I never expected to not have my toddler sleep through the night. I had accepted that I didn’t get an “easy sleeper” of a baby and had come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be getting a full night’s rest until we were well into the toddler stage. But even that didn’t happen!
At 22 months, we were still being woken up at least once, sometimes twice a night to cries of “Mama! Dada! Where are you?!” Going on three full years without solid sleep was really taking its toll, and I knew my poor little girl must be exhausted too!
I felt like we had tried everything! Different bedtimes, different pajamas, her favorite dolls, night-lights, cuddling, cry-it-out…you name it! But nothing worked. We got lucky a handful of times, but I think the nights that she slept through the night in two years could be counted on both hands.
One day my mom suggested something that I hadn’t thought of. Maybe my daughter was sensitive to sugar and caffeine. Right away I just want to make it clear that I do NOT give my kids caffeinated drinks (or any soda, tea, etc. at all). However, chocolate does have small amounts of caffeine, and both girls do get the occasional treat.
Except that was the problem. The treats had become more than just an occasional surprise. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that every time I turned around, someone was handing my girls candy or cookies or ice cream. Whether it was Daddy bringing home fried Oreos from his food truck, or a family member popping in to say hello with a surprise ice cream sundae, or even the bank teller passing a sucker over the counter — sugar was everywhere!
I prided myself on the fact that as a family we ate very healthy: home cooked meals every night with lots of vegetables and lean proteins. We don’t eat much dairy. We rarely have gluten. And I thought that we were reasonable about sugar consumption.
On the day that my mom told me to consider the possibility that sugar was negatively affecting our littlest’s sleep, I thought back to what she had eaten the day before. I was ashamed when I counted up the cookies I had watched her eat. I might not have given them to her myself, but I allowed others to feed her an excessive amount. Maybe 5 cookies total — that’s more than I would ever eat in a day and it is INSANE for a not-quite two year old! That night she had woken up twice. I hung my head in shame.
But the thing to remember is that we are never stuck in bad habits and we can always make a positive change. So that very day I announced to my husband and my mother-in-law who was visiting that the girls were not to have any more sugar for the rest of the day. Period. I explained that I wanted to see the effect it was having on our toddler’s sleep.
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That night she slept through from 9pm to 8am. ELEVEN hours straight!!
So the next day I again made the announcement: no sugar after her lunchtime treat (that was snuck in without my knowledge…though that is another story.)
That night she slept from 9:30pm to 11am. MORE than TWELVE hours straight!!
And the next night it was twelve hours again!
And the next night was ten hours!
More than one night in a row of sleeping through the night has NEVER happened before. Sleeping more than twelve hours straight is unheard of for our youngest daughter. This was four nights in a row of sleeping around twelve hours straight. It was like a miracle!!
I don’t care if anyone thinks it is a coincidence…I am sold!!
I think with sleep issues, we often look for external factors as the cause: noise, temperature, discomfort, etc. However, sometimes it is important to consider what is going on inside our bodies!
I can’t believe I missed this for so long — I know the effect that sugar has on ME, but I hadn’t thought about what it was doing to my girls. Maybe a couple treats won’t keep every child up at night, but for my little girl (who didn’t even have a taste of processed sugar until after her first birthday) it was obviously too much. And if you’re stuck in the exhausting cycle of sleepless nights like we were, it is definitely worth a try!!
Our new “house rule” for both girls is only one small treat per day, and absolutely NO sugar after dinner. And we are ALL sleeping better because of it!
Here’s a bit of encouragement for those nights where they still wake up: When You’re Sleep Deprived Mama, Remember This
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