When we adults get insomnia, we immediately clue into the possibility that we're anxious about something. When kids can't get to sleep, we often think they're getting out of bed for the 26th time because they don't understand the house rules.
We've had a lot of late nights -- really late nights -- around here lately. Little Guy can't get to sleep until 11 or 12pm, and often needs to be held in order to settle down. Snuggler is up and down and in and out of bed endlessly, eventually collapsing on the sofa while listening to Bach. Big Guy tends to read until he can't possibly stay awake any more. It's anxiety.
I've often said I'm a bad mommy after 9pm. I lack the patience to soothe and snuggle; I have no energy to help my children unpack their feelings. The things I'm good at during the day -- like remembering that a kid's behavior is a form of communication -- get buried in the brain fuzz that proliferates in my head in the evening. I don't want to understand why my kids are awake. I want them to go to sleep. I want to love how adorable they look in peaceful slumber, instead of loving them by being patient and understanding of their night worries.
I know anxieties grow in the dark. Nighttime nourishes two-bit worries like mutant Miracle-Gro, causing apprehension to shoot up and threaten to swallow us. When you are six or nine or even fourteen, you do not remember that the same worries will feel smaller again in the morning. All you know is that they are big and scary now, and that nothing you do seems to make them go away. Night fears are the emotional equivalent of an earworm, singing a song of helplessness and distress.
I know this. And I still wish my kids would stay in bed and cope (or not cope) and just lie there quietly even if you can't go to sleep! Perhaps part of the reason is that I don't have a magic wand, and even when I muster the strength to be patient and comforting, it doesn't always solve the problem. Insomnia is largely irrational. Night is dark. We can't see what we need to. Sometimes, the only cure is waiting it out.
But Bach helps. "Polar bear breathing" helps. Snuggles help. Prayer helps. And being a well-rested mommy helps a lot.