Dialing Back Bedtime

by Pam Nease, Sleep Consultant

It was pick up time at the Elementary School. The First Grade teacher quietly approached a mother and asked, “Are you doing anything differently at home?” The woman braced herself and then replied nervously, “Yes, why do you ask?” Moments later, the mom collapsed on the floor of her daughter’s classroom in tears and in shock.

The Struggle

The couple had struggled since the day their precious bundle of joy arrived. For more than six years they travelled around the province of British Columbia consulting various specialists to help resolve her digestive and behavioural challenges in addition to searching online and asking questions in various Facebook Groups.

As a baby, their daughter was described as high needs, spirited, stubborn and colicky. They were told that this was normal and they simply had to get through the period of purple crying and eventually, things would get better. Mom was breastfeeding and restricted her diet by cutting out all gas inducing foods like dairy and caffeine.

They also tried every over-the-counter remedy to try and help relieve her digestive distress but nothing worked. The only thing that would make her feel better and stop the crying was being held upright on their shoulders with hours of rocking or bouncing on a yoga ball.

Out of desperation and frustration Dad would often take his baby for a drive in the car to help her sleep at night when he was too tired from a long day at work. Mom felt guilty and anxious by day because, although not recommended for safety reasons, they relied on a swing in order for her daughter to nap. As much as she loved holding her sleeping baby it was starting to take a toll on her.

A few months later when she was still fussy and inconsolable, based on recommendations from a pediatrician, the couple switched to a special formula. She was diagnosed with reflux and a cow’s milk protein allergy. Mom’s guilt increased; she felt like a failure not being able to produce the right kind of milk for her baby. Unknowingly, she took out her fears and frustrations on her husband by constantly criticizing him in all areas of parenting and their relationship.

They purchased a special wedge to help their baby sleep on an incline in her crib but every night felt like handling a ticking time bomb. The formula and the antacid medications help relieve some of her symptoms but anytime they placed her in the crib she would immediately wake up and they would have to start the process all over again. The rocking, bouncing, driving and swing use continued.

At the six month mark they started solids in hopes that their daughter would catch up on the growth percentile charts and sleep longer stretches. No amount of effort would help get her to eat. The only food that she seemed to enjoy was rice cereal but only in small amounts. They described her as a ‘snacker’ and by the time she was two years old she was declared a ‘picky eater’. She also suffered from constipation and toilet training was extremely difficult.

By day she was often moody, temperamental and prone to outbursts. Mom decided not to return to work as she feared a daycare would not be able to give her the attention that she needed.

The couple reluctantly agreed to have another baby as they wanted her to have a sibling but they changed their original family plan of four children to two. They worried constantly about having another high needs baby.

Every few months the couple would try a version of sleep training but the eldest daughter, in particular, would cry for hours on end refusing to sleep. One fateful night she vomited in her crib and Dad pulled the plug and said, “Never again”.

As she grew into a toddler and preschooler mom started to dread preschool, play dates and visits with family. She knew that her daughter needed to be socialized but there was always something. Her daughter hit, would pull someone’s hair, was impulsive, unable to share and did not listen.

At preschool, when asked to sit ‘crisscross applesauce’, she fidgeted and would constantly interrupt. She preferred to be on the move and did not enjoy any of the simple tasks that were asked of her.

When it came to bedtime, as the years went by she became more anxious. Every night when her mom would tuck her in she would cry begging her to stay until she fell asleep. If they tried leaving her alone she would come out over and over again saying that she was hungry, thirsty, needing to go to the washroom, or scared. The couple gave into her requests. Any time they tried saying calmly and quietly, “No honey… it is time for sleep” she would quickly escalate into what appeared to be a panic attack and it would take two to three times longer to calm her down and get her to sleep.

In order to simply survive and reduce the battles, the parents played divide and conquer at bedtime and musical beds throughout the night by sleeping with the kids rather than one another.  The couple invested in various beds, mattresses, pillows, comforters and weighted blankets in hopes that their daughters would be more comfortable and stop crawling into their king size bed throughout the night. Dad would often escape to another room to avoid being kicked in the stomach yet again.

On really bad nights they resorted to Melatonin, Gravol, Tylenol and/or Neocitran, ashamed but desperate to get some relief. These sleep aids would help get their kids to sleep faster but nothing helped them sleep until morning.

Six years after their first child was born the couple still had never spent a night away without their children or even a date night. To friends, family and the public they said they preferred it that way, that they wanted to be with their girls. The reality? They were afraid to admit the truth, that they were too scared to try. Both mom and dad were now overweight, depressed and they were going to couple’s therapy. They dared not confess it to one another but they both regretted becoming parents and longed for the era when they were not.

The Solution

“Why do you ask?” the mother replied nervously. The teacher responded, “Well, your daughter was an absolute delight today. She was so pleasant, cooperative and could stay at her desk able to focus on all her tasks. There were zero issues and I saw her having fun at recess with some of the other girls, happily participating and taking turns on the swing. At lunch and snack times she devoured all the healthy items you packed for her without asking, prodding and coaching”.

What was the miracle cure? A little over ten hours of uninterrupted rest in her own bed. Just one night of quality sleep.

How? Fortunately the couple taught their strong-willed girl (and her younger sibling) the beautiful gift and vital life skill of independent sleep at 6.5 years old, with the guidance and support of Pam Nease Sleep.

You can do this too Mama and Dada! This story is just one case study of the 2,700+ families Pam Nease Sleep has helped with my proven loving, simple, practical and fun sleep training solutions. I invite you to get sleep, to get your lives back and live your best life rested.

It is never too early nor is it ever too late to develop healthy sleep habits. It all starts with my proven Sleep SMARTS formula. For many parents it is simply a matter of dialing back bedtime and creating some structure.
• Schedule
• Make sleep a priority and model the behaviour
• Acknowledge that sleep is a skill
• Routine: bath-book-bed
• Technology off
• Success: better grades, health, behaviour.


Pam Nease, Sleep Consultant, Founder and CEO Pam Nease Sleep est 2009. Postpartum Depression Survivor/Warrior. In 2006 I was ready to jump off the bridge and take the baby with me due to the plight of sleep deprivation. Like the couple described above, I searched for reasons on WHY my baby was not sleeping but he simply needed to learn how. Thankfully, my path led me to a Sleep Consultant and it made such a profound impact on my life I decided to dedicate my life to helping others. Curious to learn more? Visit pamneasesleep.com, email getsleep@pamneasesleep.com.

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