Updated: Mar 16, 2020
How to Survive Your Child Sleeping in the Middle
Last night, I was having a hard time sleeping. There I was just tossing and turning, listening to my husband, Vinnie, snore without a care in the world. Must be nice. I put my back to him, and tried to get into a position that would let me catch some sleep before the sun came up. We’d just gotten back from vacation and I was having anxiety over a project I'd decided to take on. 1:22am. Come on! On my next turn to face him, I saw a dark creature scaling the immobile body of my husband. The motion light from the hallway backlit the dark, perching creature. “Oh my gawd, Sophia! You scared me!” My pounding heart sent a message in Morse Code to my brain that I’d be up from that adrenaline rush for the next hour. Great. As Sophia settled into her usual position between us, I started to think about this post. Why wouldn’t I? After all, my brain was already notified that I’d be up for at least another hour. At least I was being productive.
I’m sure there’s someone out there tsk tsk tsking away at the idea that I didn’t send my little girl right back to her bed. Here’s the thing: I’ve read the books, I’ve had the convos, and I’ve heard the advice. We have a bedtime routine. We’ve walked her back to bed repeatedly, and retrieved endless cups of water. We’ve checked under her bed for the boogeyman, and the closet for monsters. We even have a monster repellent spray that Sophia loves to use to keep the badies away. We are excellent at getting her to bed and getting her to sleep. We’re masters at it.
Unfortunately, we flunked out of Bedtime School after that. Actually, no. I’m not going to feel like crap about how unskilled we are at keeping our kid in bed. The truth is just that she’s got more time. She’s got all the time. We have to get up for work, and we have to take care of responsibilities. If she doesn’t sleep, she can and will just shut down - for hours. We don’t have that luxury. Can you even imagine? Sorry, World, I didn’t sleep last night and I’m probably not going to get any sleep tomorrow, so I’m just going to pass out right here and be dead to the world until I’m good and ready. Yeah, I don’t give a crap how many times you move or shake me. I’m closed.
She automatically has the upper hand! What’s more is that she can go to school and completely fall apart, or fall asleep, and it’s acceptable! Why? Obviously it’s because “she’s just tired.” No, I will not feel less-than for this. I won’t. And you know what? Neither should you.
Yes, my youngest is 5, but she also has 2 older sisters. My oldest is 15 and my middle child is 12, and you know what? They used to win this battle, too. Perhaps not as often, but often enough. And you know what else? Neither of them sleep between mommy and daddy now. What that means is that, if you’ve made the decision to fight other battles and let this one go, you aren’t screwing your kid up for life. They’ll be fine and you can save your energy for other things, like saying no to everything your kid sees at Target, blocking your kid from painting the dog, and plunging toilets.
Let’s face it, making the decision to let your child sleep in your bed on a whim isn’t exactly a stroll down Easy Street. It comes with a lot of other less-than-ideal situations, like, getting smacked in the face at random points in the night and getting kicked repeatedly for no apparent reason. What kind of nightly ninja match are you entering into in your dreams? You’re little! Visit Candyland or something!
Over the years, we’ve gotten things down to a science, and, unless you have your little nightmare creature scaring the hell out of you when they creep in, which leads to lost sleep from pure fright, these tips will help you rack up more sleep time.
How to Survive Your Child Sleeping in Your Bed
1. One for You, One for You, One for Me
When sleeping, husband is comfortable with just his stomach covered, and I prefer being complete covered. Those preference already don’t align, but then you add a third party to the mix and it’s chaos. And do you know who gets the blanket exactly the way they want it? The little boss snoozing in the middle. For these reasons, we all have our own blankets. That may sound extreme, but it makes all kinds of sense. (We have a king bed, so Vinnie and I each get full sized comforters. When making the bed, we fold them in half length-wise on either side of the bed, and we put a nice king sized comforter on top.) As for Sophia’s blanket, we have a comfy throw that Sophia likes to curl up with and it goes perfectly with our décor. It stays out on a chair next to our bed, and it becomes her blanket at night. A bonus is that Sophia knows that her blanket is waiting for her, so she doesn’t try dragging over every piece of her bedding in the middle of the night (anymore), which also saves us from being woken up to cries of “I NEED HELP!” Trust me, get individual blankets.
