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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Undoubtedly, Shakespeare did have a four year old in mind when he wrote this famous line. I do.  My four year old had a bad nightmare almost two months ago, and since then he has slept through the night only twice. I am desperate to visit the land of nod and stay there for an entire uninterrupted night of blissful sleep.

I’ve always known sleep is important and a lack of it can seriously affect your life, but I have never felt it as acutely as I have the last couple of weeks. I can’t say why the repercussions of the lack of sleep seem more pronounced now compared to when my youngest was a newborn. Maybe my lack of sleep seems worse because I knew then that not sleeping through the night was normal for an infant, or maybe it’s because I could grab a twenty or thirty minute nap when he did way back then.

Either way, I’ve been living in a fog, which is beginning really to take a toll on my life. Last week I couldn’t figure out why my exercise pants wouldn’t stay up until I realized I had put them on backwards. I also sent a requested manuscript to an agent and spelled the title of my own book wrong. Nothing could be worse! I left a rambling message on the pediatrician’s phone because I could not remember why I called the pediatrician, and I found myself unable to write for several nights because I could not think clearly enough to concentrate on my plot.

On the worst night, my son got up somewhere in the ballpark of thirty times, on the best night, he got up once. After speaking with the pediatrician, my husband and I tried three nights of Benadryl to help put our little angel back on schedule. Our little angel laughed at our paltry effort and continued to get out of his bed in the middle of the night.

Our next attempt was an all-natural supplement called Melatonin. This also failed to put our son back on a sound sleeping track. Desperate times, yadda, yadda, yadda. You know the line. In the spirit of reclaiming the night we purchased a book last week called SOLVE YOUR CHILD’S SLEEP PROBLEMS by the well known director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, Dr. Richard Ferber, M.D.

I’m sure a light bulb just illuminated in some of your heads. Dr. Ferber is famous for Ferberizing babies. This is not the same book, although, the man seems like a genius in this book as well. We are almost done reading it and are going to begin a multi-step approach tonight that involves addressing his mild fears, because of the nightmare, and re-setting boundaries at bedtime because he refuses to stay in bed after he wakes up in the middle of the night.

I wrote this blog for two reasons. I’d love to hear all advice everyone out there has on the matter. The other reason is my account of our sleep trials may be able to help someone else. Tonight we are trying a graduated door closing system. If your child goes to sleep easily, but then he wakes and refuses to stay in bed you may want to try this too. Basically, on day one, the first closing of the door is for ¼ minute. Second closing ½ minute. Third closing 1 minute. Fourth closing 2 minutes. Fifth and subsequent closings 3 minutes. In between each closing you can offer encouragement to stay in bed, but no lovey dovey tuck ins. If this problem rings a bell with you, check out Dr. Ferber’s book to read the whole text. Good luck to you and me. And if you have any advice, I’m all ears!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. Good luck, Julie! I hope you get a good night's rest very soon.

  2. OMG I feel for you. I wish I had magical advice but with my 4yo it's definitely a boundary thing. I used to put her to bed only to find she was getting up and playing with her toys for HOURS and falling asleep in her rocking chair. I'd go in and tell her to get back to bed but ultimately, bc she's so strong-willed, she stopped doing it when SHE was ready, lol...

  3. No suggestions, but many memories. Eventually they grow up, and you're still sleep-deprived.

  4. I don't have any advice except to be consistent with any behavorial interventions you incorporate. That's one thing I learned in my psych classes. Inconsistency can make any behavior you're trying to extinguish more difficult to stop.

    Now for you... See if grandma can watch the kiddos for 1 or 2 nights so you can get some sleep. :)

  5. Well, it's good to know I'm not the only one who has experience this!

    Not so good to know I'll still be sleep deprived when there grown up! LOL!


    I am definitly going to hit the grandmothers up for a few nights of r and r.

  6. My son (8) had a bad dream about a month ago now, and for a few weeks he wouldn't go to his room alone at night because the dream had really scared him.

    We didn't make a fuss, just tucked him in, accidentally left the bathroom light on, and found reasonable excuses to pass by his room so he would see he wasn't alone and worry. I'm glad to say he eventually he stopped thinking about the dream. But for a while there we were really stumped about what to do.

    I don't know what I'd do for recurring dreams except to suggest reestablishing your son's usual night time routine, maybe increasing his physical activity a bit to tire him prior to the evening meal. I wish you luck, Julie.

  7. Oh, I just remember one other thing I used to do with my kids when they were babies. I always had the radio on, turned down low, in their room. The continuous background noise from a nice easy listening station muffled the noises from other parts of the house so we could move around with disturbing the restless child. It's worth a try. :o)

  8. Oh, Julie! I hope you're able to get some restful sleep soon!!