I'm mostly just writing this out to help me think this through.
DH and I are scientists, and so over the last year and a half that A hasn't been sleeping well, we have developed and tested many theories as to what causes her bad sleep and what might help fix it. Here are some of our discoveries:
Makes sleep worse: chocolate, bananas, caffeine (even if it's just me that had some), dairy
Seems to make no difference: room temperature, what she wears to bed, nursing at night (though I get more sleep when she's nursing a night!), sleeping on an inclined vs sleeping flat, sleep position (side, back, or stomach), benadryl
Makes sleep a little bit better: acetaminophen, chamomile tea, eating a meal right before bed, sleeping with my back turned to her, or turning her so her head is down by our knees
Gives everyone a full night's sleep: ibuprofen
Last night we gave her ibuprofen. Not only did she sleep for longer stretches before waking up, but for the first 8 hours every time she woke up she put herself back to sleep. She would wake up, stir, sometimes sit up or turn over, but then go right back to sleep. She'll occasionally do this randomly once in a row, but when I give her ibuprofen she does this consistently, and I want to know why! She also didn't wake up for good until 8am, which meant she slept for 11 hours. On a normal night she only sleeps 9 hours, or maybe 10 if I'm lucky. Why does ibuprofen affect her in this way? And more importantly, how can I reproduce these results without drugging her up every night??
I have a few theories.
First, obviously ibuprofen is a pain killer. So it does stand to reason that she might be in constant pain and the ibuprofen makes her feel better. If so, I really want to figure out what is causing the pain. But we've been over this with the doctor so many times that I don't know if we'll ever figure it out. Also, tylenol doesn't really work that well, which seems to indicate that it's not as simple as pain.
Second, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug. So perhaps she has some sort of inflamed tissue that's keeping her up at night.
Third, some sources claim that ibuprofen is a mild muscle relaxant. Maybe this is helping her relax enough to sleep?
Clinical trials have shown that ibuprofen does not help sleep, and in fact makes sleep worse. But this is obviously not what we have found. We have tested this systematically, and A sleeps significantly better when she takes ibuprofen before bed. She doesn't need to be nursed, rocked, hugged, patted, etc back to sleep - she can do it herself. And there's got to be a reason why, right?
I'm considering going to the doctor to discuss this, but then it seems silly to keep pursuing it when we've had no success up to this point. Why spend all that money looking for answers when we know ibuprofen works? But chronic ibuprofen use has some nasty side effects, and don't we want to treat the cause, not the symptoms?
But more than likely all the testing in the world would turn up nothing, and I'm tired of spending hundreds of dollars on testing only to find out that she's perfectly healthy. I'm also tired of doctors telling me that her bad sleep is caused by our parenting style (nursing at night, co-sleeping, not letting her CIO, etc). My gut tells me that's not the case. Not only have we tried many of those supposed "solutions", but our evidence suggests otherwise. If she can sleep like a normal child with a drug (a drug which has been proven not to cause better sleep) in her system, then her bad sleep habits are not really habits, are they?
IDK, I guess I'm just discouraged. If anyone's read this far, what do you think you would do?