life · parenting

Coping with my children’s sleep issues

When my daughter was smaller, she wasn’t a good sleeper. She wasn’t terrible either, but her sleep habits were enough to send me to the madhouse.

For almost three years, we struggled with her waking up too early. We tried everything we could think of: reward charts, a children’s clock to let her know when it was morning time, moving bedtime both later and earlier, skipping the afternoon nap, you name it. That kid would regularly get up ready to play before 6 am, even at 4.30 am. In addition, it took well over a year for her to sleep through the night, with some awful weeks when she was nine months old which took away every last ounce of sanity from me.

I’m sure many of you had worse experiences and are sending names to me. Even at the time I heard accounts of children who would take two hours to fall asleep every night or school-age kids which still wouldn’t sleep through the night, forcing their miserable parents to take turns to sleep. Even at the time I was aware my issues were moderate, but I couldn’t help feeling how I felt. When I was at home with my girl for the first nine months of her life, I was struggling with a stressful breastfeeding experience and I was feeling extremely lonely. I had moved to Finland only one year prior and didn’t have any good friends, nor family to help me out. I was the only mother among my young colleagues. The only community I had was online and, out of inexperience, I hadn’t chosen it well. There, I was either told a million potential causes which would make my girl sleep poorly or to suck it up as that’s how kids are. Both these didn’t sound nice to the ears of someone who was severely sleep-deprived and very insecure of her motherly skills.


I was alone, feeling without any support, and desperately thinking that my life would look that sad and empty from then onwards. When I went back to work, things weren’t better. I was in a toxic workplace and wasn’t aware of it. Loneliness followed me there and sleep deprivation would prevent me from doing my job well, since it required all my brain power. I remember I felt like motherhood had emptied me of my identity and individuality. I regretted becoming a mother. Once I even shouted unspeakable things to my baby, in the midst of despair. I punched the wall, the mattress, and the bedhead on many occasions. I cried a lot.

I don’t recall when things started to get better. There was no epiphany, no mystic revelation. Our sleep overall got better and we developed some strategies (like taking turns to sleep on weekend days). I started to accept the changes that motherhood had brought along in my heart. I changed my job and started working in a much better place. My daughter grew and became more independent, thus reducing the total stress of parenting.

The experience left me scars though. Whenever my kids’ sleep habits decline, I can sense the same feelings of despair and rage boiling deep inside me. At first, they terrified me. When our adopted son joined the family, he had some sleep issues (minimal considering the situation!). I felt like I had precipitated again in the same dark hole as three years prior. I was in panic, unable to rationalise the situation, afraid my life would be ruined again and everything new I had built for myself would be torn into pieces by the newly arrived. It took a lot of self-control and in many occasions, I physically removed myself from the stressful situations to collect myself. Finding out that the wound was still open was even more painful and worrying than getting it in the first place. This time I concentrated on accepting it and being aware that sleep deprivation is my parenting arch-nemesis. I will be honest, this is the one thing that terrifies me when I imagine to grow the family. What if we’ll get a bad sleeper? And I mean, a real one. The kind which requires an exorcism to sleep every night or the kind which apparently doesn’t need any sleep at all. How will I manage to avoid a mental breakdown? Will the support network and services I have now make a real difference?

One thing I feel more confident of is that I am not afraid to admit my own limitations and to ask for help. Yes, I’m a mother and coffee is not enough for my survival! And no, I’m not gonna suck it up.

