Night terror

She hasn’t slept well for days? Weeks maybe? It could be just 2 nights in a row but it seems like an eternity. Like any good work you have done is gone and you are back to square one. Again. In fact, maybe she has just slept badly her whole life. Accept it. She’s a bad sleeper. It comes and it goes. You talk about it, desperately ask for help whether it be waking or terrors or controlled crying and whichever kid it is at the time, all you know for fact is that it sucks. Big time. You read books, you talk to Doctors, you stay away from triggers, you pray that she grows out of it, and yet whenever it rears it’s ugly head again, from time to time, you never fail to be surprised by it. Scared by it’s unknowing time frame. Overwhelmed by it. Disappointed by it. Somehow blaming yourself for something that you could not possibly stop, and yet certain that somehow, somehow it must be your fault. It’s ugly. It’s exhausting.

It’s 5 minutes into your sleep, maybe 5 hours and they wake, creeping into your room for comfort, to slide in next to a warm parent’s back. And because a well meaning friend once said “You HAVE to stop doing that Beth” you snap. Determined to get them back into their bed because they should. It’s what the books say. It’s what all the grandparents say. It’s what should happen. So you make it. It might take 10 minutes. It might take 4 hours. You desperately, frantically whisper, begging the small girl not to wake her sister. You sit in the cold, on the floor, more times than any other mother would possibly do it without losing their mind, because it’s what should happen. You look at your phone in the dark, on the floor, grateful for small mercies like twitter. A silent conversation in the dark. An ear listening, consoling, sitting up with you. It helps. You crawl back, on the floor, on your hands and knees not making a noise. Anything to keep that heavy breathing going. In. Out. You can do it. You break free into your room, into your bed, certain that the doona will make enough noise to rouse them. And it does. Sometimes as soon as you make it to door. Mostly when you are 3 minutes into an exhausted sleep. Worse still is when you can’t get back to sleep, sitting there watching the clock, the dark silence mocking you and the morning light that comes an hour later when you are finally, deeply resting slapping you in your face. Sometimes you spend hours, fucking hours in there, doing your time, because they should be sleeping in their beds only to find that they have crept in, asleep beside you when you had nothing left to give, and it was all in vain. Those hours. That waiting. That cold, hard floor. For no reason. Because they should.

These days are endless. They are filled with endless doubts and resentment. Questioning and head banging frustrations. A desperate desire to be anywhere else than where you are, right now, deep in a shitty sleep time and yet filled with worry for your baby one split second later. For your little person’s worries that wake them, their tiredness, their seeming pain and wishing you could do something. Just to make it stop. Just for everyone to get a decent night’s sleep. For longer than 2 nights in a row. Because they should right? Kids should sleep. Kids should have 12 hours a night. They should stay in their beds. It should just happen. Well it seems to for everyone else that you know.

Except you.

Because you have restless sleeper. A light sleeper. A night waker. A night terror. A nightmare. A bad sleeper. Always has been and even though the books, the people tell you it won’t be forever, maybe she always will be. The past 5 years, 5(!) have been a pretty long time so far don’t you think? Tonight we will go to bed wishing sleep to come. Praying for quiet sleep, peaceful dreams and a still body, what should happen. Who knows what will come, all I do know is that we are not alone. It’s OK. And it will pass.

It should.


  1. That sucks. Well and truly. Just know that you are NOT alone. I didnt have more than 2 hrs straight sleep last night. Every freaking 2 hours someone would wake up. And when one twin wakes up, then they wake the other twin up. And having 2 screaming babies is ridiculous. But wait, theres more. All the screaming then wakes up the 3 year old who is normally a great sleeper. So we have 3 people crying, I only have 2 hands and my husband sleeps through it. Only when I lose my mind does he wake and help out. That has been our lives for the last 9 months. I am slowly going insane. It should get better soon, or not.

  2. You know, I know.

    Yesterday, I asked how on earth it was possible that my 3-month-old sleeps FAR better than my 3-year-old?

