One night, as I was surfing the web while waiting for exhaustion to overwhelm me into sleep, I realized the irony of teaching my son to fall asleep with minimal external crutches while using a handful myself. Since moving into the guest room*, I’d reveled in the freedom to fall asleep while watching TV on my iPad, sometimes even simultaneously checking Facebook on my phone. I couldn’t remember the last time I turned it all off and fell asleep on my own, a simple skill we’d been trying valiantly to teach Javi.
At the same time, my back and neck issues were acting up. Because they progress from discomfort to pain to an inability to sleep to crippling pain to vertigo, I can’t ignore them, but I was having a hard time stretching myself out and relaxing to sleep, instead staying tense and awkwardly positioned even while trying to sleep.
So I intervened on my own behalf using the principles we used to teach my son to stay asleep.
First, no crutches. Sure, the first few nights aren’t fun, but just like babies, we eventually become accustomed to the new normal.
Second, an appropriate sleep position. My son can now sleep on his stomach and his back since he can roll over on his own, so I figured I was allowed to do the same as long as I mimicked his positions. Babies don’t yet know how to choose the bad way for reasons of familiarity or because of some article they read five years ago, right?
Third, a decent bedtime. Rather than wait for sleep to take me over, I would decide when it was time to sleep.
Fourth, a bedtime routine. Since watching TV was off the table, I figured I’d first check my schedule for the next day and spend 5 or 10 minutes online, then unplug and read a book for 15 minutes, then roll over, close my eyes, and try to fall asleep. If I couldn’t fall asleep immediately, I’d go over my favorite parts of the day, then do some basic breathing exercises until I fell asleep. (Breathe in for four, out for eight. Not sure why that particular breakdown is so effective, but it works for me.)
After a week, I’m happy to report that things are good. Coincidentally, I also had to move back into our joint bedroom in preparation for a family visit, but despite that, I’ve been able to fall asleep really well.
So, ‘fess up: has anyone else tried sleep training themselves?
*No drama here, really. When my kid stopped sleeping through the night, I started sleeping in the guest room across the hall from his room because it was a straight shot to stumble to his room one of the thousand times he awoke. My husband has never really enjoyed sharing a bed or my bad sleepy time habits and I really enjoyed not having to bicker with him over them, so night after night, I casually went to the guest room and stayed there. It was quite funny, actually. One of us would join the other for some bedtime TV watching or snuggling, then someone would say, “Okay, goodnight!” and happily head back to the other room, never actually mentioning that we’d basically each claimed a room for ourselves.
It worked really well… until it didn’t. Our master bedroom is far quieter than the guest room, which was good when we were quickly responding to Javi waking but not so good when we realized he can soothe himself but is a loud dreamer. It also meant that my husband often didn’t hear Javi – even through the monitor – and I would, even if it was his night to cover. And on the nights I was supposed to get uninterrupted sleep, I instead woke every time they did, and even if I didn’t get up to help, I still wasn’t getting enough continuous hours of sleep.
And, you know, it’s a guest room for a reason, and this weekend we’ll have guests.