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?
You've also mentioned that A can be difficult at times behaviorally. I think part of this could be related to personality in general. Zoey can also be difficult at times. But with Zoey, I'm always left to wonder if she's also irritable/difficult/easily upset and angered because she's experiencing some discomfort. I know when I'm not feeling 100% I can function and get by and maybe not make a huge deal of it, but it does affect my mood, my patience, my tolerance, and so forth. So I wonder if part of her daytime behavior that you've mentioned previously is exacerbated by discomfort?
I can't guarantee that a gut feeling is always right, but I think you need to listen to it. You spend more time with her than anyone else and if you suspect something is off, I'd be willing to bet that something is off. Maybe you can't put your finger on it, but that doesn't negate the fact that something isn't quite right.
In my case, my best guess is that teething is what causes Zoey so much discomfort. Vertigo is often exacerbated by illness, stress, sleeplessness, and so forth. So I think she'll have a hard time teething, which will make her sleep poorly, which will cause vertigo episodes, which will make sleeping even more difficult for her, which makes her cranky, which causes more vertigo spells....I think for us it's this vicious cycle we can't get out of. Of course, I have no proof. Just observation and educated hypotheses. I won't really know until she's more able to express her feeling. Ibuprofen does not help vertigo, but when I give her ibuprofen she sleeps better and therefore has less vertigo. So there's improvement, even though it's in a round about sort of way. You may be in that situation, too, where one thing triggers something else, and it starts a chain reaction. It's just really hard to figure out unfortunately.
I have no advice other than to remain vigilant and stick to your guns. I'm at a complete loss about what to do with our own dependence upon Ibuprofen here, so I just don't know what to tell you in that regard.
I don't like giving Ibuprofen on a regular basis. I haven't given any in 2 weeks because we have a break in teething. I don't give it daily when she needs it, though I wish I could. I resort to other things that are only mildly effective (warm milk to soothe her when she wakes up, for instance). I can say 100% positively that the nights when she gets no medicine don't go well. So I know it does help her. I just don't want to over medicate her all the time.
I wish I had that magic answer for you. I think you'll figure it out eventually. I hope it's soon. The only things I can think of are logical toddler issues like teeth? Or perhaps issues she's experienced in the past like reflux or stomach discomfort? I know when I had gallbladder issues, ibuprofen did make my stomach pain feel better, so is there any chance she may have some stomach discomfort of some sort? Other thoughts....some people swear their children have growing pains. .... I'm really lost for other ideas though.
Zoey's been pulling on my leg and whining this whole time so if this is scattered and making little sense I apologize. I better get going before she has a heart attack. Shes quite mad that I'm ignoring her.
I know she was one of the first to be mobile out of all out LO's but could it be a chronic muscular problem? I would probably explore that avenue...
You know, I think it's really strange that there are several of us with sleep issues this late in the game. I get strange looks from IRL friends, and they wonder if I should just let her CIO "She'll be FINE, it's not like you're ABANDONING her or something!"(Can you not tell that's a scared/in pain cry?!?!) ...and I can also tell you that the one thing that makes sleep better here is Advil as well. Laney still wakes a minimum of once a night WITH ibuprofen in her system. Or cries/whines in her sleep for several minutes at a time. Without, she wakes 2-5x, screaming suddenly, inconsolable when I pick her up, arching her back, generally freaking out. She is a very restless sleeper. Always tossing and turning and shifting. There are rare nights that she does sleep through. Most of the time she is the happiest girl you'd meet. There is not much indication of the kind of night I know is coming and dread. There are a few things...picky eater, or SUPER fussy at the drop of a hat if I don't get to her right away, or she suddenly reaches that "I'm done, I'm tired, I need sleep NOW" state without warning and won't even look at food etc. But she is happy, healthy according to her dr (had a few colds/ear infections this winter), growing well, on par with her growth curve, etc.
