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My Six Year Old Daughter Wakes Up Every Night And Won't Go Back To Sleep...Help!

by Violaine
(Montreal, Canada)

My six year old daughter is a very emotional and sensitive little girl. She used to fall asleep and sleep all night every night until about six months ago. After her bedtime routine, she started to ask me if the doors were locked before going to bed, asking where I'd be in the house, etc...


I noticed at that time that she was acting this way during the day, being scared of strangers, asking me where I'll be when she is at school, etc. When it escalated and it took her forever to fall asleep, I resorted to give her a little surprise if she went to bed without crying for 3 days, then, 5, etc and it worked.

Well actually the problem shifted. After a few weeks, she started to wake up during the night, running in my room saying she had a nightmare, that she heard noises. I must admit that I let her sleep in my bed at first when this happened. When it kept on going, I went to sleep in her bed since she would cry and I did not want her to wake up her brother or father.

This has been going on for at least two months and I don't know what to do anymore....I tried to reassure her every way I can think of, I tried to let the dog sleep in her room to reassure her (the dog's a great Dane and one would think she'd be reassured!) to no avail. I tried humor, I got angry, I just don't get anywhere.

Every night she wakes up comes in my room and says she is scared and won't go back to sleep unless I stay in her room. It will happen she goes back to sleep (I tried the close the door technique until she is back in her bed and open it if she is in bed without crying) but the fact of the matter is that even if she does go back to sleep eventually without me in the room, I'm still awake for a few hours since I can fall back to sleep. Please help this very sleep deprived mom!!!!!!

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Feb 28, 2013
sleepless mom
by: Sparrow

Have you asked your little girl, if she knows why she keeps waking up, why she is afraid? Did something happen to her? Did she see something, hear something that would cause her to be afraid.
Those are the first things that come to my mind.
Hope you all get some good sleep soon.

Sep 07, 2014
Any help??
by: Anonymous

Came across this old thread, wondering how/if these wake up during the night resolved. Hubby and I are experiencing an identical scenario as the first mentioned story. Please let me know what helped your daughter. I'm desperate and considering getting a psych involved as this feels like it's way beyond anyone's control in my household.
HELP!

Sep 09, 2014
I need help too
by: Queen

Same thing with my 8 y/o daughter lately. We're both exhausted in the am. We've been up since 3:15am

Sep 29, 2014
Ideas to help relax child
by: Anonymous

Same happening :( we made up a spray in a pink bottle to spray at night with some lavender oil, "this spray brings out the fairies at night to mind the little one" , worked for a couple of nights but might work better for a child a year or 2 older, my little one is just gone 5... Any other ideas appreciated

Oct 14, 2014
my 6yrs is a wake every night same time.
by: michele

Hi, my 6yrs daughter wakes up every night at the same time 1/1.30am. She come in to my room saying she is scared off sleeping in her room by her self so i have to go in and wait untill she is a sleep. Its been going on now for about 4weeks i dont know what to do so if any one can help me then please help i need my sleep. Thanks

Oct 21, 2014
happened to me as a child
by: Anonymous

I have a 2 year old and a 3 year old, but my experience is actually my own as a child - I had severe sleep anxiety as a child and I recall it going from when I was about 6 years old through till around 8 or 9 years old possibly. My parents were quite strict about the time I went to bed and because I woke up religiously every night, sleep became a very anxiety filled time for me rather then a relaxing time. It was a serious problem for me, I still recall it being very tramautic, but it actually only stopped when one night I didnt sleep AT ALL and managed to go to school the next day and still function. My anxieties actually stopped when I realised that even if I didn't sleep I could still get by on very little. Essentially it all boils down to anxiety associations with sleeping. A few tips to reduce anxiety around bedtime:

- put a nightlight on the headboard of your daughters bed, tell her to try reading a book (ensure you check all books, nothing scary) until she nods off. Tell her she can do this at each wake up also. Activity magazines could also work (those kids ones you get in supermarkets.)
- check all tv/movies that she is watching during the day, again nothing scary. Some children are very sensitive to scary movies, I was one.
- make bedtime a more casual, enjoyable activity, try to change the association. What generally happens when you can't sleep is that you (and your parents) will stress out that you can't sleep, which further aggravates the anxiety which further feeds the cycle of not sleeping. This was also verified by a sleep specialist I saw.
- your daughter may be a very active child that doesn't need much sleep, as an adult I can get by on 5 hours of sleep and as such, parent imposed sleep schedules can sometimes just involve too much sleep. Keep this in mind when working out a bedtime/wakeup time
- tv in the room. most parents will slay me for this but again, from experience, there is nothing worse for sleep anxiety then lying in bed and thinking about the fact that you cant sleep and staring at the ceiling. enforcing sleep is not working. change it up and relax the rules a bit. put a movie on for her when she wakes up and let her fall asleep watching it. provided she doesnt leave her room and doesnt cry or make a fuss, eventually she will relax a little. only review this if she's not getting enough sleep and not able to function at daytime.
- teach your daughter relaxation techniques, you can practice them with her when you go to her bed to help her sleep (and it will help you nod off too! esp when you are stressed about how sleep deprived you are). Examples, deep breathing, meditation, prayer (if you're a spiritual person). It all sounds a bit airy fairy but deep breathing actually alters your physiology and allows your body to enter a relaxed state.
- see a sleep specialist, usually these come in the form of psychologists
- talk to you daughter and make sure nothing else is going on, like bullying at school, or other stresses. this could also be contributing.
- if none of this works, its possible that your daughter is just primed to get a reaction to your response, this happened with my oldest. you could potentially try a sleep nanny to help you correct this - although, my inkling is that there is real anxiety around sleep here.

