One room, Two Bedtimes

This is a repost blog.

Original posts by an anonymous reader on AlphaMom, with advice from Amalah aka Amy Storch. To read that advice, click through to the original column and update.

2019: One Room, Two Bedtimes


We are in a bit of a sleep-deprived bind.

In short: we’re expecting a 3rd child in 4 weeks. This child is set to be medically complicated (congenital heart issue requiring surgery, please god help my nerves and make this go ok). In practice, at the moment, that means I’m waking up 4-6 times a night to go to the bathroom, and my husband is handling all the night issues and most early mornings because I’m so exhausted (he was literally grey-tinged from exhaustion this morning. This promises well, with the new baby…)

Our 2 older children (2.5-year-old boy, 5.5-year-old girl) are currently sharing a bedroom, and LOVE IT — they get along really well and it works out, overall. However, their sleep needs aren’t in sync, and the start of school is highlighting this.

My daughter is meltdown-level exhausted by 7:15 every night; my son (who naps from 1-2:30 or so, and absolutely needs it — and it’s daycare-time, so we have limited influence on that) CAN go to sleep at that time, but really 8pm is better for him. Typically, that means that we put my daughter to bed and then take my son to our room or the living room for books until it’s around the time when he goes to bed. AND THEN. In the morning, he’s up… at 5:30, creeping to 5am, creeping to 4:30… If he stays in his room, he wakes his sister, who needs the sleep (desperately). If he comes to our room, he wakes US up, and we’re already tired and expecting a new baby and would very much like more sleep. And if he doesn’t go back to sleep until at least 5:30, he’s an absolute wreck by 11am, and the entire cycle repeats with exhausted child and crappy sleep with lots of wake-ups (not ideal). Same if we shorten or skip naps on weekends — we get a tired hobgoblin who won’t go to sleep and has 6 nightmares during the night, it isn’t an improvement.

So… do you have a magic trick for convincing a very bouncy and excited and AWAKE 2.5-year-old to freakin STAY IN BED and SHUSH until 5:30? (Note: he’s no longer in a crib, since he learned to fling himself out of it head-first, so he can get out easily). Or to get him the quantity of sleep he needs so he doesn’t turn into an overexhausted hobgoblin by 11am, exhausting the rest of the house in the process?

2nd question: my daughter is NOT PLEASED at going to bed before her brother, until we actually get to the point where she’s sobbing from exhaustion and passes out (… 7pm-7:15pm, which at least means she passes out when we can get her in bed). We can’t logistically put her in bed earlier, if she’s less exhausted she keeps herself awake (literally: pinches herself to stay awake via sheer stubbornness), and she can’t sleep in on weekdays and keeps herself awake through any attempted naps. I can give her the opportunity to sleep and explain why she needs it and should, but… any suggestions for what to tell her to smooth over the ‘yes, he’s littler, but he napped this afternoon and you didn’t so you need sleep more than he does right now’ injustice? Because I GET her wanting to stay up, but she physically needs the sleep, and she needs to get it without messing with her brother’s sleep any more than it is already a mess, and I’m at my wits end.

We’re all in need of sleep. And it’s gonna get worse before it gets better, so any improvement you can help with would be so appreciated!!!

A few months later: Update

You were ABSOLUTELY RIGHT about needing to nip that shit in the bud, so thanks for the verbal kick!

1) We followed your advice about the wake-up clock and it has helped mornings SO MUCH — he now stays in bed until the star turns into a sun. The visual cue is so helpful!! That mostly fixed mornings.

2) We didn’t want to move my son back out of his room, since we wanted a routine (and every time he accepts a routine and we shift one part of it, he tests every boundary on the slightly-altered routine — a different bedroom would basically postpone the theatrics until the next time we tried putting him in his room). However, one of the commenters said something about shifting my daughter into our room (brilliant, and why didn’t I think of that in my sleep-deprived haze…)… and so: she got enough sleep, we could crack down on the this is the routine, DEAL WITH IT, he settled into it, and then we shifted her back.

3) We now get my daughter ready for bed before my son and that way she gets to’ read extra books. They go to sleep at the same time, and he has learned to stay in bed, so everyone is getting more sleep and acting out less. FANTASTIC.

4) The baby was born during this entire debacle (of course) and so far is healthy (barring the heart issue — we’re waiting for surgery, and I’m anxious as hell, but he’s doing ok so far).

Thanks for the advice! between you and the commenters, we cobbled it together and it worked!


Remember, this is a repost blog! If you comment here, the original poster is not going to see it.

October 3, 2023