Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Overcome the Overly Tired Cycle

All parents have something they dread most from their children. For me, it's my kids being overly tired. They're not just tired. They're cranky, fussy, irritable, and do things they normally wouldn't do. If I don't catch that they're overly tired, then they get too tired and have issues sleeping and it can become a vicious cycle that can take days, weeks, or even up to a couple of months in my oldest son's case.

Friday after school went just about as every Friday after school goes. The kids got home just as most of the daycare kids were waking up, ate a snack, we discussed weekend plans (and the fact that it's a weekend--my kids love school and need some prepping that they won't be going for a couple of days), and then they went about playing and doing projects that the kids did earlier in the day. Max decided to build with the Duplos with the other kids. I noticed he was a bit grouchier with the younger kids than usual, but otherwise seemed fine.

It wasn't until his tower got knocked over and he couldn't get the "yellow block back into the right place!!!" that all hell broke loose. There was screaming, kicking, body stiffening when I attempted to pick him up, slamming his body off of his bed, slammed his lip into the corner of his desk during all of the crazy body moves, copious amounts of tears, and fist pounding. For 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes. I never dreamed a 5 1/2 year old could throw such a tantrum, but THIS is the kind of things that happen when my kids get overly tired.

There's also the bed wetting. The boys (who are potty trained) wet the bed numerous times a night when they're overly tired. I believe their record was five "pee throughs" as we call them, in one night. This equates to them still being tired, me being tired, and several loads of extra laundry.

I have learned a few mommy tricks in the last almost 6 years to help reverse the overly tired cycle:

  • If your child is having issues sleeping for days, weeks or months at a time, realize that it's going to take just as long or longer to reverse the cycle. Children who are too overly tired have even more issues sleeping. It's a big test of patience and sleep deprivation on the parent's part.
  • These are the sleeping stats for babies/toddlers/children and I find them to be very accurate: http://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/age-by-age-guide/  or http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep  I do need to add, that I myself, only look at total number of hours slept in a twenty four hour period.
  • For babies, I use the two hour rule. Most babies can only stay awake (or should be awake) for two hours before they need rest. At the two hour mark, try to get baby to sleep (whether it be in a swing, crib, bassinet, stroller, bouncy seat, your arms, etc.). Use this rule until 4-9 months when sleeping patterns change. As all parents have heard a million times, not all babies are the same. When my oldest was a baby, he could only stay awake for barely an hour at time until he was 4 months old. Then it became two hours at a time. The boy napped 3 times a day and slept for 12 hours at night until he was 9 months old. When my middle child was a baby, he stayed up all day long. He never napped, but slept for 14-15 hours at night. While I write that, I do need to mention that even as an infant, I did "quiet time" with him every 3 hours where I dimmed the lights, no tv or other distractions going, and soft music playing for about one hour each time. Proof that all babies really are different.
  • For kids who are outgrowing naps, I do mandatory quiet time every afternoon. I typically put on a movie or have the kids lay down in bed(s). I tell the child(ren) to relax their body, no moving around (kids who are resisting sleep tend to jerk their arms and legs and purposefully toss around to keep themselves awake), no talking, singing, clicking their tongues, etc. After we've gone through relaxing their body's (I say "give your foot a kick and then set it down. Relax your foot and your leg. No more moving it"), I'll put on a movie or whatever that is chosen. 90% of the time the kids are asleep within the first thirty minutes. Sometimes it takes the kids longer--I usually do rest time for 2 hours and an additional hour of quiet time (books, a movie, puzzles, or quiet coloring can be done during this hour). I do this for my almost 6 year old on no school days. Even at nearly 6 years old, he falls asleep sometimes, but more so, it helps his overall mood for the rest of the day.
  • If naps been skipped for a day (which has been happening with my 3 minis all too often lately), I find a super early bedtime is the way to go. If your child typically takes a 2 hour nap and has an 8 p.m. bedtime, put he/she to bed at 6 p.m. Somehow this has worked like a charm for my kids, but only if they've missed nap for a day or two....it doesn't work every night for you parents envisioning some extra sleep! This is the method I used this past Friday night with our oldest. I put him to bed at 6 p.m. and he slept until 7:10 the next morning. All caught up on sleep (until he went to bed too late Saturday night, woke up early on Sunday morning, and was so overly tired Sunday night that he peed the bed twice....we're back in the same overly tired boat again today).
  • Be a stickler with those naps for at least a week. So lets say your child is so overly tired (or you're worried they're getting that way) and refusing to nap, do naps as usual. Even if they're not falling asleep, put them in their bed(s), keep the room as it typically is for naps, and leave them in their bed as if they're actually sleeping. Sure you may have to go in a million and one times to remind them not to get out of bed, to be quiet, etc. but eventually it will happen. When one of my kids wasn't sleeping well (don't judge that I cant' remember which of my 3 it was but I'm fairly certain it was one of the boys), I put him in his crib, put on his soothing music, and left the room. The boy happily played for upwards of 2 hours until I walked in and said "good afternoon! Nap time is over!" This went on for over a week until one day--bam! A 4 1/2 hour nap and my child was back to "normal." Yep, true story....just can't remember exactly which kid it was.
  • As confusing as it is, you may need to try two ways to find what gets your child(ren) out of the tiredness rut. You can try a super strict schedule (which I am not a fan of whatsoever but has been necessary on a few occasions here) or switch up the schedule completely. I've had to implement both ways with two different children. At the same time. I won't scare you with the details, but lets just say the kids came out well rested and mommy had to take a full 24 hours out to refocus.

If your child is in an overly tired rut, be assured you're not alone. This week we will be implementing several of these tricks. We will be having a low key week (and most likely a low key weekend as well), relaxing evenings with early bedtimes in the hope well rested, happy children will greet me one of these days! Sometimes it's difficult to keep in mind how much rest and sleep their little bodies need when all they seem to do is go, go, go. Once we get over this hurdle, there's sure to be another one I'll most likely be posting about.