How I Got My Three-Year Old to Finally Sleep

This has nothing really to do with reading, but after searching the Internet countless times for help, I found nothing but comments on forums on this topic and thought I'd write a post on my solution in case there were other desperate parents out there. 

Sawyer is three and a half and has always been a terrible sleeper, waking up anywhere two to four times a night. He doesn't cry a ton or throw a fit, but he wakes up and fusses some or needs his blankets fixed, to go potty, to find a stuffed animal, etc... I've tried everything, trust me, from sleep training (not for us) to laying on the floor holding his hand to ignoring him. His room is on the corner of our house, and hence street, with a few windows, so I think part of the problem has been him waking up due to outside noise. Whatever the reason, he woke up often and therefore woke me up. By October of this year I could count the times I'd had a really good night of sleep on two hands (not counting the few glorious nights away I spent in hotels). 

I tried to tell myself that some kids are just poor sleepers and this was all part of the process. "Some day you'll be begging him to wake up," I tried to remind myself. But the truth of the matter was that after three and a half years of being woken up several times a night and never sleeping past 6 (although he was usually up much, much, much earlier) I was completely and utterly exhausted. I felt myself becoming less articulate, struggling to maintain my patience, forgetting things, and feeling annoyed with the world. Some people can survive on 5.5-6 hours of broken sleep a night, but I cannot, especially teaching all day and trying to maintain an active lifestyle.

In early November I was talking to a friend about my situation and I jokingly said, "I need to just give him melatonin." (I was kidding- I don't even like giving him the Dimetapp the doctor said I could give him in small doses for colds). I started googling "kid sleep aids" and found that there are actually melatonin supplements for kids as young as two, which appear to be safe. I had serious, serious reservations about this, but decided that if it continued much longer (because 3.5 years wasn't long enough, apparently) I'd call the pediatrician. But then I started thinking- I remembered reading about tart cherry juice being a natural source of a low dosage of melatonin. I had actually tried it a long time ago myself, but didn't drink enough and have a think about drinking calories from juice (I know, I know). BINGO.

I found a few other parents who had tried it with great luck, so I went to Target the next day to buy some (more about that in a minute). I also ordered a new night light that would stay on all night for his room and started infusing lavender at bedtime.

Finally, we had all three things going on. I gave him a few ounces of tart cherry juice (not the actual stuff from concentrate, since that tastes horrible) at breakfast and maybe four or five at dinner (we use this). He didn't love it at first, but now totally does. I've never given him much juice at all, though, so I think that's why (he still gets milk after his juice is gone).

Within two nights my child slept from about 8:15 until 6:15 the next morning, not even getting up once. Ten hours straight! This continued, with him sleeping through the night or maybe getting up once to go to the bathroom around 4:30 or so. Recently he didn't get any and we had the roughest night that we've had in the four or five weeks since I've started using it. 

Unfortunately, after having havoc wreaked on my own sleep cycle for so long I cannot stay asleep the entire night and often have trouble getting to sleep. Nonetheless, I still average 20-30 more minutes of sleep a night and feel so much better. I've started using the Calm app's Bedtime Stories feature to help me get to sleep at night, which has helped in that area (basically they're boring stories about nature told in a super melodic voice). 

I am well aware that this spell could be broken at any moment- the magical cherry juice could stop working. At that point I probably will call the doctor, since the fact that it worked so well tells me that he probably does have some issues regulating his sleep cycle and that's why the melatonin from the cherry juice worked so well. 

For the meantime, though, I will just be thankful and keep giving him the juice! 


  1. This is awesome! I've heard of cherry juice helping with sleep and even tried it for a couple weeks myself a few months back, but it didn't really help my situation because my kid was still an erratic sleeper. I tried it because it was driving me crazy that I was having trouble sleeping on the nights my son DID sleep through, but trying to regulate my own sleep didn't work so well when I was still getting woken up half the time. If anything, I think it made it harder to get up those nights! This isn't a scientific conclusion or anything, but I do think I was averaging about an extra hour before my first wake-up on the nights I actually was able to sleep and had a bit easier time falling back to sleep. So I know you don't really like to drink juice, but if Sawyer is really settled into a better routine, maybe try it again yourself? If only to try to get your sleep back on track -- I don't think you'd need to do it indefinitely. Just a thought! Good luck :)

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