Twins & sleep

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 20, 2011 06:00 AM

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My twins wake up every morning between 5:00 and 5:30 am. They take a 2.5-3 hr nap anytime between 10:30/11 am. They fall asleep by 7:30pm. Why are they getting up at 5? We're so tired and cannot figure out what we are doing wrong. They used to sleep until 6/6:30, but for the last few months, that's gone out the window! Do we need a different schedule or just some tweaking? Help!!!!

From: SCP1229, Totowa, NJ


Dear SCP1229,

Just because they're twins doesn't mean they have the same sleep needs. It's possible one is an earlier riser and starts to chatter and wakes the other.

You won't know these individual differences as long as they are sleeping in the same room, so one tweak is to separate them temporarily and see what happens. They are, after all, individuals. If you had two different-aged sibs together, separating them would be a no-brainer, right?

Of course, if it turns out one would sleep later and one still gets up early, you've only solved half your problem. If that turns out to be the case, changing the nap times is the next tweak to try, that is, shortening the nap for the one who sleeps less at night.

None of this is easy on the parents (sigh) but then, if you had two differently-aged children, you could be in the same situation.

Which twin to move? In this best-selling revised edition of "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," pediatric sleep specialist Richard Ferber writes: "Depending in part on the location of bedrooms, other sleep location options , and the severity of the problem to be addressed, sometimes it is best to move the twin who is having sleep problems and sometimes it is better to move the other one. Even if both twins are having problems, it may be easier to work with them separately, in separate rooms, and then consider putting them back together once the problems have been addressed."

You don't mention how old the twins are, but according to accepted most sleep charts (I'm looking right now at Ferber's on page 11 of his revised edition), a nap of 2 1/2 hours or more is no longer typical after 12 months. A 12 month old, for instance, needs a total of 11 3/4 hours of sleep per 24 hours, so if your twins are more than a year old, the length of the nap may, indeed, be the source of the problem.

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4 comments so far...
  1. The kids sleep from 7:30PM to 5:30AM (10 hours) and then a nap for 2-3 hours. That's 12-13 hours a day. So they are waking up when they have had enough sleep. It sounds like they fall asleep without any trouble.

    Was this email sent when the sun rose earlier and woke the kids up? Does their bedroom face east or northeast? That might be one reason that their schedule drifted a whole hour early. Inadvertently waking them up at 5AM will make them very sleepy at 7:30PM.

    If this is the case, then you can get ready for next summer. To avoid such early wake-up calls, try using "blackout" drapery lining (that's what they call it in the fabric stores). It really does make that much difference. When I had to work a night shift, I could sleep anytime with that stuff on my windows.

    Posted by Irene September 20, 11 12:54 PM
  1. I'm not sure I would have thought of separating them as the first thing. Someone is getting up early, so that only solves half the problem.

    Advice really depends on their age. If they are infants, you can try to manipulate the schedule. If the are older, I would shorten nap time. I think it also depends what the are doing when they wake up. If its just playing or babbling, let them.

    Have to be honest, though, this is part of being parents. You have early risers so if you are tired, go to bed earlier! Or just accept exhaustion for the next couple of years

    Posted by Ash September 20, 11 04:52 PM
  1. Let is go, ride it out..my twins are 3 and they wake at 6:45-7, sleep 3 hour nap (12:30-3:30) and in bed at 8:30 at the latest. They use to get up early also (we had the same issue you have), but eventually their schedule changes..Also, we have DARK curtains in their room (they still sleep together in the same bed even - 2 fulls pushed together). I wouldn't separate them. Just my thoughts!

    Posted by LiMomof2 September 20, 11 07:41 PM
  1. By your numbers they are already getting 12-13 hours of sleep every day. How much more sleep do you think they need? If my kids slept this well my wife and I would be thrilled.

    You could also try to reduce the length of their nap, make nap time (and also bedtime) a little bit later, and make sure you have room darkening blinds/drapes in their room so the morning sunlight isn't what's waking them up.

    Posted by geocool September 21, 11 10:01 AM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. The kids sleep from 7:30PM to 5:30AM (10 hours) and then a nap for 2-3 hours. That's 12-13 hours a day. So they are waking up when they have had enough sleep. It sounds like they fall asleep without any trouble.

    Was this email sent when the sun rose earlier and woke the kids up? Does their bedroom face east or northeast? That might be one reason that their schedule drifted a whole hour early. Inadvertently waking them up at 5AM will make them very sleepy at 7:30PM.

    If this is the case, then you can get ready for next summer. To avoid such early wake-up calls, try using "blackout" drapery lining (that's what they call it in the fabric stores). It really does make that much difference. When I had to work a night shift, I could sleep anytime with that stuff on my windows.

    Posted by Irene September 20, 11 12:54 PM
  1. I'm not sure I would have thought of separating them as the first thing. Someone is getting up early, so that only solves half the problem.

    Advice really depends on their age. If they are infants, you can try to manipulate the schedule. If the are older, I would shorten nap time. I think it also depends what the are doing when they wake up. If its just playing or babbling, let them.

    Have to be honest, though, this is part of being parents. You have early risers so if you are tired, go to bed earlier! Or just accept exhaustion for the next couple of years

    Posted by Ash September 20, 11 04:52 PM
  1. Let is go, ride it out..my twins are 3 and they wake at 6:45-7, sleep 3 hour nap (12:30-3:30) and in bed at 8:30 at the latest. They use to get up early also (we had the same issue you have), but eventually their schedule changes..Also, we have DARK curtains in their room (they still sleep together in the same bed even - 2 fulls pushed together). I wouldn't separate them. Just my thoughts!

    Posted by LiMomof2 September 20, 11 07:41 PM
  1. By your numbers they are already getting 12-13 hours of sleep every day. How much more sleep do you think they need? If my kids slept this well my wife and I would be thrilled.

    You could also try to reduce the length of their nap, make nap time (and also bedtime) a little bit later, and make sure you have room darkening blinds/drapes in their room so the morning sunlight isn't what's waking them up.

    Posted by geocool September 21, 11 10:01 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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