Lately something has come over our house. Our kids – who before were on a reasonably consistent going-to-sleep schedule – have become night owls. We still put them to bed around 815/830 – following the same evening routine of dinner, bath, brushing, & books we’ve been doing since they were babies. But these days we count ourselves lucky if they’re both asleep by 10. And it’s not like they’re quietly reading in their beds during that time. No – they do some reading, but mostly they’re popping out of their room every few minutes, bouncing around the house, running into each others’ beds, or yelling over and over for us to come back and answer some unnecessary question or fix some urgent problem, like a blanket not being pulled up far enough over shoulders or the door not being open wide enough. WTF?!
Not so long ago we could count on at least an hour or two at night to ourselves. We relished this time after long, chaotic days to catch up on work, to get in a little me time, or to have a little we time. Those things are really hard to do when every few minutes a little voice or two interrupts with another (often inane) request.
We’ve tried everything. Our kids share a room, so we’ve tried putting them in separate rooms to fall asleep, then moving them back together after. We’ve tried changing up the bedtime routine, giving them a set amount of time to get their wiggles and giggles out, wrestling with them or running them around the house to burn energy, allowing them to sleep in the same bed, literally going to bed with them, adjusting their bedtime a half hour in either direction, playing calming music for them at bedtime, giving them the chance to read quietly in bed until they fall asleep, bribing them with the chance to earn special privileges for going to bed right away without complaining or threatening to take away privileges for getting out of bed, laying down the law…..nothing works. Both are long-ago potty-trained, so we can’t lock them in their room and let them kick around until they crash.
Many nights we can wrangle our first-grader to sleep by 9, but our pre-kindergartener is another story. Despite both kids being sleep-trained early, our little one has always been much harder to put to sleep than her sister. So these days, long after her sister falls asleep, she’s up bopping around the house. Lately she’s been emerging from her room (usually for the 19th time) around 9:30, looking up at B with a plaintive little face and quietly saying “Mommy, I’m so infinitely sorry to say this to you, but I’m hungry.” The first few times we thought this was just another procrastination tactic, but it turns out she really is hungry. Most nights, she will sit quietly by herself in the kitchen polishing off a plate of leftovers before skipping back to bed.
We can’t figure out why this is happening. We’ve theorized that it could be due to (a) daylight savings time, (b) growth spurts disrupting their sleep, and/or (c) them not burning off enough energy during the day. But we’re grasping at straws here. Our kids are no more able/willing to fall asleep on weekends when they’re outside and physically active all day than during the school week. And whether our 4.5yo naps during the day or not no longer seems to have any impact whatsoever on her ability/willingness to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
We don’t know if this is simply a phase they’ll grow out of or what, but it’s wreaking havoc on our sanity. We don’t mind our kids being night owls, but we need our own time, too. Since they are waking up later too, it’s also making our mornings unpleasantly rushed.
Got any advice for us on how to reclaim our nights? On how to get kids this age to fall asleep more quickly without drugging them? Or on how long this phase will last? We’re all ears!!