The Tactical Mummy
Surrey Mama

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23 thoughts on “Coping with my children’s sleep issues

  1. Sleep problems are the worst! That nine month sleep regression nearly killed us. My son has been a pretty good sleeper (I lucked out with that one!), so when he has trouble sleeping, it seems almost harder. What finally helped us was the neuvola sleep consultant. That, and being consistent once we’d decided on a plan.
    And you’re right, there isn’t enough coffee in the world to stave off infant-induced sleep exhaustion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SLeep problems are awful. Our son has type 1 and his levels have been awful meaning we have to wake one to three times a night. I sometimes not sure how we function and I totally get your sense of dread about it xx #tacticaltuesdays

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sleep deprivation is awful. It’s one of those things that you can’t fully comprehend and understand unless you’ve been through it. I love your post, especially how you write about her sleep just improving and not some miracle cure to her sleep! #thursdayteam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Oh how I wish I knew a miracle cure 😬. So far with two kids, I had to find two different approaches. Overall I recommend to sleep train but regarding which sleep training works for your kid, it’s totally open!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. After my first, I would have scoffed at this post. Then came my second. The first 7 weeks or so were really rough, especially the first 2. Waking every 2 hours in the night was not acceptable. We decided to supplement with 1 formula bottle at the 10 30 feed to keep him fuller longer. That and sleep training (I swear by the baby whisperer) has made him nearly as good of a sleeper as his older sister. Just do what you gotta do! And I really do highly recommend the Baby Whisperer, worked for both my babies.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this very honest post. I have an 11 month old who is a terrible sleeper and I suffer from sleep deprivation so I know how you feel #blogcrush

    Soffy //

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh gosh this sounds awful. We only had a few months of bad sleep and I thought it was horrendous – I can’t imagine trying to cope with it for a prolonged period of time. This is a really powerful post and puts words to a struggle that so many parents face, seemingly alone. I’m glad you are finding you can be more accepting of yourself – that is a great lesson to learn.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  7. THIS!! This is me, my life, right now! I totally relate to what you said about when it’s been better and then goes backwards again how you feel total despair! It’s so hard when little ones don’t sleep well, being tired is so hard, but you’re right it does pass, it did with Amelie, I’m just waiting for the day with Evie! Thanks for linking this to #thursdayteam

    Liked by 1 person

  8. One of the hardest things as a parent with younger kids thats forsure. You are already drained from the day, then add a lack of sleep into the mix. It affects both parent and child.
    All my kids had sleep issues and ended up sleeping with us for the first bit. You can only do what you can do. Their bodies are telling them thats what they need and I feel all we can do is work with it.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh it’s awful without proper sleep. I used to think how I would survive with the little sleep I had! My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was about 10 months and when I look back I can’t believe that we coped to be honest. It will pass I promise and then the next stage will appear! Good luck. #thatfridaylinky

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My children are all much older now but reading your post took me back to the dark days of not sleeping! I really do think it’s the hardest part of parenting, I think being so honest you’ll have reassured lots of mums that feel like it’s just them

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you say that. I’m trying to be real here and it includes exposing my weakness, in the hope of helping others. I think we mothers especially tend to feel inadequate and it can help to read you’re not the only one to struggle. Thanks for this comment, you made my day ❤ 🙂


  11. This is such a raw and honest post. I personally haven’t experienced having a toddler have little sleep, but I do myself have troubled sleep. It’s so difficult to keep going with such little sleep, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it is when you have a toddler. All the best for the future! x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I had one amazing sleeper, she slept through from 6 weeks. I don’t think I fully appreciated how good I had had it until my son came along. He was an awful sleeper! He still wakes up at ungodly o’clock and I sometimes resent it. I know exactly what your are describing when you say about the life being sucked out of you and no I don’t remember when it started to get better either. But it does get better, and it’s great you ask for help and don’t just suck it up because your wellbeing is vitally important to their wellbeing. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I dread sleepless nights – my children are grown now so for me it’s due to peri-menopause, but it means I can relate to how desperate it can make you feel. I wish I could sleep during the day but that’s not possible. I hope you continue to get better nights – and it makes the world of difference x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A mom I can relate too! I am a mother to a four year old and I have the same problem. She won’t sleep in her own bed causing me to get up throughout the nights several times casing me sleep. Sometimes I get so angry I give up and allow her to sleep with me and my husband even though I know it’s wrong. I go through so many emotions because of it and my husband can’t help. I am now trying to find a solution because am afraid she will still be doing it when I have more. Love the post! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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