    It’s not you. It’s not your fault.

    Don’t listen to anyone else. Or think about what SHOULD happen.
    Do what keeps you sane. What gives you all rest. For me, that changes on a daily basis. Some nights I’m happy to have a little body curled up next to me. Others, I drag her back to her bed. Mixed messages? Probably, but like you, after five years, whatever gets you through the night is all right.

    Hugs and love xxx

  3. I think a lot of people have bad sleepers. I know quite a few. You’re not alone at all. xx

    My 19 month old is permanently in our bed. We are both too scared to do anything about it, because it will mean gut-wrenching c.crying. And is co-sleeping that bad, I mean really? Sure, I feel a million miles away from Mr P23, but there’s that uninterrupted sleep thing. I’ll take it. He won’t be there when he’s 16, surely?


  4. Both the boys always ended up in our bed in the middle of the night. Jasper still does 5 nights out of 7. I never minded as long as they started the night in their own beds. I like waking to their little bodies snuggled in to us 🙂 They are only little for such a short time. Finn grew out of it and I know Jasper will too xx

  5. At least half the time we wake up with one small sleeping child in our bed. Would love to say I have a good solution to this but our solution was to buy a king sized bed. I agree with Simone – I am fine with it as long as they start in their own bed. As our kids have got older it has got later and later before they get in our bed, often it is now at first light.

    I never thought I would let my kids sleep in my bed – I am the most un-hippy un-earth mother type in the world. When I was struggling a bit to start with, a child health nurse said to me that humans were the only animals she could think of who expected their young to sleep separately from themselves. I don’t think that means everyone has to sleep all tucked up together all the time. More that sometimes you are trying to fight a natural instinct and hence it will be really hard.

    As Corinne said in the comments – sometimes we all just have to get through the night.

  6. hi there I really feel for you. Five years is a long time and I can understand why you feel so frustrated and upset. Make sure you try to look after yourself that kind of interrupted sleep is bad for you too! My daughter had night terrors but has grown out of them. It will get better and easier I promise you but in the meantime I would just do what you have to do at 3 in the morning and don’t worry about the ‘she should’ be in her own bed thoughts.

  7. Hi Beth,

    My first baby girl (now 6) always slept in her own bed (apart from big storm nights). I ‘worked’ hard at taking her back consitently to her bed when she used to wake in the night. Number 2 boy (turns 4 soon) came into our bed when he was around 2 (I was away for a week) and hubbie let him stay all night and he’s been there ever since. He always gets put to bed in his own bed and generally we hear a little pitter patter down the hall anytime from 11pm -3am, he climbs in, we let him stay and we all sleep. I have intended to try and undo this since it started, but we are now 2 years in with this little routine and to be honest, I can’t be bothered – I’m getting reasonably good nights sleep every night. Its winning the way for me at the moment. We are still in a queen – but I think a king size would definately make this arrangement better! When daughter 1 joins us on the rare occassion, she ends up curled at our feet like a dog little darling’! I think there is a element of denial that he even sleeps with us! When someone says “we co-sleep” or whatever, I think I could never do that, but hey guess what! I think I am. You and hubbie obviously have to agree on next step forward – but do whats right for you and your little family – whether that is persevering with the return to bed …….or letting them climb in for the next few years. Consider letting them climb in with you in the middle of the night for a “special treat” while daddy is away. And then back to normal on his return if thats what you want to do. A little sanity for a mama goes a long way. Good luck, hang in there, this too will pass. XX Broken tricycle wheel XX

  8. Hey I am going through the same thing with my child! It is so hard! I hate how it feels the next day on me and them! I am miserable they are miserable because we are all buggered! Did she have Reflux by any chance as a baby? That sometimes is a cause to these problems. We are just seeing a Dr to get to the bottom of it HopefullY!!! I have tried other stuff that may work for you! Good luck xx