Laney always has had a terrible time with teeth. They take weeks or months, there's always more than one coming in, and Tylenol does nothing for her, only Advil works but it does not get rid of all the pain. So far I haven't found any sign that her 2yr molars are coming in (except for red cheeks and extreme fussiness yesterday), so I assume it may be a factor but can't be sure. The thing that freaked me out and brought back the whole food allergy concern was she got a red rash around her mouth shortly after a meal this week. That was one of our clues with Cadi. Also, during the night while she's flailing, bringing up her knees and arching her back - the only conclusion I can find is that she's in some sort of pain. It's not usually a scared cry although there are those episodes too (normal, to me at this age, but more easily soothed). And one of the silent signs of food intolerances or allergies in babies/young children is gastrointestinal upset. Most times she is so upset she can't articulate what she needs. Other times when I ask if she has an owie, she says yes, but can't indicate where. (during the day, she can point to her head or her hand etc)
I have a referral in to the allergist, it's been several months now. I need to talk to my dr again, but every time I have in the past, she's dismissed it as normal, or encouraged me to CIO etc. My gut says this isn't normal behaviour. The other thing is, it happens at regular times. There is always one episode between 11-1am (usually 1 almost on the dot). Also around 3 am. The other times are scattered in between, but those two are constant. I can't for the life of me explain why. To me, if Advil causes those episodes to be absent or much smaller in degree, then it isn't simply a bad habit. It is calming something in her system to the point that it doesn't wake her as much. I don't give Advil every night, there are weeks that are worse than others and we just know she needs it before bed. If it gets bad during the night, we will give her a dose then. But she doesn't take it constantly for the same reasons both of you have mentioned. I don't like relying on a medication long term for any reason unless its necessary.
I am sooo tired. The bags under my eyes are horrendous. With Cadi at that age where she doesn't want to nap anymore, but still needs them, and Laney sometimes too excited to nap (jumping in her crib for hours!), I rarely get to nap during the day. I do NOT look forward to night time b/c I KNOW I will be waking soon, likely more than once. I wake exhausted after a full night's sleep on those rare nights she STTN b/c it's like my body knows what it should be getting, and isn't, and realizes it needs more.
Sorry to take it off on a tangent about our struggles, but I can say I completely sympathize with both of you! I hope your research will help you figure this out sooner than later, Harmony, and that you will find a doctor who will listen to your concerns without dismissing your parenting style. I hope if you end up needing tests, that they don't break the bank. Mostly, I hope this time in our lives dealing with sleep issues ends sooner than later for all of us. These little girls (and mamas) just need some sleep and I look forward to that day with all my heart! Thinking of and praying for both of you, April and Harmony! ((((hugs))))
As soon as I read that Ibuprofen works I had two thoughts 1. muscle relaxant and 2. I should try Ibuprofen with Maria if it's a miracle worker.. hahah!
Back to 1.
If you don't feel comfortable giving Ibuprofen every night, is there a natural herb you could give her? A couple months ago, I started looking into Valerian Root but didn't ever look into it enough to try it with Maria. Maria's chiropractor suggested I try it for her sleep. There has to be a natural muscle relaxant out there.
It sounds like it could be growing pains too. I had them terribly as a child so I can't imagine them in our little babies, how painful it must be! Things that my Mom told me that helped was warm milk, increase in my calcium and magnesium. I know that A doesn't drink milk, but is her calcium intake high enough? Maybe get her some chewable calcium supplements and see if that helps?
Re: putting herself back to sleep. Isn't it nice!? Maria just started doing this the last couple weeks and friends with babies the same age have mentioned their kids have too so perhaps it's a developmental thing, this is the time that they have figured it out?
Have you tried to give her a lower dose of Ibuprofen, to see if it's still as effective? A placebo type experiment?
I think I'm rambling now! Hope something I said helps!
