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The Life & Times of the Kid Who Can’t Sleep

January 10, 2018
The Life & Times of the Kid Who Can't Sleep

My preschooler, Jrue, is 4 ½ years old and still wakes me up at least once per seven nights. Comparably, Jai is almost three years younger than he and has slept all night for months. I have reached the point where, if Jrue does not wake me in the middle of a good REM cycle, I am still triggered mentally active like an owl staring into the darkness, which is frustrating as all get-out.   

Granted, his process is how this lovely blogspace was born. But I haven’t truly slept since 2012. This is not a lie.  

I guess, what else is new in parenting, right? 

Once we moved Jrue from co-sleeping as a baby to his crib to his “big boy bed,” he discovered, of course, the quickest route off the side of his bed and repeatedly beside mommy in her bedroom; consequently, the speediest way to jerk me awake was identified, which so happens to be a hand on me out of nowhere. 

My poor husband learned this a harder way.  

After many nights of almost karate-chopping my then-toddler son in the throat out of fright, I moved my bed away from the immediate view of the hallway and started sleeping with the bedroom door closed so that I could better hear Jrue’s approach: the doorknob struggling its rattle turn as a warning, the padded feet across the carpet, the tentative “mommy?” that followed with the tapping. 

I can hear him walking up, by memory, in my head. 

On countless nights for years, Jrue has requested milk. All he drinks is whole milk; his blood flow has now got to be a dairy beverage and his bones the strength of that of the Hulk. On some nights, he gets up because of a bad dream, usually involving a bug in his bed that he repeatedly insists we check for before going back down. Most nights, though, he gets up because he’s seemingly just…bored. 

Whose wide-awake kid gets up out of bed because he’s bored with sleeping? 

Mine. 

Believe me, I have done it all to “fix” this. 

I have tested theories over time to change Jrue’s lifestyle and habits to help adjust him towards a fuller night’s sleep. I moved his bedroom furniture around and bought room-darkening drapes so that any light from outside could not filter in and arouse his sleep. We changed his bedtime pattern by doing less nap and completing the same reading routine before bedtime every night. I took away his electronics and TV an hour before laying down to reduce brain stimulation. We did more physical activity during the day to tire him out so that he’ll be exhausted.

We have since cut the night light and now cool his room with a box fan that doubles as white noise. I make sure that his nose is clear and keep a humidifier going so that nasal stuffiness won’t wake him. We provided liquid before bed, then started cutting back when he began peeing in his sleep, which causes wake-ups. We created a theme of airplanes in his room to make it “his.” I keep his room and linens clean for feng shui purposes.  

This kid will not remain consistently asleep. 

In the meantime, I am significantly losing a pinch more of my mind with every night waking. On some days, particularly after numerous overnight stirrings at the hands of Jrue, my blood pressure is up and, after a day of constant caffeine intake to remain functioning, I am super snippy and must go home for a nap immediately after work. I am a walking zombie sometimes, running through motions with no real investment. I dream of vacations where I can just sleep in a cool room, by myself, for a day. 

This is not the life I wish on anyone. 

Supposedly, though, no one sleeps “all” night, according to Dr. Gwen Dewar for the site Parenting Science. “. . .Babies, children, and adults all experience interruptions during the night,” says Dr. Dewar. “For example, when an adult sleeps, her sleep patterns are defined by short sleep cycles that last about 90-100 minutes. Each sleep cycle is a sequence of sleep stages, beginning with relatively brief, light stages of sleep, progressing through stages of deep sleep, and ending with REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep, the sleep state associated with dreams. At the end of a sleep cycle, the sleeper may begin the cycle all over again. But she might also awaken. . .Sleep studies that record brain activity show that people experience multiple arousals during the night — about 10-20 per hour (Bonnet and Arand 2007). If we aren’t aware of these arousals, it’s because we sink back into sleep very quickly and don’t remember the disruption in the morning.” (Dewar, 2014)

While I don’t mind the human fact that I could pop up at night, I would love to just have the constant  chance to do so. 

I believe that, for me, the most irritating part about Jrue’s night wakings is that I didn’t start this. His waking me up has yielded my inheritance of a sleep anomaly, which is the continuous presence of fatigue regardless of how much “sleep” I receive. This is causing health issues. Because I’m always beat, I often use synthetic sugars to boost. The sugars are horrible for my body…and that’s even before the crash. The crash makes me feel exhausted. I wake up tired. It’s cyclical. 

It’s like we keep kicking field goals to win the Super Bowl and missing them completely, booting the ball straight up in the air and hitting ourselves in the head instead. 

Work Cited 

Dewar, Gwen. “Night wakings: A guide for the science-minded parent.” Parenting Science, Jan. 2014, https://www.parentingscience.com/night-wakings.html. Accessed Jan. 9, 2018. 

Photo by Clayton Caldwell on Unsplash

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