  9. Ignore the “should be’s”. You are the expert when it comes to your children.

    I have 2 boys, and you could say they are “good sleepers” – ie, they go to bed in their own beds, and they will sleep anywhere (car, pram, other people’s house’s) – however almost EVERY night since my 2.5 year old moved into his “big boy bed” he has hopped out of bed, come running down to our room and jumped in with us. The last few months have included crying or screaming at 3am about how he wants me to go into his bed. I just calm him down and let him get in with me, and explain he can stay here but I’m not moving. Of course I’d rather a full night without interruption – but if I’m going to be interrupted, it will be for a couple of minutes to settle him down with us – rather than doing what THEY say we “should” be doing.

    You know that you are a great Mum who is trying to do what is best for your kids. Follow your own instinct and march to the beat of your own drum – do what works for you, and your family. Ignore the “should be’s”.

  10. Hey Beth, you are not alone. All 3 of mine have had sleep issues, sometimes I think that whoever wrote those books had an unusually different sleeper from everyone else in the universe.
    We knocked ourselves out putting the first back in her bed. The second had no interest in our bed. For the third, we said ‘fuck it, he’ll grow out of it one day’ & just let him go. Somedays it’s a bit like musical beds but I know it won’t last forever. Be kind to yourselves, you need to do what’s right for you, not a book.

  11. The angst of it all is so hard, I feel for you.

    I gave up with my boy, who is 10 now. I just let him sleep with us till he was 6, then he wanted his own bed. The frustration! and the so many unhelpful opinions around me. I think I just wanted to die..It was so hard to know what to do, why the hell is this happening to me… everybody else’s children sleep in their own beds…Or so I thought. Its such a manic time. My boy had bad dreams too, so there was no TV for a least 2 hours before bed, only reading and playing. Like magic, the bad dreams stopped. Sometimes the literal stimulation of the imagination is huge. Now my 4 year girl, everything rolls off, like water off a ducks back.

    I hope there is some peace for you soon.

  12. sounds tough, Beth. Are you persisting with her sleeping in her bed because it’s what you want? Or because it’s what the books and the grandparents say?

    …I dunno, but the thought of getting a bigger bed would appeal to me (I say this now when I’ve only got one 10 month old!!). She won’t want to sleep with you forever. Maybe just a couple more years? I went into my parents bed most nights until I was about 6 or 7.

    Whichever way you move forward from this point (which sounds pretty low) … I wish you all the best. Sending you sleepy vibes x

  13. Wonderful post. You describe it so well. I am right in the sleepless trenches too and wonder when it will end. When it gets really bad I re read a post by Maxabella – the day I lost my patience or something. Makes me feel better that I am just going with what works for my son. I hope tonight is better, or at least you get a break from the ‘shoulds’.

  14. You are too hard on yourself.

    I am from the “whatever works now and gets me through the night” school.

    I had one who would only sleep in our bed.

    One who just didn’t sleep at all no matter where she was.

    And one who was a good sleeper (praise which ever deity you choose).

    If you are okay with her coming into your bed then really why is it any of your well meaning friends business.

    I keep telling Mr 9 that when he gets married he has to share the bed with his partner, mum and dad will no longer really fit in the bed. He very rarely comes in now but when any of them do we are okay with it.

    No sleep, broken sleep sucks and it doesn’t make for happy days. I know, I lived it for 3 fucking long years.

  15. There’s always something about raising children that pushes us mums to breaking point.

    Constant broken sleep is one of those hellish tortures.

    I have no advice. Just wanted to offer you some support and a virtual hug.

  16. Each of my three children have spent time in our bed. I am SO not a sleep with your kids parent, but you know what? They get over it at some point. We both figured that if the only way to make it through the day was to get sleep and if the only way to get sleep was to let them in when they needed to, then so be it. My 5 year old spent a whole year pottering into visit every single night. Then one day it just stopped. She came in the other night because she was cold, and it was the first time in months. The other 2 haven’t been near us except when sick, for years.
    So, as much as I have never loved having them in with us, it did get us through those years in one piece and we are now out the other side – waiting for the vile teenage years to come!

