This has been a popular topic in my conversations with others mums recently. It is something that I am experiencing as well with my son Jack.
Since beginning school last year Jack often talks about how he lays awake at night or sometimes doesn't go to sleep until we (Cam and me) come upstairs to bed! I was like WHAT! I couldn't believe that he was doing that and I hadn't really noticed. I also thought that maybe he thinks he lays there for hours but it is actually only a few seconds or minutes being a young kid with no concept of time yet. Now that may be true, but it did put some pieces together for me of things I had noticed and I started thinking some unusual behaviour changes could be connected to an over tired child.
As you do with your mum friends during social get togethers, you natter away about topics; venting over all sorts of life issues and asking advice about weird kid behaviour you are currently experiencing. So during one of these occasions, I brought Jack's undiagnosed, unresearched, maybe but not too sure insomnia up. I surprisingly got a lot of excited nodding and agreeing, which as a mum, apart from Google and a Doctor that was a good enough diagnosis for me!
I will take you back to where it began and as I have said before, I am The Realistic Mum not a doctor, psychologist etc etc etc. I bring to this blog my experience as a mother and a teacher so I will give you no long words and scientific explanations, just my little old opinion.
Jack started school last year and the first week he came home completely smashed. He would either fall asleep on the drive home or watching TV on the couch and was more than happy to go to bed after his bath. I had prepared myself for major afternoon cut backs on all activities so I could be organised enough to get Jack to bed earlier than his norm thinking this would be the case for the rest of the term if not the year. I was however, completely wrong!
Week two came by and as we started to settle into the school routine, Jack's behaviour and also his personality was changing by the day. He was getting peeled off me by teachers in the morning when I dropped him to the classroom; something I never expected from him out of all my kids. He was so short tempered and moody, his eating was up and down and so were his energy levels. I was kind of stuck for what to do with him. I had only ever been the teacher and waved these tired kids off at 3pm each day but never knew this side of them. So I was a mum at a complete loss.
As bed time came around he started saying he wasn't tired and I would just laugh saying you have got to be kidding me. He would call out every ten minutes which completely pee'd me off because he was waking the other two kids up constantly. It was reaching 9:30 or 10pm before he would finally fall asleep and I was at the point of explosion.
looking through old uni text books and searching around the internet I came across information about babies being overstimulated so they have trouble going to sleep. Jack was five years old, but it certainly made sense that this could be the trigger. He had only gone to preschool two days a week, which is fine for us as we do many other social and stimulating activities during the other days, but that to five days of full time school was a big change especially for a child like Jack who gets overwhelmed with change. School was tiring and hugely stimulating for the brain. One lesson to another, learning new routines, making friends, watching, listening to all these things that made no sense and an all round information overload! No wonder he would get to bed to finally relax and his brain just had no idea how to switch itself off. It makes sense doesn't it? We train our brains to do and learns things our whole life but we also have to train our brains to relax, unwind, switch off and rest. You have read the books, heard it in yoga sessions or while getting a massage. Why are kids any different? If we have to teach our brains to relax surely kids need to?
Assuming this was the problem, I appointed myself brain training mum! I made sure our night routine was set so Jack's brain started to understand it was time to wind down, just like you did when teaching your bubba to sleep through the night. Jack would have an afternoon snack of a smoothie or something not packaged and low in sugar or something that didn't have sugar at all. He was given time to play or watch TV and then the TV would go off and he moved to homework time. I started making dinner earlier so he was eating at 5:30 to cut down on snacking but that also gave his body enough time to digest his food and settle his stomach. Again I always read you should eat at least two hours before laying down to sleep so I made this the same rule for my kids. Dinner was then followed by a bath because this seems to completely turn my kids wild so I wasn't doing this before bedtime. He could then do quiet activities of drawing, reading or playing a board game until it was time to get into bed. I tried to stay away from stimulating activities such as TV, Ipad and the Nintendo DS. We read our story downstairs instead of in bed to get across the message that beds were for sleeping. This has changed since but I just felt the need to do this for Jack and Franklin as well at the time. By 7pm Jack was in bed and we would pray together, which usually included asking Jesus to help Jack sleep and would talk to him very quietly for a couple of minutes about turning off all the thoughts from the day and thinking about his body relaxing.
As the 90's shampoo advert said it didn't happen over night but it did happen we were on our way to a successful night of sleeping for Jack. After a couple of weeks, he really settled and although he wasn't sound in minutes he had definitely joined dream land not long after and getting a good 11-12 hours of sleep a night.
Six weeks into school and I had my old but a more grown up Jack back. He was happily waving me off at school and getting his work done on time. Although he got tired, it was a normal new school kid kind of tired. He was way less snappy and could control his anger when we picked him up on it. I would love to say he was a perfect angel but he's a five year old boy and considering his parents, I doubt that is in his genetic make up anyway. Our new system had worked and as we settled into the year I backed off the strict routine every now and then.
Jack is now in his second year of school and over the last year and a bit, when we find he falls back into his patterns of not being able to sleep, we just jump back into the tight routine again. If this is something you are finding with your kids, particularly a school one then I hope this can be of some comfort and help. There are plenty of resources out there and professional health care practitioners who can also help you in this area as well if you feel what you are doing is not working.
Anything to sleep right mummas!
© The Realistic Mum
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