Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Kid's Too Smart to Sleep

My Mom has a theory about baby sleep. The more intelligent the baby, the more difficult it is for that child to sleep. I think it is based on something about the amount of brain activity, processing of their surroundings and a desire to solve complex problems at an early age. It's not entirely illogical, but....her prime example is that my brother rarely slept (so very smart) and I slept a little better (smart, but not quite Kyle.) Don't worry, my self esteem about my intelligence was in no way damaged by this theory.

Now, I have yet to read this theory in any of my pile of sleep books I have purchased since the birth of my first child in an effort to find the step by step process that would end the horrible sleep patterns of my children, but I'm not going to completely discount it since my children will be geniuses based on the first few years of their lives. Sorry if you have a child that sleeps really well and this is a potentially upsetting theory, but those of us that don't have sleepers really need to hold on to the hope that someday our kids are going to out smart your lethargic children so we don't strangle our kids when we are getting up with them for the fifth time at 3 am. I bet your kids will be just fine...or I will try to encourage mine to try to find a place for them at their fortune 500 company.


Lately this theory (and a carefully thought out plan I have for my boys' teenage years of tormenting them when they would like to sleep until noon) is the only thing keeping me from waking Alex and telling him to just hop in the car with me and abandon them. If my children aren't the smartest kids around then I don't know what all this sleeplessness is about. Aiden had a rough first few years, but then after that he has fallen into a pleasant pattern of no nap, but mostly reasonable and easy bedtime, followed by a full solid night's rest. It's fantastic. Cole unfortunately had a rough first two years off and on and now is still periodically fighting sleep, waking at night multiple times crying and then feels like 5 am is the perfect time to start the day. It really makes me dislike his overactive intelligent brain. Also makes me think I will be quoting my Mom's theory someday with the example that Cole was a really horrible sleeper and Aiden was rough, but not quite as difficult as Cole. So sorry Aiden.


We are currently in the depth of one of Cole's periods of disrupted sleep. We just can't seem to get him into a good groove and it makes me strongly dislike him, and everyone else, when I am as tired as I have been lately from dealing with it. During these cycles I can get mad at Alex just for being tired in the evenings. I usually am the one getting up in the middle of the night and oh yeah....I'm growing a human in my body... so I irrationally feel Alex has no right to ever be tired, much less when Cole is waking up at night. If he even starts to drift off during a TV show in the evening I feel like walking over and hitting him. (Do not be concerned for Alex, I do realize this would be mean, completely crazy and unproductive....but I still think about it.)


During these times I become obsessed with the solution to his sleep problems. I have purchased a stack of books claiming to be able to solve problems much worse than Cole's. As usual I have begun the process of rereading pieces and parts of them all to find an answer. I frantically search through the books, convinced I must have just skipped the paragraph that actually outlines exactly what to do to get my child to sleep from 7 pm to 7 am without disrupting me. I have yet to find it, but I am pretty sure I won't stop trying. I also have determined that Ferber must have just left out my mother's theory about baby intelligence and sleep in an effort to not get any one's hopes up for brains if it doesn't always work.

I become obsessed with what must have spurred the latest string of sleep tormented nights. It seems that the slightest variance from our routine can throw my child off for a week or more. I trace Cole's current problem back to my apathy about their bedtime last Saturday night which, in a moment of weakness, I allowed them to go to bed at 9:30. Stupid me. I also have blamed several nights since on my husband coming home from work before they were in bed, a rarity that I should cherish, but because they get so excited to see him they can't calm down to go to sleep when they should. I also blame Alex, and at times my amazingly wonderful, though sleep troubled mother-in-law. Both of them have crazy dreams and at times disrupted sleep so what choice do I have but to put the blame at least somewhat on this genetic defect that could be fighting with all that intelligence they clearly got from my side....my Mom is the one with the theory so we should get to claim the brains. Other common sources of fault are a disrupted nap, the dog, the sun, Alex making too much noise doing things like walking down the hall, and all the unfinished decorating projects in our house....I mean, it keeps me up so maybe it's rough for Cole too? I said this makes me nuts, right? And yes, poor Alex.

I am probably one of the more annoying people to plan an event with that will cause my children to be away from our house at their exact bedtime, much less an entire night. The very thought of this event will send me into a panic about the sleep problems that will most definitely ensue shortly after or during. The prospect of disrupting sleep, in my mind, makes pretty much everything just not worth doing. I don't like this about myself, but let's be honest, there are probably worse things that I do so what's so bad about me not liking the idea of jacking up my family's sleep?

Last summer I spent months prior to a two week vacation in Greece worrying about how our children would sleep while we were there. A dramatic time change, multiple people in the same bedroom and no strict daily schedule....I was convinced disaster was looming. It ended up being fine, of course, but I have little doubt that the next time we travel to Greece again I will be met with the same anxieties rather than the obvious joy and gratitude I should feel at taking another vacation to a beautiful country with my husband's family. Maybe there is medication for me for this?

Lately I have taken to supplying Cole with melatonin in an effort to get him back on track to sleep. It works in getting him to go to bed, but it doesn't always solve the night waking. I also feel that I might be somehow causing damage to his brain's natural production of this drug...hopefully he's too smart for that to be a problem, I don't need anything else to worry about at night. For now I'm going with my mother-in-law's brilliant words on that one, "if you can't see, put on the glasses." I love her for making me feel like it's ok to drug him if it helps him sleep. She rocks. (Oh, except for her genetic sleep problems which I will still have to feel angry at her for from time to time.)

I know there are lots of solutions to sleep problems if you approach them properly. Any of you mom's reading this are dying to ask me the list of questions about not going into his room anymore, sleep apnea (my Mom's current theory which I dislike so much more than her too smart to sleep one,) letting him cry, making an earlier bedtime, etc. I know it all, I've done it all and frankly any discussion about solutions just makes me feel cranky (or should I say crankier?) Everyone has a solution to a sleep problem that is not their own. I'm dying for Dr. Ferber to swing by Round Rock and just made everything all better, but if you aren't him I don't want to hear it and fuel my frustration. I am resolved to the fact that some kids just are too smart to sleep. Thanks Mom for giving me the excuse.

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