  17. Hugs to you Beth. I think that interrupted sleep, the lack of sleep, that goes on indefinitely is the hardest thing to bear. It breaks you down physically and emotionally.

    My kids end up in my bed almost every night. I let them stay. I’ve been told I shouldn’t, but I don’t care right now. We are all going through a lot of shit — what’s a bit of comfort for a scared child?

  18. It’s torturous isn’t it? I get that really tight feeling in my chest and just want to scream. It’s so bloody hard and never ending and with 2 it just seems a tag team of lets see who can break mum first.

    I’m not sure if you’ve tried it but a compromise may be a mattress on Daisy’s floor for you or Rob? We used to do this with our 5 year old when he’s was sick, that way we felt he was still sleeping in his own bed but at the same time we were still getting sleep. A “shhh” as soon as he called out soon lulled him back to sleep. Win Win every one still slept and we just kept starting him in his own room every night hoping that he’ll go all the way through.

    Right now it sounds like you need sleep more than she needs to sleep in her own bed .

    Hope it’s a better night tonight for you.

  19. Fistpumping the sky for you right now.

    I. Get. It.

    And, I only just realised about fucking SIX weeks ago …. that I cannot fix this. Cannot fix Rocco’s hatred of bedtime and putting him down and he comes into my bedroom multiple times a night and I try putting him back.

    So – controversially – I GAVE UP TRYING. Fuck it man. All bets are off. If he wants to sleep with his brother I’m fine with that. If he wants to be put to bed in my bed – sure son. Could not give the slightest shit anymore.

    This will goddamn pass. I need to SLEEP PROPERLY man. Whatever works for you, Beth.

    Realised I should have decked out a whole bedroom with mattresses years ago, fucks sake. Because I could have. Because there’s no rules .. there’s parenting manuals, but I’ve actually never read one.


  20. Oh man the night terrors kill my will to live. Miss V has those, though they are less frequent since she turned 5.

    Let us not speak of my darling 3rd child who is currently screaming his lungs out after having no nap today and another LONG screamfest at 4am this morning. He is the WORST sleeper ever.

    Do whatever works.

  21. Oh Beth; I remember the night terrors with my boy. He would wake screaming and making not an once of sense, he would just be delierious. It was exhasting. It drove me to borderline insanity. But it passed; I think he was around 6 or 7ish when it finally stopped. He is now nearly 14 and we have a whole different set of issues!
    Don’t listen to the books or well meaning friends telling you what you “should” be doing.Do what works for you! Do what works for your girl. Do what works for your family. Who cares if she sleeps in your bed or on the couch or even on the floor, as long as she sleeps. Because then you sleep!
    Sending you love xxx

  22. dude, i say whatever works for you. whatever gets you through the shit. just like food is fuel, sleep is special. no matter what bed, she started in, what bed she wakes up in or where she was in between, you need sleep to be the best parent you can be. just like you need fuel to be the best person you can be. be kind to yourself lovely lady, be kind to yourself and to her! and have another coffee goddamn it, i know i am.

  23. Ah Beth. You know I feel your pain on the sleep. Every time I think we make a step forward, we take two back.

    I say fuck the books. Fuck what “they” say. Sometimes kids have bad dreams or get sick and they need to sleep in their parents bed. God knows I used to. As a one off I can’t see it hurting (especially if you’re hubby is away!). If it means you get a half decent sleep, why not?

    My little sis used to have night terrors from the age of 4. They were awful. We realised it started when my grandmother died and I moved overseas. The little thing felt abandoned in her own little way. Of course she grew out of them, but they are so hard to witness and not take personally. Thankfully she never remembered them.

