sleep associations

Sleep Associations: What I Learned from “The Juggler”

The story I’m about to tell you, about The Juggler, is really a story about sleep associations:


The Problem

The Juggler was 2 years old when I met him. His mother called me for a consult because the boy just would not sleep through the night. Mom had been back to work for over a year, but the sleep deprivation she was suffering from was seriously affecting her productivity. She and her husband wanted to have another child, but they were so exhausted they didn’t have the strength or the will to “work at it.” And frankly, mom admitted to me, if number two was going to sleep as badly as number 1, they weren’t sure they’d survive a second child!

I went to meet this mom at a cafe. She brought the boy with her. What I saw simply astounded me: This boy had a binky (pacifier) in his mouth, and one in each hand.


As his mother began to tell her story, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the boy doing something I had never seen before: he would pop the binky in his mouth out into one hand and replace it with the binky in the other, then repeat the action with the other hand. He did this fast, like he was practiced at it.  And he was. It was impressive to watch, in an odd sort of way.

“Holy Moly, he’s juggling!” I had to interrupted the mom.

“Yup. He does that all day.”

“May I assume he sleeps with three binkies as well?” I asked mom.

“Well, he doesn’t sleep very long,” mom replied, “That’s why we’re here”

Then came the “ah-hah” moment.

The Solution: Sleep Associations

Mom told me that she thinks the boy wakes up at night when the binky would fall out of his mouth.  She would respond to his cries by dragging herself into his room, popping the binky back in his mouth, and dragging herself back to bed.

What this boy had done was develop a bad sleep association. His parents tolerated it because they had grown used to it for one thing, and for another they were kind of amused by the juggling act.

But the juggling act was a sign of the most common sleep problem I encounter in my practice. I’d say that > 90% of the consults I perform involve bad sleep associations and how to manage them.

In future posts, I’ll tell more stories about bad sleep associations and how I taught parents to get rid of them!

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Rob Lindeman

Rob Lindeman is a sleep coach, entrepreneur, and writer living in Massachusetts. Ready to Get Rid of the Pacifier? Sign up for our FREE Video eCourse: The Paci-Free Method

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