Perfect Husband mentioned to his mother recently that Babby had been up screaming for over an hour in the middle of the night.
“You never did that, ever,” she said.
She never sleep-trained her kids. They just slept.
Sleep is such a mysterious thing.
At least, it always has been for me. It’s like this promised land that I am supposed to visit every night, but have never been given a map to.
There are suggestions for how to best battle insomnia: keep the lights dim before bed time, do relaxing activities leading to bed time, don’t lie awake for too long, don’t use bed for stressful activities like homework, etc etc. These suggestions are as vague and unhelpful as Peter Pan’s directions to Never Never Land.
Second to the right, and straight on ’til morning.
As a child I would lie awake and watch the time on my clock pass me by as everyone went to dream land without me.
My mother knew that I had trouble sleeping – sometimes I would cry at bedtime, because I was so tired but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. This mostly happened towards the end of the week, on Thursday or Friday, after days of running on five or six hours of rest.
More often, though, I simply complained that I wasn’t tired. Because I wasn’t. Sure, every morning I was exhausted. Even seven or eight hours, achieved on a good night, isn’t enough for a growing child. I was exhausted.
By bedtime, though, I was raring to go. Even when I felt tired, it was a tiredness in my brain: that buzzing feeling you get when you’re desperately short on sleep. But my body never agreed. It was warm and racing and ready to run. My bed was a prison, hot and lumpy. In the morning my body wouldn’t respond. It was cold and heavy and my bed was a veritable haven of pure comfort. I wanted nothing more in the world but to stay where I was, forever.
I don’t think my mother ever fully realized how much difficulty I had. Speaking to her recently, she expressed surprise when I mentioned lying awake until one in the morning every night.
“One!” she cried in surprise.
“You knew I lay awake at night and had trouble sleeping,” I said.
“I didn’t know it was that bad.”
She isn’t to be blamed, because I had never made it clear. My childish mind and my inexperienced mouth didn’t know the words, and had no frame of reference for how bad “bad” really is.
A recent study showed that some children may have much more trouble sleeping than their parents think they do. How could the parents know? They’re sleeping in a room down the hall, and the child probably learned as a baby that making a fuss doesn’t work.
It is because of my childhood memories that I am so hesitant to resort to Cry It Out methods, so long as Babby cannot talk.
It’s not that I think that a short week of Ferberizing (properly done) will have a lasting effect on bonding. Not if the mother is attentive and responsive in all other ways. It would be a mere pea under many mattresses of maternal experiences.
No, it is because I simply don’t think Cry It Out actually helps the baby sleep. I think CIO trains the baby not to cry for its mother at bedtime. That’s not quite the same thing.
It’s basic operant conditioning, and I have no doubt that it works. That’s how you train a puppy not to cry in its crate. Simple.
Many babies, relieved of the responsibility of crying at bedtime, might drop right off to sleep. Others might lie awake like I did, and the mother wouldn’t know, because the child wouldn’t cry for her.
I think sleep and “sleep training” are separate (if related) issues. One is an involuntary function. The other is behaviour modification.
Am I blaming Cry It Out for children’s poor sleep?
I know my mother Ferberized me when I was a baby, but I don’t think that’s why I have difficulty sleeping. The world is full of Ferberized adults who sleep like logs.
I just don’t think it really affects sleep itself. It affects that baby’s behaviour; it teaches him to go to bed quietly and not cry when he wakes in the night.
I think that many babies and many children drop right off when they go to bed. But I was not one of those children.
This wasn’t unique to my childhood, either. It has stayed with me my whole life. My biological clock just seems to automatically set itself at “nocturnal” instead of “diurnal”. No amount of early morning classes could make me a morning person, or give me the ability to fall asleep before midnight.
I go to bed awake and wake up exhausted, unless I get a chance to sleep in.
Left to my own devices on summer holidays, my natural rhythms always settled into a predictable pattern. I would go to sleep at three or four in the morning, and wake up at around eleven. My insomnia never bothered me on this schedule. I went to bed tired and woke up rested, when I could follow this schedule.
When I entered the working world, the veterinarians who employed me discovered quickly that I belonged on the afternoon shift. Put Carol on morning shift and she shuffles around in her scrubs as though still in her pyjamas. She stares at you blankly for a second before responding when spoken to. When left without an obvious task, she does nothing.
Put Carol on the evening shift, and she jumps for the phone when it rings. She chatters with clients. She sweeps the floor. She is cheerful and helpful. Even competent.
I just recently found out that there is a name for this. I totally fit the profile for Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. It means that some people seem to have a wonky biological clock that is always a few hours off of normal, so morning IS night to them, and evening IS midafternoon.
They don’t know why it exists, and they have no real way to cure it or even treat it. But I think it totally describes me.
The label gives me nothing except validation.
