The new bedtime routine

Ever since we moved into our house two years ago, my daughter has struggled to get to sleep. Until the age of 6 or 7, she would fall asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, but those days are sadly long gone!

She misses the noise of our old bungalow and likes to know there are people around when she goes to bed. (She is often the only person upstairs when she does.)

She struggles to fall asleep, then she worries that she’s not sleeping, then she gets upset, which makes it harder again to fall asleep…

But she always does go to sleep. Eventually.

I had difficulty getting to sleep at her age, but I always accepted it. I never worried about it.

But she genuinely believes that she’s never going to get to sleep.

I went through a phase of sitting outside her room while she tried to get to sleep. Knowing I was there was reassuring for her. (Although it annoyed my younger son and stopped him getting to sleep!)

My husband put a stop to that one and she managed without me for a few days, but then she came up with another routine, which is just as much a rod for my back as the chair outside her room.

It is rare she will even go upstairs until 9pm. Then I have to go up with her while she brushes her teeth and hair and very carefully adjusts her bed covers to perfection. She has to put her watch on and two hairbands on her wrist. She has to have an old iPhone (with no SIM) under her pillow as back-up for checking the time.

Then she gets into bed. She reads for enjoyment and to calm herself. Recently she has decided that she needs to read for precisely eight minutes. I am allowed downstairs during these eight minutes.

If I come back after 10 rather than eight, I’m in trouble!

For the last two or three years she hasn’t wanted me to read to her, preferring to read herself, but now she likes me to read after she has read. I don’t just read a chapter, which would seem sensible. She likes me to read two, three or four pages, depending on how tired she is.

Teddy, Bedtime, Daughter, Book

Once I’ve finished reading, I say goodnight and she confirms, as she does every night, that I will be back to check on her in half an hour.

At this point I am usually trying to turn off The Simpsons and persuade the boys to go upstairs and get ready for bed.

I will check on her after half an hour and she will still be awake. So every single night she tells me I have to go back in 20 minutes.

It means I very rarely get chance to actually relax and watch TV in the evenings. I genuinely don’t think I’ve watched an entire programme since the Christmas holidays.

Most of the time, she will be asleep by the time the 20 minutes is up, by which time it’s about 10.10pm. If she’s not, I have to go back in another 20 minutes. If she’s still awake at this point, she will be starting to get quite upset and will insist I go back in 15 minutes.

By this point I am struggling to keep my own eyes open, but my daughter’s worst fear is that I will fall asleep before she does. So I have to do whatever I can to stay awake.

As a baby and toddler, she never slept in our bed. But twice recently she’s had to sleep in our bed because I couldn’t physically stay awake any longer and she was stressed and couldn’t get to sleep.

I’m not really sure how we got to this point. It was never meant to happen. I’m hoping at some point in the near future she actually realises that she will always go to sleep eventually, being unable to sleep is not the end of the world and, most importantly, it’s OK if Mummy goes to sleep first!

Does anyone else have any trouble getting their tweens to sleep at night?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Ah that sounds hard work but I think kids do tend to get anxious at this age don’t they? I’m sure I was a terrible sleeper around 8 and 9 and discovered things like death, ghosts etc and all sorts of non important things would keep me awake. Thankfully I think I grew out of it by 11! Hopefully it’s a lot sooner for you!

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    • Thanks very much! I think I struggled to get to sleep around this age too, but I just lay there! I didn’t have to keep telling people about it!

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  2. Ahh you poor things. I went through a phase a bit like that when I was 11ish. Can she have a warm milky drink before bed to calm her down and release those sleepy hormones? Does a cuddle with you in her bed help? Or does she want to be on her own? As for her sleeping in with you, whatever works, I reckon. She’s not going to be doing it forever. I hope you find a solution babes xxx

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    • Thanks very much! I like your point that she’s not going to do it forever. She gave up milk a few years ago, but I might see if she’d like to try it again. x

