They're loving, they're committed and they're exhausted from the sleepless nights. Find out how three families are coping with common slumber problems
Photo Credit: Kathleen Finlay
Left: Elisabeth Protopapas starts her night on the couch before Mom tucks her in bed.
At the worst of her son Jack’s sleep problems, Deb Popa rocked in a chair for more than three hours straight, with her newborn crying on her chest and Treehouse TV breaking the room’s darkness. By a few months old, he grew accustomed to falling asleep while Popa fed him a bottle, but he never stayed asleep longer than 2½ hours. “He kept waking up screaming and crying,” she says. “It was so hard to get him to relax and go back to sleep.”
She and her husband, Claudiu, tried everything — music, gripe water, new bottles, walking him around, driving in the car, rocking in the chair, drops of Tylenol — and each night, something different settled him. So when Jack was later diagnosed and treated for infant reflux but would still wake screaming three or four times a night, Popa and her husband tried a new trick: installing a 46-inch TV in his room.
Nights of broken sleep make for a rough parenting ride. There are the no, you get up with him arguments that breed resentment into the next day. There’s the caffeine-fuelled struggle to stay awake behind a computer. “Helping children learn to sleep independently may require a lot of time and effort from parents, who are already managing the rest of life’s demands,” says Graham Reid, an associate professor in psychology and family medicine at the University of Western Ontario in London.
It’s a good thing that parents are determined to get their kids (and themselves) to sleep: Kids need it for healthy development. But when sleep doesn’t come easily despite how-to books and doctor’s visits, we parents get creative, which could mean anything from playing movies to playing musical beds. At the end of the day, everyone needs some shut-eye — and we’ll do just about anything to get it. Meet three families who’ve made peace with their unorthodox methods and find out how they make it through the night.