We had a good thing going for a while. We would read a few books in bed, say good night, and that be that. Occasionally T would talk to himself a little before finally going to sleep, but he’d usually be asleep pretty quickly and he’d sleep all night with no problems. Nap time has always been a bit of a struggle, but really once he got used to the bed we didn’t have too many problems.
However, for a long while we fought every night to keep him in bed. We put him to bed and before we’d get down the hall he’d be up by his door. So we put him back to bed. Sometimes we’ve just waited till he finally falls asleep and move him, and sometimes we try to put him back before he’s totally asleep.
It’s a very pitiful thing when you think about it. I don’t want my kid to feel like I’m putting him in jail or anything, but we all need sleep at some point.
I wouldn’t have a problem with him simply sleeping on the floor, because it’s probably just a phase that I’m sure he’ll grow out of. The problem is that he wedges himself in front of the door, making it impossible to open the door without waking him. I’m more concerned about how long it takes to get him up when he’s like that. In case of an emergency, I’d rather be able to grab him quickly if we need to.
Another problem we’ve been having is early wake ups and trouble napping. The napping problem is similar to the bed time problem where he’d rather sleep by the door than his bed. Paul’s been getting up with him in the mornings and getting him breakfast, which I very much appreciate (because he usually gives me an extra hour to sleep). However, 6:30 is about the earliest wake up call we can take. Some mornings he’s woken up at 4:30 or 5:30 though. At 4:30 it’s still dark enough to convince him it’s still bed time, but 5:30 is too bright for that. So instead he sits by his door and bangs on it until someone comes and gets him.
So, I did a bit of googling to find some advice on getting T to stay in his bed. The results were half “let him sleep on the floor; he’ll grow out of it” and half “it’s appalling and mean to allow that and it creates bad habits; put him back in his bed to reinforce that his bed is where he’s supposed to sleep”. Not the most helpful, but I was able to find some decent tips that I was willing to try.
1. Get some really cool sheets that he’s into to entice him back to the bed. T’s really into cars and trucks, so I found some sheets with construction trucks on them. He’s been going on about “ment trucks” (cement trucks) ever since. (However, as much as I love Target, why oh why do generic sheets have to cost $30?)
2. He may be sleeping by the door because he’s scared and he can see the light under the door. We tried two things in order to conquer this. First we moved his bed so it’s now directly across from the door and he can see the door better from the bed. Secondly I bought a night-light. I don’t know what the deal is with night lights these days, but when I was a kid a night-light was a tiny thing that plugged into the wall and you turned it on at night and off in the morning. Cost two bucks. Now there’s a whole range of fashionable lights that are at least $10 a pop. For a night-light. But at this point, anything that lures T back to his bed is great. So we started with one that projects an image (safari animals) on the ceiling. I have a few problems with these lights. First, you’re not supposed to look directly at the LED bulb. Good luck keeping a toddler from doing that. Second, there is no timer, so it’s on all night unless you unplug it. Ultimately T had more trouble going back to sleep in the middle of the night because of it. And third, but probably not a huge deal, safari animals could possibly be scary. These weren’t cartoons, and I’m pretty sure I’d need a diaper change too if I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a rhino on my ceiling. I ended up returning the thing after one night of trying to convince him to stay in bed at 2am. I almost ordered one of those turtle night lights that projects the stars on the ceiling. It seems like a less frightening thing to display on your ceiling at night and they shut off after 45 minutes. However, they’re at least $25 and that seemed like a lot to spend on a night-light.
3. If he’s going to sleep by the door, at least make him comfortable. There’s not a whole lot we can do without waking him up after he falls asleep by the door. But I did move the rug in front of the door, so it’s a little softer there. I’ve considered getting a camp pad, because we need one anyway, but I think he’d probably play with it. I’m not sure if it’s worth training him to use that now on top of everything or just to wait until summer when we’re traveling. Either way, that’s another $30.
4. Get really great curtains to darken the room. Totally the opposite of getting him a night-light and much more expensive. However, I wanted to change the curtains in his room anyway and I figured it would help during nap time too. With the way the windows in our house are set up, there’s no way to put up curtains without making custom curtain rods. Unfortunately that makes the whole thing well over $100, which is more than I want to spend on curtains, but I guess they’re done now and will never need to be changed.
5. Do the super nanny sleep separation technique and stay in the room until he falls asleep. I’m generally opposed to this, because it didn’t work for us before at nap time, but it might be easier than running back to his room every five seconds. Actually, what’s the difference? (And it’s free!!)
The results have been mostly positive. After two nights of doing the sleep separation technique, darker curtains, and totally awesome sheets he seems to be back on track. Finally he’s slept through the night again, in his bed, and hasn’t woken us up until 6:00 at the earliest. (Oh by the way, every night since just before Easter he would wake up coughing and need some water and a diaper change. So frustrating. And I always seem to have trouble falling back asleep for hours afterward. That also has stopped since we made these changes.)
Nap time is a whole different situation. It seems there is a delicate balance between getting him in bed at the right time, planning enough time before hand to run around, and not letting him fall asleep in the car or bike trailer before hand. Even in a darker room he still manages to find toys to play with and crawls out of bed to sleep by the door. I’ve had the best luck letting him sleep by the door for about 15 minutes or so and then moving him to his bed. I have to wake him up to do it, but he’s usually groggy enough to go back to sleep on his own.
For now I’m hopeful that we’ll figure out a solution to the napping situation. I’m also just grateful that we seem to have gotten back on track with bed time. I just hope I’m not putting my foot in my mouth by posting this!