The real real 22-month-old can't sleep post

This post has been eaten three times now so I'm scared to hit post again, but here goes...

Amanda writes:

"I'm stumped, and I'm losing it.  My 22-month-old son, always a not-great napper but a great night sleeper, is involved in some kind of horrible backslide.  

He's always been an early riser, but lately he's been getting up at 4:30-5:00, for about 3 months. We sleep in a basement, so it's very very dark and he has no way of knowing when it's morning. There also isn't enough light for him to sit and play in his crib.  He's up at 5 and READY TO GO.  In desperation sometimes, we let him sleep with us in the rocking chair for an extra hour, but he's getting too big now and I'm trying to break him of it.

We've always had trouble with naps.  A few months ago, I gave up and was sleeping with him for his naps--it was good, since I got rest (I'm pregnant with my second).  But now I've realized I can't commit to it forever, especially not with an infant on the way.  We trained, and it was a textbook four days-- hour of screaming, 40 mins, 20 mins no screaming.  It lasted about a week.  Now he's refusing again, and the last few days he's screaming for a full hour, no signs of sleep.  After the hour we just get him up, and then he's exhausted and cranky until bedtime.

His day looks like this:

wake at 5:00

down for "nap": 1:00

bed: 7:30

He goes down fine at night, but wakes three and four times a night whining or crying (not hysterical, not afraid), but wanting to rock in the chair or sleep with someone.  Usually with a pat he goes back down easily, but wakes again a couple of hours later for more of the same.

  • He's not hungry: often won't want to eat until 9 a.m.
  • He has water in his crib if he wants it.
  • He has an aquarium he can turn on if he wants some light
  • He has a consistent bed and nap routine that has been the same since he was 6 weeks old.
  • Temperature in his room is consistent
  • His diet hasn't changed
  • As far as we can tell, he's not sick or teething
  • He snores, so his mattress is propped up at the head

Some thoughts:

  • he's going almost 8 hours between waking and nap.  Is this too long?  Is overtired/awake time still a thing at this age?
  • We haven't told him outright about the baby (it's early yet), but people are talking about it around him and he's very smart.  Is he maybe sensing something? Do I smell different?
  • I've heard of ignoring until 6 am, but how does that work?  Does their body just suddenly learn what 6 feels like?  Today he screamed from 4:30-5:30.
  • Is he too young for one of those "ok to wake" clocks?  I thought that might help.  He's good with logic (as much as a toddler can be), so maybe the image of sleep time and awake time will help?

We are losing our minds-- we live in very close quarters and we hear every sound he makes.  I'm a SUPER wimp about CIO, and I'm just at my wits' end about how to fix this. 

Please. pretty please.  I'm trying my best to do everything right, and I'm failing at this.  Help!"

Oh, no! You are not failing. And please, please don't try to do everything right--that's an impossible goal. No parent can ever do everything right. And even if you could, it wouldn't be worth it. Kids need to know their parents as people. Flawed, loving people. Not robots. So just be who you are and stay connected to your kid.

Now, I've got nothing on the early waking thing. In the almost-eight years I've been writing Ask Moxie, the waking at 5 am phase is the only thing we've never come close to cracking. So the only thing I can say is that he'll eventually grow out of it.

The list of things you've already eliminated is impressive. You hit everything I'd have told you to look at, especially his diet (particularly artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners and gluten) and teething. This sounds like general bodily discomfort that isn't letting his body fall or stay asleep, either night or day. Diet and teething are the two things that directly cause bodily discomfort, but it's not either of those.

This also sounds like a sleep regression or developmental stage, but it's smack in the middle of the period right between the 18-month regression and the 24-month regression. So unless he's a kid who hits developmental stuff off the usual schedule (and I'm assuming he's not or you would have mentioned it), it's not a typical regression.

So what else? It definitely seems like something's just not letting him stay asleep. Learning some new kind of movement? (But for three full months?) Reflux? (But the times he's waking and the fact that he doesn't want to eat when he wakes up don't align with typical patterns.)


Readers, what am I missing?