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  3. Gosh, that sounds like a tough old routine you’ve gotten yourself into especially if you have to still manage shepherding your boys upstairs to bed too. It sounds like she’s getting herself so anxious about things which is preventing her from going to sleep; the fact that the time keeping about popping in & out of her room is so precise it sounds like it’s adding to her worries. Poor thing.
    I don’t have any solutions, I’m afraid, apart from maybe finding ways to release those sleepy hormones – milky drink, warm bath etc
    Hope she grows out of it soon

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    • Thanks very much. It is a rather tiring routine! In a lot of ways it was easier when I just sat on a chair outside her room. I remember my sister being very obsessive about the time too, so maybe it runs in the family! x

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  4. Just something I picked up on in the post…the mobile phone. Mobiles emit light which interferes with sleep causing insomnia etc. I used to sleep with my phone and Kindle next to my bed but I was having problems getting to sleep and staying asleep. Since I’ve moved them away from me, I’ve slept much better.

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    • That’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought of that. The phone is effectively dead (no sim, so no notifications etc), but it still lights up when she checks the time.

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  5. Oh Sarah this must be so hard for you. I must admit I have never checked on my kids once they go upstairs to bed. Katie (aged 10) goes up at 8.30pm, usually with her dad, and they do the routine of brushing teeth. He usually irons his shirt for the next day whilst she is in bed doing her reading. Lights are off at 9pm. However we do have an ailment of the night. Every night she comes down with something wrong sore head, sore leg, arm falling off etc. I am thinking of a way I can get her to stop doing this as it has just become a habit, and there is never anything wrong with her. She does go back upstairs and she is usually asleep by the time teen goes up at 10pm.

    Is there a reason why she wants you to keep checking on her ? I would try and remove any traces of the time from her bedroom to see whether she would become less anxious. Could you try bribery techniques and link it to maybe a little bit of pocket money if she is asleep by x time ? Just some things I would try but I know everyone is different. Hope you find a solution soon hun and you get to watch some television xx

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    • I’m impressed that you’ve never checked on them! I always check on mine as I’m going to bed, not to mention all the times beforehand! The ailments sound pretty exhausting! We get those from time to time, but not too often.
      Good idea to take all traces of the time away from her, although I suspect I would have a fight on my hands! x

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  6. Bless her and you for that matter, would she try drinking chamomile tea or another herbal drink it helped one of mine sleep and he even took some in a bottle for school when he first started secondary school as he found it hard to cope with the new routine for a few weeks , he drank it cold. It seemed to help him .Also a lavender bath or room spray or even a lavender pillow might help.

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    • Thanks very much. It’s good to here that it worked well for your son. My daughter is so fussy there’s no way I would be able to get her to try it, but the lavender sounds like a good idea.

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  7. Eek I have no answers! I was like this at her age too and my mum had to promise every night, that she would check on me at supper time (about 11pm in our house). We went through the ritual of me saying ‘please can I have a drink of water and see if I’m awake at supper time’ every single night. She would say yes and then I would be happy. These rituals can get out of hand though and I can imagine your husband is cross. At this point, my husband wants me to himself and I think that’s only fair to be honest. Perhaps your daughter needs to understand that too? Can you come to an agreement that you are all happy with that isn’t quite so involved? Not requiring you quite so much? What will she do when she has to go away with school? Feel for you cos it’s not easy and we end up falling into a pattern just to keep the peace. But sometimes our husbands are right and we just can’t see it…..

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  8. Oh gosh Sarah how stressful. What does she do before she goes up to bed? Could she be too wired as well and maybe need longer to unwind? Have you tired some relaxation/meditation music/podcasts? She must be exhausted and it can’t be pleasant for you or your husband. We have had a couple of nights recently when CC has been a pest at bedtime because he’s been ill and we found that short period stressful enough! Like Suzanne says, my evenings are my time with my husband but I do understand how difficult it must be.

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  9. Oh I do feel your pain. We still have huge sleep issues with L and we have been told by the paediatrician that we have to sort it out as it is an attachment issue and is leading to other problems. They haven’t offered any advice how to do it though and it is such a hard habit to break. If I find a solution I will let you know

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  10. that must be such a pain, i don’t like being last one awake as i struggle to sleep from worrying about not sleeping also, but my kids never minded if i went to bed before them, as long as Peter stayed up to ensure they did actually at least reach their bed rooms

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