For as long as I have known Buzz, he has always gone through a short period of time, each year, where has struggled to settle to bed at night. Bumble and I have always felt that this was linked to seasonal light changes – nights getting darker quicker.
In fact, although it took us a couple of years for the penny to drop, Buzzbee has ALWAYS struggled with the transition of light to dark. We have had many tricky car journeys where he has transformed from a calm and relaxed passenger into………. A helium filled Tasmanian Devil!
But I digress. Over the years we have tried everything we can think of to ‘reset’ Buzz’s bedtime habits and get him back into his bedtime routine. Usually we would be talking 3 or 4 weeks of exhausting and loooooong evenings sat at the top of the stairs, returning him to his room and trying to prevent the boys having the opportunity to communicate (I won’t even go into the lengths Waxy used to go to to ensure Buzz was high as a kite so that he didn’t have to get ready for bed). Bumble and I found these ‘Phases’ stressful and they left us feeling confused and lost for ideas (traditional and unconventional).
While the Bumble and I often despaired about the longevity of Buzz’s seasonal bedtime Olympics, we clung to the knowledge that bedtime WILL return to normal eventually and we would be able to once again have ‘adult time’ evenings.
I suppose you could say, every year we experienced our own bedtime routine ‘groundhog day’.
Over the past 8 months everyday has been “groundhog day” with Buzz and his bedtime struggles. Currently Bumble and I count it as a ‘win’ at bedtime if we manage to settle Buzz to sleep by 10pm.
Buzz fights sleep and he will go to great lengths to drag us into a battle of wills, irrespective of the fact that he will openly tell us he is “knackered”. He was embarking on a path of self-destruction and always felt bad about himself the next morning, but appeared to not be able to help himself each night and the cycle of chaos would begin again.
In the past couple of months, we have found a couple of tricks that help him finally drop off, but they have only been successful if we have first endured his marathon sleep avoidance mania – Bumble and I were confused as to why he still needed to go completely ‘bonkers’ before he would allow us to ‘sausage roll’ (swaddle snuggly) him in his quilt and blanket and if necessary use deep pressure back rubbing until Buzz begins to gently ‘coo’, which is his cue that he has begun to self-sooth.
I don’t know why it had never dawned on us before, but being swaddled makes Buzz feel safe and secure.
So, why couldn’t he allow us to do this from the very beginning of his bedtime routine?
Buzz has always had a fascination for building dens or creating hideaways and occasionally went through spells of sleeping in his pop-up play tent or under a pretty fantastic, blanket construction. But each were always short-lived. However looking back over the last couple of years, the signs have been there all the time.
- Buzz sleeps with hundreds of soft toys on his bed and my parents used to joke about the fact there were so many teddies that it was hard to imagine how Buzz could even manage to get into bed let alone sleep in it.
- Buzz ALWAYS insists on his bed having at least 2 sides against a wall and ALWAYS he has to have his head facing the door.
- Buzz ALWAYS went to sleep quicker in our bedroom – we have a 4 poster bed with drapes. Although there are other reasons too.
- When we go camping and he has to sleep in a tent pod and when we sleep at my parent’s caravan, he falls asleep with very little fuss – both pretty compact and contained.
However, while staying at my parent’s house this Christmas, our suspicions were confirmed by Buzzbee while we all ate our Christmas lunch, but we didn’t fully understand the depth of his anxiety until an overnight stay in a premier lodge while visiting Bumble’s family – I could quite easily write an entire post just about this one night, and maybe I will later in the week.
The boys have slept at my parents on numerous occasions and while Buzz has been a little more challenging to settle and is quite vocal in his sleep, not to mention being unbelievably restless all night, he has eventually fallen asleep.
However, this year Buzz took the sleeping arrangements into his own hands and chose to create his own space in the bedroom with the help of the puppies’ playpen* and a large red blanket.
* Before I go any further. I feel the need to let readers know that it was Buzzbee’s idea and choice to sleep surrounded by the puppy play pen, and he had full control over whether he stayed inside it or removed it. Our only rule was that he was not allowed to lock himself in the pen.
Settling any child on Christmas eve can be a challenge for any parent, let alone a parent who is trying to settle a child who is experiencing sleep difficulties. With the support from my parents we kept to the boys’ routine and settled the boys into their beds, fully prepared for Buzzbee’s bedtime games, but after 30 minutes of listening out for sound or signs of movement. We cautiously popped our head around the bedroom door, expecting to hear a little voice excitedly begin chattering to us. Instead, all we could hear was gentle breathing and cooing. BUZZBEE WAS ASLEEP!!!!! And, not only did he fall asleep rapidly and without fussing, but he was sound asleep and relaxed – Buzzbee has always slept with his fists tightly clenched and tightly scrunched up in a ball. The young man snoozing in front of us, was snoozing peacefully with his whole body open wide (my dad joked that he looked like he was ready for a pinup photoshoot).
Buzzbee slept ALL night and there was not a peek from him, something we are not used too because he has always shouted and sworn loudly throughout the night for as long as I can remember, and as I said earlier, he is always thrashing around. In fact, we had 3 blissful, undisturbed night’s sleep
Okay, confession time! Buzzbee’s bed is in our bedroom at my parents and I am an incredibly light sleeper, but I have got used to his mumblings and my sleep being disrupted. So when I couldn’t hear him in the night, I jumped out of bed, panicking something was wrong and wanted to poke him to check he was still alive – My parents found this highly amusing.
Over Christmas lunch, one of my parents (can’t remember which) joked about Buzzbee’s sleeping arrangements and asked out of curiosity why he liked sleeping in the puppy pen.
“I feel safe when I am in it. Nothing and nobody can get at me, that’s why.”
He felt safe. How did I not think of it before?
Fast forward a couple of weeks and several attempts at different ideas for creating a ‘safe sleeping environment’, some of which were almost suitable and certainly helped reduce his bedtime anxiety. However, each of the ideas had one fault- they were not particularly transferable and really we needed something that would be safe and that we could take with us when visiting family or going on holiday.
After several hours of research and long discussions about what we felt we needed from a portable sleep tent, we discovered the ‘Privacy Pop’ which ticked every box not only for Bumble and I, but for Buzzbee too.
And, boy does he love it!