This post was contributed by a guest writer “Ellen Collins aka EC”
When she first sent it to me, I was floored at how much I related. It was like EC has been living my life! Thanks so much for this article, Ellen (you can expect to see more articles from EC in the future, her bio is below).
So, it’s 10:30 at night, and I am lying on my bed waiting for my oldest daughter to fall asleep. We came up to bed almost 2 hours ago to read a book then settle in for the night – 2 hours later, she is still awake in her room while I have moved from hers to mine. This is an ongoing struggle for us in our house! My 8 year old daughter has a hard time falling asleep and I don’t know how to help her.
Since a very young age she has struggled with sleep (in fact, I really think I could have written the book “Go the F*%& to Sleep”) and over the years of dealing with this I have become conscious of the fact that she has a racing mind, similar to her mother, but she doesn’t have the years (and years!) of experience behind her to know how to calm it down.
I am also acutely aware that children are sensitive, and I fully believe that she can sense the constant whirling of my thoughts and actions as I rush from one thing to another, but that’s a story for a different day. So, given this knowledge we have tried a multitude of things to assist her with the sleep process. We had to – it had reached a point where I was lying with her for hours on end while she tried to sleep, and I got nothing done. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with my girl, but really, I could have been doing laundry, tidying the kitchen, marking assignments, or spending time doing what I really wanted to do – snuggle up on the couch with my husband, watching our favourite shows. I realized I couldn’t keep doing this, as it wasn’t good for me, or for her.
So, what did we do? Well, we read books, we listened to calming music, we tried some meditation, we had lots of outdoor time during the day, we had lots of activity during the day, we stayed in the room, we left the room and finally we used a melatonin supplement.
So, here’s what we discovered:
The reading made her sleepy as did the music, the meditation, and the outdoor time and activity, but none of them really seemed to facilitate sleep itself. They were a calming factor; however, she is a pretty calm child to begin with.
She would have questions about the books, and she would stay awake to listen to the music.
I am still searching for a good children’s meditation CD or app, because the ones we have tried were deemed “creepy” by both our girls due to the music and/or the narrator’s voice (and I’d have to agree!).
The outdoor time and activity were great for her, and all children, of course, but didn’t knock her out like it can for other kids.
Staying in her room was a comfort for her, but got to be a lot for us as the hours stretched on (see above), and leaving the room seemed to cause anxiety with regular intervals of calling out for us, that in some ways, it became easier to stay in there.
The melatonin supplement was great, and is something we have been using with her for almost a year now. We use it on weeknights to try and help her have a good sleep so she can be ready for school, but as time goes on I am becoming leary of using it as often as we do.
I make no bones about the fact that I am likely at fault somewhere for this unwanted sleep problem. I know when she was 2 and we moved to our new house, I chose to lay with her for “a bit” at bedtime, assuming she would be fearful of a new place, rather than letting her be the guide to tell us whether she needed me or not. I also take responsibility for the constant racing that occurs around our house. I often find myself telling her “hurry up, we have to be at school in 15 minutes”, “stop dillydallying”, or “please get to sleep, it’s almost __ o’clock”.
I have a lot in my mind and I jam a lot in my days – it’s too much, and I know it spills over affecting our girls. I am trying to work on that for myself, but it’s a difficult task!
I will continue to use the melatonin supplement regularly, with the hope that one day, we won’t need it, and she will be able to drift off to sleep quickly with a plan that works for her (without interference from her mother!), but I am open to any and all ideas to speed up the process!
How do your children ease into sleep?
While you think about how to answer, watch this. It’s a great summation of how most parents feel about kids who don’t go to sleep. ***warning profanity, don’t watch with wee ones in the room.
WHO IS EC?
I am a woman who loves her life, living alongside my wonderful husband, my two beautiful girls, my amazing dog and the best friends and family a girl could ask for. I spend my days working in post-secondary education and social services, and love being a part of a student’s journey towards their career goals. My own education has led me to this path, and is a demonstration of my belief in the importance of lifelong education. I started my education with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, followed by a Social Service Worker diploma and a Facilitator of Adult Education Certificate, and since then have added a Bachelor of Education degree and a Master’s of Science degree in Psychology. Despite my obvious belief and interest in formal education, I am also a huge proponent of informal education and believe we can learn a lot about ourselves and the world from experiences we have and activities we engage in. In this vein, I love to lose myself (and thereby find myself) in travel, reading, listening to and playing music, catching up on my favourite shows, doing yoga, and enjoying meals with friends.