Monday, July 2, 2012

The early bird curtains

You know that you need to get more sleep when your three year-old asks you: “Are you frustrated, mama?”  For the last few weeks, our early-riser has decided to shift his wake-up time from 6am to 530…and even 5am at times.  This change has had us all sleep-deprived, frayed at the edges.  My son would get unmistakably cranky and melt down close to naptime and bedtime.  I struggled through my days with a cloud hanging over me, my work productivity dwindling.  Coffee barely cut through that fog, and I found myself partaking in an afternoon nap with my kids, lest I melt down too in the early evening, so tired from the day.  My husband, the coffee abstainer, started joining me for a morning cup of joe.  We were all becoming bleary-eyed zombies.

A 6am wake-up call is my limit. Anything earlier I cannot and will not tolerate.  Now I am not asking for 7am, 630am, or even 615am. Just 6am, please. I have waxed poetic about my kids’ routines, and how we follow them religiously.  As a parent, I have come to understand the fundamental importance of sleep for my children, for myself…for everyone’s sake. Otherwise, I become mama the grouch.  So what to do when that system breaks down?  Other than this, like his maternal grandfather (who has taken a nap every day out of his 71 year-old life) overall the dude is terrific sleeper—he can sleep through almost anything, and when he’s out, he’s out like a light.

We wondered, was he napping too late?  We started limiting his nap to two hours from his usual two and a half, hoping that would help. Tried it for almost two weeks with no improvement….it only worsened his early morning wake-ups to 5am.  One day, the dude even refused to nap; instead of the sound of sleep (read: blissful quiet), I heard him running around in circles and singing very loudly in his room.  Got him to nap eventually, but he protested, saying to me, “I don’t want to.”

Oh boy. This was an overtired preschooler talking.  I had to think—what could be amiss?  I realized finally that even with room-darkening shades, there was light from the
 early morning sunrise sneaking around the shades through his east-facing windows. I remembered that in Florida, the dude would sleep soundly until the local sunrise, almost 7am.  I talked with our pediatrician; ever pragmatic, she advised me emphatically, “Buy curtains. Anything to keep that room dark.  Make sure that NO LIGHT AT ALL gets through that child’s room.”  Really a no brainer...for someone who is well-rested and capable of higher-level thought. Hoping to get some of my tired brain cells back, I searched and without hesitation bought the room-darkening curtains, special room-darkening curtain rods, the whole shebang.

It took a little elbow grease to get the curtains up and going (read: tired parents should really NOT be operating power drills).  But the results were so worth it, with 6 am wake-ups for him and for us the last couple of days, with big naps to boot.  Yesterday, the dude even requested that I close the curtains for his nap. He woke up and told me, “I feel better with the curtains.” Yes, my love, I feel better too. 


  1. So my husband sent me a link to this post, before I even got a chance to read it and said "we need to do this!" HAHA!! I am totally looking into this right now as M is, and always has been, an early bird. And my poor husband gets up with her in the morning so he is dying to try these out :)

    1. Yes, anything for a good night's sleep! Now we have the double whammy of room-darkening shades AND curtains...if you need recommendations, let me know. Here's to better zzzzz's for everyone.

  2. Here's quick-fix option that worked so well for us that we have left it in place for over 2 years:

  3. We tried this, and white noise. BUT little baby C gets up between 5am and 6am still :( One day she got up at 4:53 and I almost cried. See, I like, no love my sleep and before baby came along I used to sleep at least 9 hours most nights! Unfortunately she is just not a big sleeper, she also doesn't nap much- once she took a nap for 1.5 hours and I jumped for joy, but it was a fluke. Most naps are under 1 hour. It's hard to get anything done in less than an hour. Oh well, hopefully someday when she goes to college or becomes a teenager I will get to sleep again :)