With my two children, ages 5 and 3, I was blessed in many areas. Sleep was not one of them. Sure, they're healthy, bright, adorable little imps who make me laugh every day, but man, they sure do suck between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. My daughter was the original bad sleeper, not giving us a full night's rest for the first 15 months of her life and only napping in someone's arms or in the car (seriously, she didn't nap in her crib even once). These days, just a month away from her sixth birthday, we still occasionally give her sleep reward sheets in an attempt to halt her all-too-regular middle-of-the-night visits.
Since she was such a nightmare, I figured I was due for a easy sleeper with my second. Although he did start sleeping through the night at around six months and immediately took to napping in his crib, things have gone decidedly downhill since we transitioned him to a big boy bed a few weeks ago.
Last night, at 3 a.m., my husband woke me up to tell me our son was wide awake, "reading" books — and eating oranges he'd gone downstairs to fetch out of the refrigerator by himself — in bed. After 20 minutes of cajoling, he still refused to go back to sleep, and my husband needed reinforcements. By the time I got to his room a few minutes later, he'd locked us out. Ever try arguing with a 3-year-old to let you in their room at 3 a.m. while trying not to wake his sister, who's sleeping less than 10 feet away? Never will you wonder more why you decided to procreate in the first place.
My kids can definitely be categorized as bedtime fighters and up-all-nighters. Which of the seven following categories does your child fall into?
1. The Up-All-Nighter
Sleep Style: Some days you wonder if this child was born with a superpower that prevents him from actually needing sleep. He'll snooze for an hour or two at a time, but then he's back up, ready to go and expecting you to go right along with him. Newborns lead the pack in this category, but children of all ages occasionally backslide to it.
Solution: Recognize that this is a stage, your child does actually need sleep, and eventually, he'll learn to sleep for longer stretches. For now, get yourself some help and try to nap when he does.
2. The Bedtime Fighter
Sleep Style: This child is tired. You know she's tired. She knows she's tired, even if she's not admitting it. But she will not go the f*ck to sleep. When you finally convince her to get into bed, there are never enough books, stories, or lullabies to make her happy, and even when her eyes are closed and she's clearly about to drift off, she'll ask for more.
Solution: Persevere. Although your kid doesn't want to admit that she actually needs to sleep, you know she eventually will hit the hay. Set limits for the number of books/stories before bedtime begins so you're not fighting the "one more" battle.
3. The Midnight Wanderer
Sleep Style: While you're unconscious, this child is up to no good. Refrigerator-raiding, clothes-swapping, toy-playing no good. You might hear a sound and find him rummaging through the pantry at 2 a.m., or you might not hear him at all and just wonder why he's so darn grumpy the next day.
Solution: Beyond putting a lock on the outside of his door, there's not much you can do about this should-be-asleep walker besides explaining to him that he needs to stay in bed and sleep in order to stay healthy and strong and hope that it's a passing stage.
4. The Bad Dreamer
Sleep Style: Nightmares are a regular occurrence for this little one, and therefore, you also get to have one: the nightmare of being woken up every night by a terrified, clingy child who's afraid to go back to sleep.
Solution: Avoid scary videos and books before bed, and explain to your child that nightmares, though scary, are not real. Give them some coping mechanisms to calm down themselves, like deep breathing and visualizing something happy and soothing, and encourage them to use those instead of waking up the whole house.
5. The Company Seeker
Sleep Style: This kid just loves to snuggle and prefers your body as close to theirs as possible all night long. If you do concede to letting them sleep with you, it's guaranteed you'll wake up and realize they've stolen all the covers and given you less than 10 percent of the bed.
Solution: This one needs to be nipped in the bud as early as possible. Teach your child that sleeping by themselves is a learned skill that makes for better rest in terms they can understand. Provide stuffed animals or other loveys and special blankets to make them feel cozy and protected.
6. The Home-Only Snoozer
Sleep Style: He loves his bed and will sleep through the night consistently when in it, but the minute you take him to, say, visit Grandma or go on vacation, everyone's sleep is screwed. Many of these children were recently up-all-nighters who seem eager to revisit their former ways.
Solution: Try to introduce your child's new sleeping situation as early in the day as you can, so he can get used to his new surroundings. Bringing a familiar crib sheet, favorite blanket, or lovey from home also helps. Noise machines are also a great way to counteract the new and unfamiliar sounds in a new space.
7. The Perfect Sleeper
Sleep Style: She slept through the night at 5 weeks old and never looked back. You regularly wake her up because she's been dozing too long, and no matter where you are, how long her nap was, or what cold she's battling, you're confident you'll both get a full night's rest, every single night.
Solution: Count your blessings and try not to rub your perfect sleeper in other parents' tired faces.