Friday, 31 October 2008


Sleep is a word that has not been in our vocabulary this past year. We've struggled since day one with trying to get Caleb to sleep well, which of course would result in me sleeping well. And more than just trying to get enough sleep to be able to function, a lack of sleep in Caleb also makes him very temperamental, prone to crying fits and being generally unhappy. Those few times when his smile and laughter break out, he's such a joy. But all too often he is suffering in more ways than one because of his lack of sleep.

We've been working on this since birth. I've read countless sleep books, surfed websites, talked with our doctor and even a baby sleep specialist. None of these resources were able to help us with why Caleb has difficulty sleeping, which makes it especially hard to fix the problem!

Finally, however, I stumbled across one small paragraph in yet another book about sleep that seems to pinpoint his troubles precisely:

Issue: He hasn't learned how to fall back asleep on his own
Solution: Babies with poorer self soothing skills and more challenging temperaments may tend to wake up when they enter periods of light sleep. These transitions occur about once every 60 minutes. That's a lot of opportunities for a baby to wake up each night. If there's anything else that disturbs them as they make this transition - hunger, noise, cold, wetness - it's game over in terms of baby's sleep and yours.

Four things:

1. Finally seeing something about temperament included was a relief. I always thought this was a big part of the problem, and seeing it acknowledged felt like I was finally getting somewhere. Caleb is easily frustrated and hates being ignored or put down during the day - add the frustration of being woken up and it's a nightmare!

2. The 60-minute sleep cycle makes perfect sense. Caleb's daytime naps were always only one hour. But after a little bit he'd be super-cranky again. Now when he wakes after the hour I just put him back down and he gets the second hour that he really needs. His night wakings are also always on the hour (ie: if he goes to bed at 7:30pm, he usually wakes at 10:30pm)

3. The "conditions" aspect finally explains why he sleeps through the night at my parents but is constantly waking here. They live further out in the country, in a completely quiet neighbourhood, where he sleeps in a dark room with well-controlled heat. Here there are cars that drive by through the night, plus the vent to his room is shared with Colin's room, so noise travels easier. There is no return in his room so the temperature is difficult to control. He also hates a wet diaper during the day, insisting on being changed as soon as he wets it, and often is woken by a wet diaper at night.

4. I was not pleased to read this paragraph and find out that their conclusion to the solution was "game over". What kind of an answer is that?! Too bad, so sad, nothing you can do. Well, I guess it's true. The answer is to do the best we can to control what we can and hope for the best.

Although nothing is really solved, per se, it's at least nice to have some answers. I also found some ideas on how to break Caleb of the habit of needing to nurse to fall asleep. That, of course, is my own doing in resorting to feeding to calm him down. Unfortunately, because of his temperament and how easily his senses are stimulated by sound (singing, shushing), sight (someone in the room), smell (milk), and touch (being held, rocking, rubbing his back), nursing is the only thing that actually calms him down, whereas all these other things only wake him up more.

And so, our days and nights go on. We pray for sleep to come soon, as Caleb grows and hopefully outgrows some of these habits. I keep reminding myself that one day he'll be a teenage boy who we won't be able to drag from bed at noon. One day.

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