This physical quirk of mine helped me mightily in the early stages of motherhood. Not only am I accustomed to functioning on a sleep debt, but late night wake-ups didn’t faze me, so long as I could keep going back to sleep until I was rested in the late morning.
The problem is, Babby now wakes up naturally at 6:30 in the morning, full of smiles and ready to play.
Since he didn’t have the good luck to inherit his father’s effortless ability to sleep, he could have at least had the good grace to inherit my wonky schedule.
It’s good for him that he seems to have normal diurnal rhythms.
But God, I’m tired.
anxiety, babies, books, classical conditioning, comfort object, cry it out, infant sleep, insomnia, lovey, music, no-cry sleep solution, operant conditioning, over-thinking, parenting, psychology, sleep, sleep routines
Hi, I’m Carol and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I am using the above as a disclaimer, because this is going to be some classic Carol inconsequentiality.
I’ve read and re-read (parts of) The No-Cry Sleep Solution and I am satisfied that it will meet my needs. As a dog trainer, part of me was hesitant about this book, because the one thing I couldn’t really by-pass in my brain was the little voice that says “cry it out relies on operant conditioning. What could possibly work that does not use operant conditioning, and consequently, CIO?”
After all, how do you teach puppy to sleep in his crate? Let him whimper. The whimpering behaviour is not rewarded and he learns to stay quiet in his crate. Simple.
But Babby is a lot younger than a puppy. He doesn’t even have his milk teeth yet. If he were a puppy he’d still be snuggling at his mother’s nipples, not whimpering alone in a crate. A puppy, by the time it’s old enough to come home, is developmentally much more like a two year old.
So here I was, trying to find a way to violate basic principles of psychology, and feeling pretty stupid about it.
Then I read the book and wanted to smack myself for being such a moron.
You know, Pavlov’s dog? Ring a bell and it drools? The form of conditioning that was “discovered” first and the principles of which must be thoroughly understood before operant conditioning (reward/punishment learning) can even be attempted?
FORGOT ALL ABOUT THAT.
The really stupid thing is that I have insomnia.
All the recommendations for people with insomnia are based on classical conditioning:
- Build positive sleep associations (don’t force yourself to lie awake and miserable because that will make you hate sleep more; just get up for a while before lying back down and trying again)
- Create a soothing bedtime routine (dim lighting, warm bath, quiet time with a book)
- Avoid doing things which aren’t sleep (or sex) in bed (so you don’t associate bed with homework, worrying, arguing, stress, etc – actually, I bet they’d rather you don’t have sex in bed either, but I guess they had to draw the line at certain practicalities).
I even read Stanley Coren’s book about sleep years ago and he even talked about how the best way to get babies to sleep well was to build positive sleep associations.
So, yeah, The No-Cry Sleep Solution tells you how to classically condition your child to fall asleep at certain sleep cues. She talks about bedtime routines (we have one, but it isn’t long enough), weaning baby off of the booba (a definite sleep-association which needs to change if the baby is to learn to self-soothe), and creating other cues that the baby associates with going to sleep, such as a “lovey” (don’t have) and special sleep sounds (we only have “shhh”).
I have been hoping and hoping that Babby would turn into a thumb sucker, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. So I am still his nighttime soother and this results in him needing to nurse every time he wakes up. I know perfectly well that he’s not actually hungry, but he screams like a banshee without it. The author explains that Babby’s sleep association with booba is so strong that he thinks he NEEDS it to go back to sleep, which is a problem because people naturally wake up every couple of hours. Most of us just roll over and go back to sleep, but if you think you need a booba in order to sleep, you might get upset. She has some tips on how to wean him off of booba, namely popping the booba out of his mouth as soon as he starts to fall asleep, so the association at least doesn’t get any stronger.
In the meantime, I am to introduce a lovey to take my place as cuddle-object, and some cue-music. If I keep the lovey with us whenever he is nursed to sleep, it will smell like me and he will associate it with being nursed to sleep. If I play the same music every time as he is falling asleep, he will associate that with nursing to sleep. The goal is to get to the point where the presence of the lovey and the sound of the music kick-off the sleeping process, while I slowly reduce the amount of nursing he gets before sleep until eventually he falls asleep at the sound of the music/presence of the lovey.
While she never once uses the term “classical conditioning” or allude to Pavlov, her instructions are clear. Pair the conditioned stimulus (lovey/music/bedtime routine) with the unconditioned stimulus (however the baby normally falls asleep, i.e. on the booba) so that it is associated with the unconditioned response (sleep). Eventually, the introduction of the conditioned stimulus (lovey/music/bedtime routine) will result in a conditioned response (sleep). It worked for Pavlov in getting a dog to drool on command. It worked when I taught Beloved Dog how to pee on command. Why didn’t I think of it as a way to get Babby to sleep on command??
