From the archives: Night terror


This morning I got a sleep in. Rare as hen’s teeth for a happily early riser like myself who is up with the girls each morning. But a couple of days ago I put in a request and this morning I got to hear little people wake and trot off with Rob as the bedroom door was closed behind them and I got a few more hours in until 8.3oam! I am a little obsessed with sleep, always have been since we had kids, and since we were given a couple of bad sleepers. Things are different these days – Daisy who was our worst sleeper, goes to bed and doesn’t move, doesn’t make a sound until she wakes in the morning, gets herself up and goes and entertains herself until we decide to join her. It wasn’t always like this, and I am so grateful that I have posts like this to remind me that things change. And that things will get better with Harper too. If you are in the midst of a bad sleep phase, my thoughts and coffee are with you x

This post was originally published just over 2 years ago on early December 2011. 

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. Margaret Elvis says

    Yes I well remember this post of yours and it is wonderful that you have now earned that extra hour or two in bed, at least occasionally.
    You deserve it as you have always been such a wonderful mum to your children. xx

  2. I currently have miss 4 that comes in at about 5am because she is cold. I feel for her, I really do but I am OVER IT. So now I send her back, tell her to snuggle down in her bed and go back to sleep. The wailing lasts a few minutes and then she goes back to sleep. If I do let her stay, its me that suffers stuck in the middle with hubby in my back (cant sleep that way, I don’t think I need to paint a mental picture as to what he thinks is going to happen….) and miss 4 in my face. no sleep for me.

    bitch mother of the year RIGHT HERE.

  3. My 13 month old has never slept well. Your post has brought back memories of me sitting in her room for HOURS on end, thankful for Facebook and Instagram at the wee hours of the night, patting her back to sleep… creeping out… Then she could only fall sleep in her pram or the car. That was hell. I lost so much weight walking for hours on end every day to get the damn baby to sleep. Like… over 20 kilos! At 6 months we went to Tresillian (sleep school). Even they said she was a lost cause. So, we came home and I said “fuck it”. Fuck the books, my parents, friends etc. I’m going to do what works for US. And at 13 months we are STILL doing that damn routine – feed to sleep, while standing (seriously, SO HEAVY) and swaying, with beach wave noises in the background. Hubby and I have 2 queen mattresses side by side on the floor (it doesnt feel like we sleep separate at all, we’re just in a giant mattress!) and the 3 of us sleep there. All night. The cot hasn’t been used in over 8 months! And when she does go to sleep, she wakes (well, stirs) often and needs booby to go back to sleep. Maybe 3 times a night. Maybe 6. I’m dreaming of the day we can have a bed frame again!

  4. Oh, bad sleeping hell. Brings back the memories…. but for me it was the 20 min day sleeps, the single sleep cycle. Exhausted Mama, over tired baby and every f#$king sleep book ever written – all which seemed to contradict each other. I was so over it by number three, that I co-slept (using a snuggle bed) and breastfed on demand (so much easier to get a boob out and stay in a warm bed with baby, than walk the halls trying to settle) and at 9 months, I think the little love was relieved to be put into his own room. It depends on what works for you, but it has never bothered me having the kids crawl into bed. I’m too lazy to bother sitting on the floor with them etc. I just figure that having three boys, they will not be 15 and wanting to be in our bed – I will remember these times with love and closeness.

  5. Being 13 months in to life with a non-sleeping child I always like to hear stories from the other side. It really does feel like it will never end and sometimes you really do feel like you’ll lose your mind – particularly when she wakes 5 minutes after I’ve fallen asleep (and then every two hours after that and then up at 5am for the day). Though, I have found that things have gotten easier since I just stopped reading the books/blogs etc and stressing myself out and obsessing over what she “should” be doing. I even lie to people now when they ask how she’s sleeping – that way I avoid the judgement and the “What?! That’s crazy! You need to do this/that etc.” Drives me crazy that mothers of good sleepers seem to assume that it’s your fault that your kid doesn’t sleep, like it’s something you’ve done – if only they could spend a night with her!

  6. Lisa Mckenzie says

    Glad to hear you got a sleep in ,you need to once in a while and my daughter suffered from night terrors and they are horrid ,I used to think someone was killing her and she even broke her collarbone one night after a really bad one xx

  7. We’ve only just got there four years in… One day I told her “you don’t need to get up tonight” and she didnt… and the next and the next… Sure some nights she still wakes, but boy do I enjoy the nights she stays in bed ALL NIGHT. Hugs for the sisters who are still in the throws of it… but my question is – how do you do it again? We’ve only got one and the thought of going through that again, makes me shudder – am I strong enough?

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