The Five Stages Of Bedtime Grief

stages of bedtime grief toddler won't sleep

There is no telling just how much sleep deprivation will affect you. I’m not taking mine very well.

At this stage, I’m grieving. Almost every single night at 8.30pm, I go through five distinct stages of this night time grief. I’m grieving the loss of a good nights’ sleep and the ability to function as a normal human being. Am I alone? Probably not. We’ll close our story book, dim the lights and I’ll brace myself for what could maybe be the pivotal turning point in toddler life. One night, sometime soon, we’ll tuck our child into bed, and I’ll be able to retreat to my own content in the knowledge that I’ll be able to stay there for longer than an hour. Normally, around 9pm it comes crashing down. However, I’m getting through it with the promise of a black coffee come 6am’ and the fourteen seasons worth of Greys’ Anatomy.

There was a small, naive part of pre-baby me that wanted to believe the newborn stage was the no-sleep period. It’s that stage everyone talks about. It’s the one everyone likes to low-key brag about. ‘My little Susie slept through the night from the get go‘, well, unfortunately my little Harrison does not sleep like little Susie (or at all, for that matter) and the only thing I’m bragging about is the newfound ability to function in a state of near sleep deprivation. Some nights may be easier than others, but more often than not, come bedtime I brace myself.

stages of
stages of


Denial. It must be a phase. We all say it, heck, they’ve invented a word to describe it – regression. I have theory that a sleep regression has no real scientific clout, but is instead a word a sleep deprived researcher has coined to justify the fact that some babies just don’t sleep. In the early days I clung to the knowledge that after the newborn stage, I’d manage more than an hour of shut eye at a time (and I did, for all of three days). Then blew in the storm that was the four month sleep regression, followed shortly thereafter by the six month sleep regression, and then came the two front teeth, and then a leap, and then another regression and a few more teeth and soon enough my eye bags looked more like eye suitcases. A this point it’s probably time I cut my losses and admit I don’t have a baby stuck in a phase, I have a sh*tty sleeper.

Anger. Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done in a previous life to warrant my little night owl. I pay tax, I donate to charity and I’ve never committed a crime. I’m a good person, please lord just give me one single full nights sleep. It’s also hard not to get frustrated when there is no rhyme or reason to why they won’t sleep. I followed the rules. We set boundaries, we tried every trick in the book, but we still ended up awake. It just goes to show, we can do everything right, and sometimes it’s still not going to be enough.

Bargaining. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve promised the world to my child in the middle of the night. He’s too young to understand but that has not stopped me trying. Toys, soft play, the entire contents of my saving account – you name it, I’ve tried to bargain with it. Needless to say he still woke up an hour later. I’ve also bargained with the gods. I don’t necessarily believe in them, but that’s not stopped me from looking to the sky and swearing myself to a life of purity if they will help me out…


Depression. It’s difficult. Having little to no sleep is very difficult. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably getting more than you are, or they are superhuman. I’ll go through my moment of anger, and then suddenly I’ll make my switch to sadness. My eyes will be stinging, half because I’ve not had enough sleep in 18 months and half because I’m holding back tears. It’s a bit desperate, but at that point in the night I am desperate. I’m always acutely aware of the alarm that is set for work in a few hours time, and the knowledge that I’m going to have to get myself through the day on black coffee and sheer will.


Acceptance. This is not so much a happy acceptance, but rather a reservation to the fact that I won’t be getting a full night sleep for another ten years. In ten years time, my child will probably be too cool to snuggle on the couch with me and the X-Box will be replace the bedtime story. One day I’ll long for the nights he was keeping me awake. The mornings may be difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ll pull my socks up, accept that this won’t last forever, stick on an episode of Greys Anatomy’ and rightfully take up my spot on the couch for the 4am no-sleep club with my favorite little person.

stages of bedtime gried toddler won't sleepstages of bedtime grief toddler won't sleep

If you too are dealing with a little sleep thief, Mumsnet have a great feature on how to cope with a lack of sleep.


  • I’m not sure I was meant to chuckle along with this. Kids are such little buggers aren’t they. Even at almost 10 they still stall and try delay tactics!!

    • The dreaded bedtime! At least you get to look at that beautiful face all night, although at stupid o’clock on the morning I’m sure it’s not the best thing to be doing! Fingers crossed you reach your turning point sooner rather than later x

  • Andrea says:

    I feel your pain! My first was a nightmare sleeper until she was 2 and a half! My next two daughters were pretty bad but not as bad as the first. My fourth and final son takes after his biggest sister ? Awake every hour! Hope you get sleep soon ??

  • It’s like you wrote my life, why does nobody warn you that your baby will still sleep like a newborn, when they’re one and a half? Thankfully it has started to get a little easier now, but I’m just waiting for this clock change to screw us over again.

  • Sleep deprivation is the worst! I had a really bad couple of years of it and looking back I’m not too sure how I got through it. But I did! I hope you do too x

  • Lucie says:

    I have no idea where I’ve been living my whole live prior to having a baby, but where do more talk about these sleep regressions and sleepless nights? Where? Because up but I had Amelia, I’ve never even heard of them, and now they are my life! How are they not more of a thing? Why don’t we get warned more? I have a theory… we’d stop making these darn cuties if we knew haha that’s why!!

    Ps I’m also rewatching the entire season of Grey’s! You’ll have to let me know where you’re up to!!! Xx

  • Hannah | MakeDo&Push says:

    Sleep deprivation is the worst. H didn’t sleep more than 3 hours in a row until he was 10 months old and I honestly felt like I was about to be committed. I’m still catching up now and he’s 3 in June! Sending lots of mumpathy and caffeinated thoughts xxx

  • Deb Sharratt says:

    I feel your pain but it foes get better x

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