I typically don’t post a ton about parenting because I try to keep this blog to running-related topics, but since my son’s sleep habits were affecting my running, I have decided to talk about it.
Little background on my son:
- 17 months old
- Sleeping through the night since an early age
- We are outside quite a bit each day – going on walks, running around the backyard – so he gets plenty of fresh air and exercise
- Has NEVER been the type of child that will go back to sleep if he wakes up early and I bring him into bed with us OR try to put him back to sleep (he thinks it’s play time) -> When he gets up, he’s up for the day
- Typically sleeps 9-10 hours a night and has slept 12 hours straight once in his life (on my 30th birthday!)
About 6 months ago, my son slowly started getting up earlier in the AM. He was a 6am (or so) riser for a while, but started rising in the 5s. Before we knew it, 5am was a typical morning wakeup for him (and therefore my husband and I). It was early, but since we are early risers anyway, we were mostly okay with this.
Then, about six-eight weeks ago, 5am started becoming a late morning for him…more and more 4s were becoming the norm. Most mornings, he was up at 430am (if not earlier). But he wasn’t tired or cranky. He was happy and bright eyed and bushy tailed.
5am is early. 4-430am is just plain ridiculous.
So I did what most moms would do. I researched, read books, spoke to friends and family and for the month or so, have tried a handful of different things:
- Two naps / day
- One nap / day
- Early bedtime (6pm) – sleep begets sleep, right?
- Later bedtime (7pm)
- Letting him stay in his crib until 5am (he would roll around and play for the majority of the time) – but he never went back to sleep
- Bringing him into bed with us
- Trying to put him back to sleep in his crib
Each night, we went to sleep hopeful and each morning, my heart would sink when I heard him in his crib when it was still pitch black outside. Some mornings I cried. Other mornings I cursed into my pillow. I felt like a huge failure. It seemed everyone I spoke to had children who got up 7 or later! Why was my son SUCH an early riser?
What was I doing wrong?
As of this past weekend, he was still getting up early. But the breaking point for me was Monday morning. We spent a wonderful day at my sister’s wedding on Sunday – my son took an hour or so nap in the car on the way to the wedding and a 30 minute catnap on the way home (around 430pm). He ran around and played NONSTOP for FOUR hours. My husband and I were exhausted and worn out Sunday night from following him around the whole time. Everyone in my family joked that he was going to sleep til late morning because of how active he was.
Guess what time he woke up? 430am. This was not normal.
I decided to go against everything I had read and heard (re: toddlers should be in bed between 6-8pm) and start putting him to bed later than 8pm. I realized he’s NOT the type of kid to sleep more than 10 hours/night so why was I putting him to sleep at 6pm hoping he would sleep 12 hours!?! It wasn’t fair to expect this from him.
Just like my running, I realized that there isn’t one solution to every problem. He’s not like my friends or family’s children and I needed to stop relying on what worked for their children.
The last two nights he’s been asleep by 8:05pm and 8:20pm and has woken up at 5:20am and 5:40am.
I’m not saying I’ve cracked the puzzle with my son’s sleeping, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I may have started to move things in the right direction. I should also note that the past two days, he has napped later (1030 and 11am) and longer than he ever has before (3 hrs 15 min BOTH days -> anything more than 2 hours is unheard of for my son).
I’ll do an update in a few weeks on how things have progressed. My plan is to keep his bedtime around 8:30pm and hope that he sleeps 9-10 hours/night! Fingers (and toes) are crossed!
What type of sleeper is your child?
Have you had a similar experience? Please share any tips or advice you may have!
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