2. Just the Right Size
As I mentioned, we have a king size bed, but I’m not a “king size” person. I don’t need, want, or like those huge pillows. Sure, I have a couple on my bed for show, but I also have standard size pillows that Vinnie and I both prefer. With that in mind, we give Sophia a smaller pillow. Why in the world would you give up all of that extra mattress real estate to give your teeny, tiny kid a gigantic pillow? A standard pillow or comfy throw pillow will do. Let’s be honest, they may start out on a pillow, but most kids end up upside down, parallel to the foot of the bed, or spread out like a starfish. The majority don’t even sleep on a pillow! Scale it back!
3. Speaking of Pillows…
…and this is a big one: move that sucker wayyy down. I can’t tell you how important this is. I wish we’d thought of this with the first 2 kids. The top of Sophia’s pillow lines up with the top of my rib cage. You know what that means? That means she can’t just roll over and whack me square in the face. That means that I can turn over without her head pushed into my face. That means that when she kicks out, it’s happening by my feet and not my stomach. That means that I don’t have to sleep like a pencil, because I can’t put my arm out or tuck it under my pillow. At first Sophia protested. She didn’t like being so far removed, and I actually felt guilty! What? Why should I feel guilty? She’s the one smashing my damn face while I’m unconscious! Nope, sorry, little miss. We just told her that that’s where her pillow goes, and, if she doesn’t like it, she can sleep in her room. She caved pretty quickly, and I swear to you I meant it. There was no way that I was letting her smack me awake again. Move that pillow down! It’s a game changer.
4. Google, Play Rain Sounds
White noise is a thing and it’s fabulous. It’s to the point where we bring a sound machine with us when we travel. We have a Google Home, so we have it play rain sounds on max volume. I swear Google is annoyed that all of its potential is being flushed away each time we only ask it to play rain sounds. I’m telling you, when that robotic voice says, “This is the sound of rain,” prior to the glorious whir of the patter of rain, I can hear the annoyance. I just don’t care. All of the little sounds, like snoring, that may typically wake you, your partner or child up throughout the night are muted. If you aren’t using white noise, what are you doing? Just listening to all the sounds that interrupt your sleep? I don’t understand. Try it out and a sound that works for you: static, soft rain (my favorite), a thunderstorm, or even jungle sounds. To each their own.
5. Semper Paratus
“Always ready.” That’s you. You must always be ready – for everything. How is it possible? I’m not sure, but just do it anyway. The key is to set super high, unrealistic expectations for yourself. I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Do what you can. We have motion sensors in the hallway, so that night-time walkers can find their way without bumping into walls. We have water on the night stands for the random “I’m thirsty.” There’s a fan on the nightstand for if it gets too hot, and an extra blanket at the foot of the bed for if it gets too cold. Honestly, the most important thing is that everyone can get as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible, so that everyone can get back to sleep as fast as possible.
Do what you have to do to be ready so that your transition from awake to sleep is short. If your child has a tough time getting into bed, maybe put an ottoman at the foot of the bed to help him out. If your child always loses his stuffed animal and can’t sleep without it, keep an extra one in arm’s reach. It’s the same as all of the little things you already do to make your life easier: keeping the keys by the door, meal prep, making a list to go grocery shopping, picking your clothes out the day before, etc. We set ourselves up for success throughout each day in little ways, so handling this shouldn’t be any different. Think about what you can do to modify what’s going on now, and give it a try!
For us, the most important thing is that Sophia feels loved, safe, and comfortable. I understand that there are a lot of people who would argue that getting up and taking the child back to bed each and every time she gets up is the only solution. The only thing that I can really say is that that’s what works for them, and this is what works for us.
I used to feel nervous that I was setting her up for a lifetime of horrible sleep habits, but now I take comfort in the fact that she knows that she can come to our room and find a place that’s ready for her. We don’t turn her away, or greet her with frustration. We don’t grumpily tell her how she should stay in bed and that we can’t keep doing this every night. Our little girl knows that she can come to us and get a warm, but sleepy, welcome. And that’s a pretty good feeling.