    Hang in there. It will get better. For all we parents of bad sleepers. It has to right? xxx

    Ps. You deserve a medal for dealing with 2 bad sleepers. I only have 1 and worry when I eventually have number 2 it’ll be the same.

  24. You know I have a few kids Beth….and I like to think that the more I have had the only thing I am certain of is that the ‘shoulds’ of parenting are oh so CRAP.
    The only thing they do is to make us all feel like failures.
    To make us compete against each other about SOMETHING else!
    Like people don’t do enough of that already. PUHLEASE!
    Enough already with the ‘shoulds’.
    Make your own rules.
    YOU are the one who chooses HOW that happens- NOBODY else. If you find a way that works for you then go with it.
    As you said the days parenting youngun’s are ENDLESS and relentless.
    IT iSN’t your fault. None of it.
    and BTW that was one of the most lovingly tender posts I think you have ever written.
    Evidence of what a loving mumma you are, of how hard you fight to do the best you can- and you do GODDAMn it!
    even with no sleep!
    And that my lovely is the MOST IMPORTANT thing of all.

  25. I can’t offer any more advice than the fellow mothers above, but it will pass.

    Broken sleep IS a form of torture. There is nothing worse. It can break a parent for sure.

    And totally agree with you on the doona, HOW CAN THEY HEAR THE DOONA CRUMPLE?!!

    I’m lucky that my husband usually takes Abi back to bed, because yes, I am scared of the boogeyman.

    Here’s a kiss, a hug, and a very likely chance that I’ll be on twitter in the AM’s for the next few years.


  26. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, hon. We just sleep with them these days, or have the mattress at the end of our bed. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be. x

  27. No one knows what is best for your kids but you … Its easy for the authors of the books to say what should be done but unless they are the ones at your house in the middle of the night, sitting there with you, trying to console a poor sad child and mumma .. probably best to ignore them and go with your instincts.

    Lack of sleep is a killer … do whatever it takes to get a good nights rest I say.

  28. Whatever gets you through the night with a good sleep I say.

    If you don’t mind sharing the bed, let them in and you can all get some sleep. My No.1 was independent from day dot, but had night terrors. After being calmed, she still wanted to sleep in her bed though. My No.2 was a completely different story – she was terrified of the dark and I felt like a mean mum making her sleep in her room alone, knowing how genuinely scared she was. So into our bed she moved – for six years. We even had to leave the ensuite light on (with the door closed thank God) – thats how terrified of the dark she was. We eventually had to put a mattress on the floor next to me. There was the odd night she made it through the night in her bed, but we still managed to conceive No. 3 and No. 4 in privacy.

    So it all comes down to how much you all want to sleep, and whether you mind sharing your bed.

    It won’t be forever – really, promise.

  29. And here I have been thinking its been just my family on the vicious freakin no sleep cycle. While I hate that it also happens to you (and felt every word if this beautifully written post!) I hope there is some comfort in knowing there are so many others on this same shitty sleep deprived path.

    I’m far too inconsistent (and boy have I been told that) but some times I am also far too tired to care. Do whatever works is the only rule to live by x

  30. Oh I hate that word should.
    Living your pain too and just hoping tonight will be better

  31. For such a crappy topic Beth, you still write incredibly beautifully. I am blessed not to have gone through anything like this with mine, but we have had little visitors after each new sibling arrived, to begin with it was every night for a few months and then I did the same, putting them back into their beds each time because they *should* be in their own beds. It worked with my girl, but my eldest guy still hops in with us about twice a week and #3 is nearly 10mths, so it has been going on since we brought him home from hospital. We bought a king. The times he does come in at 3am or whatever it is, I don’t even know he’s there. I’m not a fan of co-sleeping or whatever it’s called – like every night – but if your little one needs you for a period to get thru, a night here and there, and you are ok with it, bugger the books and the (loving, well meaning) grandparents. You’re a smart cookie, do what’s right for you and Rob. x

  32. sometimes it feels like everyone elses children settle themselves to sleep, sleep through the night, all night, in their own beds.

    but from all the comments, and the more i get into motherhood, i realise that is so not true.

    everyone just does whatever it takes to get through.

    mine have double beds, and we join them in their rooms, works for us. some mornings neither of us wake in our ‘parent’ bed.

