Sleep is a beautiful thing. Nothing feels better than sinking into your comfy bed, closing your eyes and getting a good solid nights sleep. It’s rejuvenating. It’s blissful. It’s therapeutic. So when sleep won’t come, life can be turned upside down.
Over the past few months my daughter has developed what I can only describe as severe sleep anxiety. She’s never been a great sleeper but this takes it to a whole different level.
It started out pretty low key. At some point in October she started to say that she could not go to sleep. Not just that she wasn’t tired. But that she could not get to sleep. She would get out of bed a couple of times every night to tell me. I’d give her a hug, ask if she needed anything and tuck her back in. But then it changed.
Slowly over the next few weeks it escalated to all out hysteria at bed time. And by hysteria, I mean a couple of hours of crying, shaking, yelling, pacing and ultimately, exhaustion. And that goes for all of us. Yes, I yelled. I’m not proud of it but at some point (okay,more than one) I just lost it. It just seemed so simple. Get in bed, close your eyes and eventually you will fall asleep. But yet, she just couldn’t do it. Not wouldn’t. Couldn’t.
I remember one night in particular when she refused to get out of the bath. She said that getting out of the bath would mean that she would have to brush her teeth and put her pjs on. That would mean that she would need to go to bed. And that, ultimately, would mean that she would have to try and get to sleep. And in her mind, THAT was not going to happen. Thirty minutes later the bath had drained and I was sitting on the floor begging her too just step out of the tub. Again. Simple. But she just couldn’t do.
It got to the point where she would pace around her bedroom saying over and over again. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go to sleep.” I would sit on her bed praying that I could find just the right thing to say that would convince her that she could go to sleep. I tried positive encouragement, bribery, meditation apps, consequences but nothing would sway her from her stance that she couldn’t go to sleep.
My husband and I were confused and desperate to understand what was going on. To see our smart, capable little girl so upset was heart breaking. So physically agitated that she wouldn’t even let us hold her to try and calm her down.
The emotions that have run through our little family in the past months are difficult to put into words. We’ve been angry with each other and unsure of why. We’ve been confused. Why is this happening? We’ve been heartbroken and sympathetic. The need to comfort your child is so strong that when it is of no help, it can be devastating.
The fact that this is, apparently, quite normal in children this age is at once comforting and distressing. Comforting in that others have solutions that have worked for them and I know that we are not alone. Distressing in knowing that so many other kids suffer the way that my daughter has suffered.
Recently we have started to give her melatonin at bed time and it seems to have helped calm her down. She still wakes up a few hours later though and is convinced that she has yet to fall asleep. What must be going on in her brain to create this anxiety and confusion?
Why, you may ask, am I telling you ( and the world) all of this? I’m not sure. Maybe I am hoping that it will help somebody else going through the same thing? Maybe I am hoping that it will reach somebody who can help me understand it better.
I’m not sure I can end this post with a Best Thing in Life.