Toddler Sleep Problems, Some Sleep, Some Don't, That's Just The Way It IS

How a Mum coped when she  didn't think she could with toddler sleep problems.

This page doesn't have all the answers to your young child's sleep problems - but it will give you some ideas about how to keep calm when you feel you can't cope anymore.

It's all about what happened to me last week. If you're too tired to read the background, just scroll down to the 'How I coped' section below.

This Mums Background To Her Toddler Sleep Problems

We’ve all had awful nights with our toddlers, haven’t we? Where you can count the number of hours sleep you’ve had on the fingers of one hand – or one finger if you’re really unlucky.

Up til now I’ve been relatively lucky, with a bit of a reprieve after one or two nights. This week, however was truly the worst I’ve had with no less than 4 nights of broken sleep courtesy of my almost two-year-old.

Every day I kept telling myself that the toddler sleep problems would be better that night, and every night it was the same or worse. 3.30 am, 4am, 11.45pm – my heart would sink like a lead balloon when I heard him start crying. To make things worse, hubby was away so it was all down to me to deal with it.

I have written elsewhere about keeping calm when the toddler pressure is on – but that’s not so easy when you are sleep deprived.

This Is What Happened

Anyway, on the fourth night of broken sleep, I kept my son up as late as I could. He dropped off to sleep in his cot pretty quickly. All was well as I got into bed and started drifting off – only to be woken at 12.15 by his screaming. I decided to leave it and see if he would just drop back off to sleep.

10 minutes later, he was still crying. I got up and checked my email.

20 minutes later, the screaming had intensified to that insane pitch where you know your child is incapable of going back to sleep.

I knew I had to get him up as my older son  (not to mention a friend and her child who were staying with us) would soon wake up – if by some miracle they weren’t already.

Only trouble was, I felt like I was on the verge of really losing it.

I just didn’t know how to do was deal with the situation without crying my eyes off!

This Is How This Over Tired Mum Coped

I realised that the best way to deal with the situation was to just focus on doing one thing – keeping calm. This may seem obvious, but when you are in any stressful situation there are usually a number of pressures you put yourself under, and wavering between them actually increases your feelings of powerlessness. In this situation the external pressures were the following thoughts:

  • I’m so tired – I’ll never get another full nights’ sleep
  • Everyone else in the house is awake and it’s my responsibility to stop my son crying
  • I feel so angry with him. Hey that’s so wrong – he’s only a little boy – I’m such a bad mother
  • Why do I have to do this on my own?

I knew that the overriding thing was not to scream and shout at him, so I decided to totally block out all the other worries. I got him up and made myself repeat over and over ‘I am calm’. And somehow I stopped caring about anything else. I just concentrated on staying quiet, and just accepting the situation.

I was then able to systematically go through every possible solution. My oldest was asleep in my bed already (making room for our guests in his room) so I took my son who couldn't sleep downstairs and put all the sofa cushions on the floor as a makeshift bed.

I offered him milk. Total refusal.

I offered him some toast. Total refusal.

I gave him some painkiller (he has been teething recently) which had no effect.

By this time my concerned friend got up and offered her toddler sleep problems services – bless her! I surprised myself by serenely saying ‘I’m beyond everything now, there’s nothing I can do’.

Then I decided to put one of my DVDs on (Confessions of a Shopaholic – pretty colourful just in case my son might enjoy it too. In actual fact he hadn’t opened his eyes the whole time, which is more than can be said for his  little mouth!)

The baby painkiller must have kicked in at this point because the screaming subsided and he actually lay down and started to drift off - probably dreaming about his toddler sleep problems! I didn’t want to risk relaxing then him starting up again, so I carried on watching the film for half an hour until I was sure he had definitely gone to sleep.

At 1.30 I finally got to sleep. He slept through til 7am the next morning. The next night he actually slept through.

So that is what I have learnt about coping with toddler sleep problems when you feel really on the edge – accept the situation temporarily and focus on just one thing. Don’t try and be superhuman (anyway the costumes are too silly).

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