Delia - Mama (homebirthing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby wearing, cloth diapering type of a Mama!) to
Jeena Kongju (Jan. 20/06) and Maria Konae (June 18/09)
Going with the mild relaxation properties that may be involved, coupled with the length of time that ibuprofen is in the system compared with tylenol, could it be that she isn't in pain, but that she doesn't relax well and falling asleep is just something that she doesn't do on her own naturally? I know it sounds like an obvious question, but hear me out for just a moment.
I have spent my whole life amazed at people who can a) fall asleep easily and quickly and b) stay asleep all night long. Falling asleep isn't something that seems to come natural to my body/temperament/system. It doesn't matter if I'm on a schedule, or if I just go to bed when I'm tired, it still takes an incredibly long period of time for me to get to sleep. It's been that way my whole life. It's almost like my body doesn't know how to fall asleep without a little help. It can't relax enough, or the act of falling asleep feels odd. I can't describe it, other than it just doesn't strike my brain as something that should happen.
The only time this isn't true is if I've taken something with a mild sedative quality to it. I don't take something very often, but I know if my muscles are relaxed, like if I've had a drink when I go out after bell choir I'm much more likely to fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed. I know it's a long shot, but that's the first thing that popped into my head because I have such trouble getting to sleep.
Also, as a second thought...
Could she be hypersensitive to noise/touch/etc. It doesn't always show up on tests, but it does make life uncomfortable at times, which could make sleeping difficult. Or even just cause a few behavioral issues. I know one man who can be driven to distraction by sounds that most people can't even hear, and some days he'll be sitting next to me kind of squirming a bit, and it's because his skin is so sensitive to touch that day that he can't stand the feel of his shirt. It isn't a constant thing, but it does make his life difficult sometimes, and I'm guessing that if you were a small child it could make sleeping, or even just getting through the day a trial.
It amazes me that there are so many children on this board with serious sleep issues. We know that Maria has a dairy intolerance, A has seasonal allergies and a dairy intolerance, Laney has various food allergies, and Zoey likely has vertigo. What is common in all of those? I'm not a doctor, but to I would imagine all of those "illnesses" cause stomach upsets and nausea to some degree, and probably also headaches. Could it really be as simple as that? Or is there no common thread, just four girls with bad luck?
Or it could be growing pains - I hadn't thought about those. She's so short that it seems like she hardly ever grows, haha. But from what I read, growing pains affect girls more than boys, so that would stand to reason.
Bad teething could also be a culprit. A's teeth do take forever to come in. A friend of mine was complaining to me that her son had been working on cutting one tooth for two weeks, and it just occured to me then that A had been working on all four of her canines for about 5 weeks at that point (they're still not in all the way).
DH suggested I go see the Dr even though it might be frustrating. I suppose he's right. We know that she sleeps better with ibuprofen, and at the very least the doctor can tell us how often it is safe to give it to her on a long-term basis and if there are other options to look into.
Thanks for the feedback, ladies. It really does help to know we're not alone!
I came up with another theory about Maria and sleep.
Her iron was low before and maybe that was causing her discomfort, then she was on the iron supplements and her sleep was TERRIBLE. Now her iron is back to the right levels and she isn't on the iron supplements and she's sleeping better!
I know you're consistent in what you try with A, you're doing a great job trying to figure her out and I know one day she'll sleep for you!!
Delia - Mama (homebirthing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby wearing, cloth diapering type of a Mama!) to
Jeena Kongju (Jan. 20/06) and Maria Konae (June 18/09)
This might sound crazy and totally out on a limb, but what came to mind for me are autoimmune disorders. They'll usually cause a degree of inflammation (and of course pain) and usually respond to anti-inflammatory meds.
Sean Thomas - 6/30/09 @ 7:17pm 8lb 8oz, 19", 40w5d
Calvin Michael - 2/28/11 @ 7:39pm 6lb 8oz, 18", 37w5d
Nolan Matthew - 5/1/13 @ 11:54pm 6lb 4oz, 19", 38w4d
May 26, 2010 - 7w1d