Sleep Regression – The Daily Struggle

As we continue on through these difficult times, I’d just like to say, I hope you’re all doing well. Under the current circumstances I think it’s safe to say that nobody is finding life particularly fun at the moment. The effort shown by all key workers has been nothing short of heroic, and for all their sacrifices I’m incredibly grateful. It is also a strange and testing time for everyone faced with lockdown, whether you’re a family with young, energetic children or retired, this lifestyle is almost unrecognisable to most of us. It’s this new way of life that I’ll be focusing on in today’s post, discussing in particular the affect it may be having on new parents and their children.

In previous posts you might remember me mentioning sleep regression, it’s something that could affect your child at various stages of their development and is something we’re currently experiencing with Ezra. So, just what is sleep regression exactly? Personally, I feel sleep regression can come in many forms, but the main symptoms are frequent waking during the night, shorter nap times during the day and fighting sleep when tired. All these things can happen quite quickly, one night you’ll have a great night-time routine with your child and the next they simply won’t sleep. Ezra experienced his first bout of sleep regression when he hit five months old, as first-time parents we were actually quite worried that something might be wrong. However, after talking to our health visitor they soon explained that everything was perfectly fine and we needn’t worry. They explained that sometimes when a baby is trying so hard to learn all these new things, like crawling and rolling over, their brain is so active that they can find sleep difficult. With our worries quashed we continued on despite Ezra’s infrequent sleep, eventually getting him back into a regular routine. One thing that our health visitor also explained to us was that sleep regression can resurface again, but not always. Ezra is now seven and a half months old and seemingly entering his second bout of sleep regression, having experienced it all before we’re not so daunted this time, but for some parents it can be unsettling.

You’ve gone from having a baby that will possibly sleep through the night to one that wakes consistently, your initial reaction as a parent is probably to worry. We’ve also found that Ezra becomes quite clingy when experiencing sleep regression, he finds it more comforting to fall asleep on me or Chantelle and struggles when we try and put him in his cot. My advice to new parents experiencing similar things is not to panic, if you’re worried seek advice from a professional. I think as parents and especially new parents, we tend to worry and overthink a lot of things, I certainly do. In reality though, sleep regression is just another part of your baby’s development, it won’t last forever and you shouldn’t worry yourself silly about it.

In my experience with Ezra, sleep regression tends to last for four to eight weeks in total. Now, I’d be lying if I said it’s been a breeze, it’s definitely had both a mental and physical effect on me and Chantelle. As parents with young children your probably used to getting little sleep, or certainly less sleep than an average individual, but going from getting a little sleep to almost hitting that new-born stage again is hard. You sometimes think to yourself what have I done to deserve this? Broken sleep is the hardest part for me, your body doesn’t feel rested and when you try to get on with daily tasks everything just feels more strenuous. Children can be pretty demanding as well, Ezra might keep us up during the night but he still expects us to keep him entertained during the day, despite being exhausted. After trying to settle him for the fourth time during the night it can start to affect you mentally as well. When you’ve worked so hard to get your child to sleep, you’ve crept from the front room to the bedroom and successfully got them into their cot without waking, you’ve managed to get into bed yourself and then all of a sudden, they start crying. After repeating this several times during the night it can be tempting to sit there and cry with them sometimes, but all I’ll say is try to remain positive, this is just a stage and it will pass.

There are things you can do to try and alleviate some of the stresses on your child during their sleep regression, some may seem very basic and others unrealistic but here are a few that seem to be working with Ezra. If it’s possible under the current circumstances then try and spend as much time as possible outside, the fresh air seems to do wonders for Ezra’s mood and sleep. With the current pandemic this solution isn’t always possible due to limited time outside and social distancing, but any fresh air is better than none, even if that means standing at your doorstep for a time while your child takes in the different surroundings. We’ve also started to encourage Ezra to really practice things like crawling and rolling from back to front, it keeps his brain active and tires him out more if he’s constantly on the go. This is not always the easiest way to spend your day because quite often your exhausted and any break that your child takes is also a break for you, but powering through will sometimes encourage your child to sleep properly during the night. Lastly, and this is perhaps the most difficult, try forming a new routine around your child’s sleep regression, if they are tired after breakfast every morning because they’ve been up throughout the night then make this their nap time. If they are most energetic after lunch then make this the time that you encourage them to crawl and roll over and generally tire themselves out. Having that routine keeps us sane, it might not be the perfect routine but at that moment in time it could be just the right amount of structure to keep us going.

I’m also going to discuss some of the things that we’ve done as parents to combat Ezra’s sleep regression. Firstly, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, you might have to form some kind of night schedule all over again. I know, you probably thought that once you’re past that new-born stage sleep would be a doddle, that both parents could go to bed without too much worry about being disturbed throughout the night. Unfortunately sleep regression has other ideas, knowing which parent will be getting up during the night and which parent will be taking over in the morning is important, it prevents the awkward moment in the middle of the night when both parents see who can pretend to be asleep the longest. We’re also a lot less tolerable of things when tired, not having a routine set for who gets up during the night can lead to arguments. The second idea is a really basic one, remember to talk to each other. There is nothing worse than two parents both struggling and neither one talking to the other about their problems. It’s ok to not be ok sometimes, talking to your partner and discussing how you feel can relieve some of the stress you might be feeling as a parent. Lastly, try and work your day around your child. If they have a mid-morning nap at 11am every day then make that your time as well, plan to do something for yourself while they sleep, that could be watching your favourite TV show or simply spending some quality time with your partner. As long as you make that time for yourself, you’ll start to feel more human again and not just like mum and dad.

I’m going to finish this post by saying what we’re all probably thinking, everything seems and feels so difficult right now. Covid-19 is having a massive impact on all of us, many aspects of our lives are uncertain and isolation is possibly beginning to take it’s toll on us, especially with young families. It won’t be like this forever though, during times like this it’s important to remain positive, try and focus on the important things in life and where you want to be when this pandemic has passed.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my blog everyone, I really appreciate it. Feel free to find me on Facebook at A.P Writing for more posts, I hope you all remain safe during these difficult times, see you all real soon.

Adam

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