I’m sure you’ve heard of the 8 month sleep regression? One of numerous sleep regressions that happen where the your baby, who was sleeping well, decides that closing his eyes as akin to torture and refuses to go to sleep. What you may not have heard of, is the 8 year old sleep regression. This is where your usually good sleeper decides that their bed is full of electric eels and keeps jumping back out of it with yet another reason why they can’t sleep.
Boy Child had been an excellent sleeper since about 6 months old. While his bedtime routine was long winded and tedious (and at one point involved us acting out a skit about trains every night), once it was done he was down for the night. Since he turned 8 however, he keeps popping back up like a jack in the box.
Reasons my 8 year old can’t sleep
The list of reasons that he’s out of bed is endless, some recent ones include:
I can’t remember the capital of France (not sure he ever knew in the first place)
My water bottle is squeaking
There’s a lump on my foot (yes dear, that’s your ankle)
I haven’t done my homework (he has)
I need you to remind me to draw a picture of the dog I want in the morning. (Reminding him to do things is a bit of a theme)
There’s a noise inside my head (it’s probably your exhausted brain, begging you for sleep)
My duvet has fallen off and I can’t pick it up (why the hell not?!)
These however are all excuses. The truth is he is having trouble falling asleep and so is coming up with ever more inventive reasons to get up.
Making changes To Bedtime
The first thing we did was make his bedtime later. Both children have had a 7pm bedtime pretty much since birth. My Mum once asked me if I still expected them to go to bed at 7pm when they were 18 (I told her no, I expected them to have moved out when they were 18). I think we did pretty well keeping it up until they were 6 and 8 but accepted it was probably time to make it a bit later. We now aim at somewhere between 7.30 and 8pm.
While it helped a bit, we are still seeing plenty of jack in the box action. We’re loathe to make it any later because on the day he has Cubs, he’s not in bed until 9 and then struggles to get up the next morning. We don’t want to be dragging him out of bed everyday (there will be enough of that when he’s a teenager).
Addressing the other issues
One of the most frequent reasons for calling us after bedtime was that something had happened at school. Sometimes these things were clearly exaggerated and being used as an excuse but often they were things I could believe were playing on his mind and stopping him from sleeping. To resolve this we started asking both children at dinner time to tell us about their day. This gives him an opportunity to either talk to us then or to say he wants a chat with one of us privately before bed. This has definitely helped. He enjoys the little chats very much so we still get some exaggerated problems but I’m fine with that when it happens pre bedtime.
As he looks for any excuse to get up, we try to make sure there are as few as possible. We make sure he’s been to the toilet, that his water bottle is filled up and that teddies are in place. He is often hot initially and then cold later on. We make sure there is different bedding is available for whatever his body temperature is doing.
Finally, we’ve told him he doesn’t have to go to sleep straight away. There’s nothing worse than laying in bed waiting for sleep that just won’t come. If he doesn’t feel sleepy we encourage him to read or draw in bed. This seems to distract him from thinking of excuses to get up long enough for him to start to feel sleepy.
Coping with the 8 year old sleep regression as a parent
I can’t say that I coped very well with the problem initially. Having had kids that happily go to bed at 7pm every night for the last 5 years, the 8 year old sleep regression came as a bit of a shock. I wasn’t very patient and that made things worse, often ending up with an argument. I’ve since learnt that if he thinks I’m even a bit annoyed with him, there is zero chance of him sleeping. So, each time he calls me back upstairs, I do my best Disney Princess act. Then I vent my frustration when I get back downstairs.
While I wouldn’t say that any of the things we’ve tried have completely solved the problem, they have all helped. As usual, I am left reminding myself, “This Too Shall Pass” (and trying to ignore the fact that Girl Child will probably start her 8 year old sleep regression in less than a year!)
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