The Brain, It Grows

I think we have a budding insomniac. Lately, Claire has taken to climbing out of bed after being tucked in and rocking in her chair for hours (if we allow it). Then it started in the middle of the night. She’d wake up, get out of bed and rock, several times a night. When asked why, she replied that she has “thoughts to think” and if she sleeps she can’t do it. She would smirk a little when we came in; it became a game, and a budding power struggle. She also expresses fear of bad dreams, although she doesn’t have nightmares, and only once in a while does she cry out in her sleep.

We discussed whether to just let her do this. It’s her room, after all. However, she has a will that is formidable. She managed to stay up and rock until after midnight one night. Another night she got up at 1 a.m. and rocked until 3 a.m. when we finally went into her room and coerced her back in bed. She rarely sleeps past 7:00 a.m., so she became sleep-deprived, manifesting all the behavior that arises in children when that happens.

So we employed a drastic measure. We removed her chair and ottoman one night and put it in the hallway (she is still unable to open doors by herself). It resulted in a ruckus of protest, but she went to bed and slept. The next night I wrote up and printed The Sleep Rules from Mark Weissbluth, adding a cute graphic of a girl asleep in her bed to make it friendly. I taped them to her wall, and we reviewed them. We told her if she got out of bed we’d come and remove the chair.

    The Sleep Rules

  • Stay in bed.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Stay very quiet.
  • Go to sleep.

As soon as she was put in bed, not five minutes later she was out. So we fulfilled our promise. She protested briefly, accepted this, and went to sleep. The next morning we put the chair back. That night, she stayed in bed and went to sleep. However, at 2 a.m. she woke up and started rocking. We went in and removed the temptation. She went right back to sleep. We told her the next morning that if she keeps getting out of bed when she should be sleeping, we were going to move the rocker and ottoman out of her room permanently, into the guest room. She said she didn’t want that! We replied that we didn’t want to do it either, and if she could stay in bed the rocker would remain. She promised she would.

We reviewed the sleep rules last night, and we reminded her about the arrangement. She woke twice in the night. At midnight (I was still up) she only woke slightly and I heard her. I went in and reassured her, reminded her to go back to sleep, and tucked her in. At 3 a.m. she woke crying for me saying, “I’m afraid of the dark!” (She has a bright night light.) I went in and she’d gotten out of bed but not made it to the chair. I returned her to bed, soothed and tucked her in, and sang a short lullaby. She remained there until 7 a.m.

So, I am hoping we continue to have success in this. We really love rocking her and holding her, and she uses it to relax herself. Someday she will outgrow it, but I think it’s still an essential piece of our lives.

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