue night light that 'scares away all spiders and creepy-crawlies'. I don't believe this is lying... it is using our imagination! We've done several versions of this over time. Contriving elaborate stories of how the blue light works :)

4) Singing. We have a children's CD that has a song "When I am afraid I will trust in You". She learned it from the CD and I would sing it with her before bed. When she would wake, I would sing from my bed asking her to sing with me.

5) Supplying her with a CD player near her bed with Scripture CDs or Scripture songs. She usually falls asleep to it (serves a double purpose... great way to inundate with Scripture as well as calm fear!) and can turn it on by herself in the night when she is afraid. Obviously, the volume has to be kept low enough (she shares a room).

6) Explaining to her as I tuck her into bed, that she has a choice of whether or not she's going to be afraid. I've told her that if she's afraid of the dwarf that eats children when they least expect it (thank you neighborhood children), then she can either believe them and be afraid or STOP pretending with them that there really is such a dwarf! 'But I'm afraid!'... then stop pretending he's real! God is REAL and those things are NOT. Those children told you those stories to scare you and to be mean, they were not being true friends to tell you those pretend stories. **We are currently dealing with this, and I have had some luck with the previous topic of conversation... we'll see if it holds long-term success (she's almost 7yo).

7) We've left lights on as well, but that didn't actually deal with the fear itself which was to her so real whether faced in the dark or light - to her lights left on made no difference.

Discerning Manipulation:
At some point about a year and a half ago, I realized that she was habitually calling my husband in to sleep with her because she didn't like being alone or even because she was truly afraid, and it was really disruptive not only to sleep but to our relationship as well. He went on an extended trip, and I tried some of the other previously mentioned ideas. This is tricky and I continually felt that I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. But, I called her bluff, and told her that she was to stay in bed, that I knew she was a big girl to sleep all the way through the night. I offered her a much coveted incentive for 5 nights successive sleep. She didn't sleep the first two nights, but I woke and reminded her that she could decide to go back to sleep and win her prize. This was motivating for her. I don't think she knew that she could do it! She won her prize for 5 successive nights without calling out to me (she probably woke, but she put herself back to sleep without a peep). This showed me that she COULD do it. When my husband got home, she tried her old tricks on him... I calmly called to her reminding her that she COULD sleep... she'd proved it to me... and voila! We had several months of peaceful sleep :)

Anyway, peace to you! This too shall pass! :) Pray!

PS. I'm curious what CM would say about fears... I've read something about it, but can't recall. I might go look it up!


Fisher Academy International Teaching Home
Tarapoto, Peru


Jeanne said...

Thank you so much, Amy, for puting this together for me. There are a number of your suggestions that I'm going to try, beginning with the idea of not believing in things that are not real.

The bribe...sorry...incentive might help too. I may just try that as well.

I'll let you know how we go.

Pure Perseverance said...

Thank you for this post. I shall try the incentive piece but with something that will be more motivating. It is getting better.

You responded to "My 5 yr. old is wearing me out" on our CM group.


walking said...

It really is strange to me because some people just don't sleep well. My husband and my father never seem to get a full night's sleep, while my son and I can sleep through just about anything, including alarm clocks! My 20yo with autism went through a two-year period where she only slept four hours a night. We figured out that apple juice and applesauce were giving her insomnia, night sweats, and restlessness, etc. Once we got her off that, she started sleeping peacfully!

amy in peru said...

Dear Glasers,
You are SO right! There definitely are those people who are natural sleepers and those who aren't. And yes, I agree that diet should be a major consideration when trying to root out an ongoing problem! I'm glad you guys were able to pin point the culprit in your daughter's case! Excellent!

When my daughter was younger (around a year old) she had chronic ear infections. The problem was that she didn't have a fever or any ear pain! The only indication that something was awry was that she would wake at 10pm each night wimpering, vomit, and then go back to sleep... I had NO idea what was wrong, and to my chagrin, I had NO idea what to do... it went on for 3 months! I finally took her to the doctor (upon sudden onset of fever) and he told me what had been happening! I felt terrible that it had gone on so long.

So, yes, it is good to mention here that there may be underlying physical causes for sleep problems.

In my post I was addressing my friend's particular case, which from all appearances, was purely a temporary issue rooted in childish fear. So, my post was focused there... thank you for your contribution!


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