All of this is totally psychologically sound, and now that I think about it, is more psychologically sound than the cry-it-out operant conditiong approach. After all, none of the insomnia tips I have ever read have said “cry frustratedly and miserably in bed until you finally fall unconscious.” So if they don’t recommend it for adults, why do we think it’s the best strategy for babies?
Because I’m me, and I overthink everything, I now need to pick exactly the right bedtime lovey and music. After careful examination of all Babby’s age-appropriate toys, I have selected our Eric Carle brand Very Hungry Caterpillar that we picked up in New York, and which you can find pictures of on my Flickr page. It’s a nice, long, huggable baby shape and I approve of its message.
For music, my only option is a hand-me-down lamb that my Boy Cousins used to sleep to, which plays Mary Had A Little Lamb with a wind-up key. Babby already enjoys this music box, although it’s a little sprightly for sleepy time. However, PH is worried about it because the toy is over 20 years old and has metal turn-key. It doesn’t look super safe for a tiny baby. Better for a slightly older child who doesn’t poke himself in the eye when trying to put something in his mouth.
So THAT sent us to the internet to look at other musical options.
Now. I could get a music box or one of those crib-aquarium things that plays music, and use it in combination with the caterpillar lovey, or I could get a glo worm or similar which is music AND lovey all in one.
I’m agonizing over it. Because I am me.
On the one hand, I like the idea of a combo-lovey. If he could trigger his own sleep music, that would be fantastic. Talk about self-soothing!
On the other hand, I’m an old-fashioned gal and I’m not big on the lovey-needs-batteries idea. When I was a little kid I had (okay, still have) a blankie. My blankie didn’t need no stinking batteries. My blankie didn’t need no flashy lights. I like the idea of my child hauling around a Very Hungry Caterpillar which PH and I bought on our baby-moon in New York. Feels delightfully literary and there’s a family story to it. But it doesn’t play music or give off a comforting light in the darkness.
So, folks, what to do?
Low-tech but literary lovey and music box that I would need to turn on myself at night, or fisher price gadget that plays music for Babby when he hugs it?
The pathetic thing is that I won’t get really serious about sorting out Babby’s sleep associations til I have figured out this important issue.
Insomnia is back.
I’ve always struggled with insomnia – I remember being a little kid and crying at night because I was so tired and just couldn’t sleep. I would lay awake until one thirty in the morning, trying to keep myself occupied by remembering every song I knew, mentally going through every second of the Lion King starting from the opening credits, reciting poetry in my head…
That disappeared with pregnancy. I was going to sleep BEFORE Perfect Husband, at ten o clock at night or sometimes even earlier, and he was all like “Who are you, and what have you done with my wife??”
But it’s back now.
It’s becoming less comfortable to sleep. It’s not a blatant discomfort – I’m not in pain or anything – but I notice it. It’s harder to breath, and harder just to get settled. My belly only feels heavy when I’m lying down. It seems to affect the pull of gravity on my body, and I am beginning to feel like the world’s worst constructed Weeble. I toss and I turn, trying to get comfy, constantly being pulled face down by the weight in my midsection. The pregnancy doesn’t feel uncomfortable – when people ask if I’m getting uncomfortable I say “no, not at all” because except when I try and bend at the waist, I feel pretty normal. But sleeping just isn’t happening.
And when I do nod off I’m having crazy dreams. Last night, in between restless awakenings, I went for pizza with friends but we had difficulty in paying the bill, then I had one of my other friends sleep over like when we were kids and I took the fetus out to show him to her but he looked like a baby sea turtle. Then I went to stay with some crazy Jenny McCarthy type man who wrote a whole book about how your child isn’t developmentally delayed (except he used the word “tard” in his book) – you’re just not trying hard enough. He had a large family one of which was clearly a developmentally delayed young man whom he put tremendous amounts of pressure on to memorize things that he didn’t really understand, so he could show off for the video cameras how “cured” he was. I began to raise objections, and developed a friendship with the developmentally delayed son, and the guy decided to murder me. So I contacted Perfect Husband secretly and snuck out of the house, cleverly meeting him at a brothel disguised as one of the workers (clearly I was not pregnant in this dream). He was all bemused because he didn’t know what was going on, but was clearly like “if Carol wants to dress up like a prostitute and meet me at a brothel, I’ll play that game…” When I got him into a room alone, I was about to explain about the crazy man and his wanting to kill me when crazy man burst in, all “AHA!” and we spent the rest of my tossy-turny night trying to escape from the guy.
I feel like I got no sleep at all, but I’m avoiding sleeping in because that can only make things worse.
At least I got a prenatal massage today. Maybe it’ll relax me into sleepy blissfulness tonight. My massage therapist, by the way, was fascinated by the concept of a diaper service which apparently she had never heard of before, and thought it was the most amazing idea ever.