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My Daughter Doesn't Sleep

by Shannon

My 5-year-old daughter has been having sleep issues since the day she was born. I accredit part of her difficulty sleeping to the fact that she was in the NICU for 5 days after her birth. From the day we brought her home from the hospital, she wakes up at least once a night; sometimes as many as 7-8 times a night. She cries and asks either my husband or myself to sleep in the bed with her. She doesn't like sleeping by herself and will use every excuse she can think of for not staying in her bed.

She has had episodes of sleepwalking and even some night terrors. In the morning she looks so tired, and my husband and I are no worse for wear. I am so frustrated, as each time it is brought up to her pediatrician, he tells us she will outgrow it. When will that happen; when she moves out of the house?? Please help.

Kevin's Thoughts

Hey Shannon,

Thanks for providing such a thoughtful description. Your concern for your daughter's well being shines through your words, and it certainly seems to be well justified.

And while your daughter's pediatrician may be right that she will outgrow her sleepwalking and night terror episodes once she gets a little older--as this tends to be what happens in the vast majority of cases that involve these sleep disorders in children--it is perfectly justifiable for you to continue to be concerned about her repeated waking up and her dependence on you and your husband to fall back asleep.

Frankly, your pediatrician should be echoing that concern if your daughter is consistently tired in the mornings, as you say she is, and if it is compromising the rest of her day. For that reason, it may be a wise thing to seek out a pediatrician who has a background in sleep. If you cannot find one, and the problems persist, a trip to a sleep specialist certainly won't hurt anything and may be able to ease your worries, identify a specific problem if there is one, or at the very least provide you with some useful strategies tailored to your daughter's situation specifically.

Besides just wanting to emphasize that your concern really seems to be appropriate, I'd also highlight something that Dr. Rafael Pelayo, the sleep specialist and pediatrician we are fortunate enough to have speak in Stanford Sleep and Dreams each year, emphasizes every time he lectures to the class--and that is that sleep is a learned behavior (There's more on this in our article on Sleep in Children). From when we are children on we learn habits for falling asleep. Sometimes these are conducive to healthy sleep and sometimes they can be maladaptive, such as dependence on other people that makes it hard to sleep when they aren't by our side. This doesn't mean that you should never sleep with your daughter or console her at night (and there is an extremely wide range of philosophies on this, just look at any back and forth discussion about Ferber, or Ferberization!), but it is just something to keep in mind as you try to figure out the best way to foster healthy sleep in your daughter as you move forward.

Best wishes! Please feel free to update us or post any additional comments you have using the "Post Comments" link below.


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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

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The Zeo

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Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

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