  33. I used to be afraid of nightime…when the sun went down, I would tense up, because I knew I would want to eventually go to bed…to sleep, and my 4th child would be awake all night long..sometimes only resulting in me getting 2 hours of broken sleep a night…Austar saved my life during those years….thankfully she’s now 6, I’e had number 5 since then ( a better sleeper), and its now just a distant memory…
    but for now, I suggest surrender to NO sleep..somehow it works

  34. Mine are 5.5 and 3.5 years old and still crappy sleepers. Always have been. (and i even did a bloody week at Kartine with the two of them!) I finally gave up and we now have a mattress (from an old sofa bed) on our bedroom floor. They go to sleep in their own rooms, but at some stage one or both end up in our room, on “their mattress”. It gets shoved under our bed in the morning and I pull it back out and throw a doona on top when I go to bed. Fuck it. Whatever works. Best of luck.

  35. I don’t know Beth. I wish I had the answers for you but I don’t and so I won’t offer any advice, just my warm thoughts for you. Obviously that sleep fairy I sent earlier in the week got lost along the way, I shall call for another one, maybe even an army of them. xx
    Take care of you. x

  36. My kid sleeps ok but I am a hardened Hardcore insomniac who is always awake and never sleeps. It sucks. I am tired. Really tired.

    In the early hours there should be a button to press so you can see all your friends who are awake so you can call them for ye olde chat.

    I’ve only got an 8 month old, and I really don’t know what I’m doing, but would it be so bad to let them sleept with you?

    Whatever works.

  37. Lady, I have an ‘almost’ 4 year old who sleeps on the LOUNGE every single night. Because he actually SLEEPS well there, he’s happy, content, comfortable and safe… which means his baby brother is too and WE are also. It’s not ideal, not something I’m overly keen to advertise, but for now it works and it won’t be forever. I know that. I’m terribly sorry you’ve been through this… night terrors sound like the worst. I must ask my parents, because I certainly recall having some pretty bad sleep problems when I was little, but would be interested to know if they were night terrors. All these years on, I can’t remember. Daisy will be the same :o) xoxo

  38. Could have written this myself, though not as eloquently. As a fellow parent to two shitty sleepers and bloody hell if I am not sick of the “should” already & L is only 8 weeks old. You are definitely not alone. Though wtf we “do” about it I have no idea! I’m not done trying almost anything to get a good night’s sleep. X

  39. God. Beth. Everything I want to say has been said.

    But …

    What I wish is that I could just do the cold floor for you, for like, one week. Just so you & Rob could sleep every night. For just one week.

    Because sleep is so god damn healthy. And it has this amazing ripple effect,

    You deserve it. You both deserve it.

    I have no advice, just cyber love from your Internet village xx

    So much love xx

  40. All three of mine are bad sleepers Going to bed and staying there have been huge problems for all of them. My 9 year old boy has only just started sleeping in his own bed in the last 6 months. My 14 year old boy still wanders around at night and wakes me up with, mum I can’t sleep! my 12 year old girl is really good…. now!
    Things that have worked for me-
    1. the ‘BADDEST’ according to everyone else (but worked the best) get them their own TV and DVD player and turn the volume down and play nice disney DVDs for them-all night! that way they actually go to bed and might just stay there long enough to fall asleep, then if they wake the movie is still playing over and over!!
    2. let them go to sleep with your hubby and then move them out and into their own when you finally go to bed.
    3. let them go to sleep on the lounge then move them into their bed later.
    You must find what works for you and your family and trial and error is the only way. what works tonight might not work every night, so you need an arsenal of tools. Oh how I feel your pain. It does get better, but it might take many, many years!

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