Sorry for the long reply. Also, just as a final note, the psychologist I saw who specialised in sleep actually summed it up best. The vast majority of sleep conditions are caused by sleep anxiety - the key is to reduce the anxiety around sleep. Even people in concentration camps or very stressful conditions have been studied and they will still eventually nod off because the body will sleep when it needs to regardless of the conditions.

Hope this helps. Goodluck, I know how stressful sleep deprivation can be, but remember that this period won't last forever, you just have to get to the bottom of whats causing it. Don't be afraid to change it up, even if you do end up bucking societal trends - at the end of the day you need to function too!

Dec 27, 2014
my 4 year old only sleeps 2 hours a night
by: Sharon

Ok I'm having the same problem but with my 4 year old daughter every night she go's to bed she wakes up between 10 and 11 pm she sits up and crys saying she frightened and she won't go bk to sleep till 5am she has been doing this for months it's frustrating know how u feel and I've still not got to the bottom of it

Feb 06, 2015
Perhaps i've been going about this all wrong
by: Anonymous

I know how you guys are feeling and am dealing with a clingy 6 year old who wont go to sleep either...i came upon this article last night and thought you ladies will find this interesting...food for thought!! http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/please-go-to-sleep/?_r=0

Mar 16, 2015
5 year old wakes during the night
by: stressed mama

I am a having a very similar experience with my sensitive, high energy little 5 year old gorgeous girl. She goes to sleep ok but wakes at least once a week around midnight - 3 am, and stays awake for a couple of hours. I try to make the experience as non-traumatic for her as I can. So she comes and sleeps with me (often does anyway) I cuddle her, I've tried yelling, warm milk and a touch of honey, and even reading to her until she zonks out. Is this just a phase? I am not sure. Not sure what to do, but think it essential for her not to assoc sleep with a traumatic experience. Going to start a new bedtime routine of a small meditation story once she is in bed with a lighted candle, washing her face with warm lavender water. Soft music used to help but she is over that. Any advice greatly appreciated! Pretty sure nothing is really worrying her, and she is very happy, although highly strung during the day. Do kids generally just grow out of this type of behaviour? Not sure...

May 07, 2015
Six year old son wakes up at night as well
by: Anonymous

This has been happening with my six year old son as well
for at least five months. At first I would wake up and go cuddle with him. Then he would've back in our room again and the cycle would repeat. I finally decided to put down a pillow and blanket on the soft rug in our bedroom. The rule is if he wakes up he can quietly come in and go back to sleep. It still happens every night, but I don't (usually) get woken up. I would prefer it to stop, but I thought to myself we all sleep this way - he feels comfortable and I'm pretty sure he won't be sleeping our floor when he's 12 or 13.

May 20, 2015
my 6 yr old comes in my room every night scared
by: Dannielle

I have the same thing happening...She come in my room every bight scared. We have an alarm a guard dog etc.I have tried every approach. If any one can tell me what to do!! please!! I get no sleep :(

Jul 23, 2015
Some possible insight
by: Sara

This is something I have dealt with on and off throughout my life. As a child I would wake up scared almost every night. As an adult less often, don't know why it still happens. I came across this post while looking for answers to what it is, since even my docs have no explanation.

For me, its not night terrors, nightmares or nocternal panic attacks. It's just waking up in the middle of the night feeling so afraid that something bad is about to happen to you. This fear is so intense that even as an adult and knowing how irrational it is, I will still sit with the light on till morning. I'm pretty sure your child will out grow this, as I have only come across a couple older people in my searches who deal with this.

Guess I am just saying, go easy on your kids, as this fear feels no less real to them than if you woke up to a serial killer in your room.

Oct 31, 2015
My 7 year old son wakes him self up and doesn't sleep again until 4am every night NEW
by: Anonymous

My son has a good routine when it comes to bed time, every night at 7pm he showers and then gets into bed. He reads or sometimes I do while laying in bed and then by 8pm he's sleeping.
That when the problem happen!! He wakes up around 11pm and he wants us to be in the room with him to go back to sleep. We did this at the beginning and every time we left the room he would wake him self up again. Know we leave him and it take 3/4 hours to go back to sleep. This happens every night and it is takings its toll on all of us with the lack of sleep and then his behaviour the next day with him being tired.

Anyone have any advise how to deal with this??

Nov 30, 2015
Same issue with our 6yo NEW
by: Sleepless in CO

I found this thread searching for similar answers to the other people who have posted here. Our 6 year old son, who has been a really great sleeper most of his life suddenly started waking up and calling out to us in the middle of the night. At first, when we would go in he acted like he just wanted to make conversation. We told him night time was not a time to chat, but he insisted he had things he wanted to tell me. We picked out a stuffed animal for him to cuddle and talk to, but the callouts continued. Last night our son woke up twice, and the 2nd time he was wailing and crying and talked about how he doesn't like sleeping in his room by himself- so I am beginning to think there is some night time anxiety going on. We were all awake from 2-4:30 AM and are feeling pretty beat up and wiped out today. This has been going on for weeks now, and it seems like we need to try something different. I've seen notes about parents sleeping in their kids' rooms, or allowing their child into their bed at night. I know we need to do something to give our son comfort, but I'm also concerned about setting up a new 'bad habit' in terms of sleep (ie will our son want to sleep in our room for years?).

I guess everyone who finds this post is struggling with the same thing and it gives me comfort that it's not just our son- but would be great to find an expert associated with this site who can provide some guidance and advice.

Dec 19, 2015
Same problem with our 7 yr old son NEW
by: Anonymous

For last 3months (perhaps longer cant quite remember how long ago this started) our son is wakening himself up at least 2 - 3 times a night and occasionally we have been up 5 - 6 times a night. He needs one of us to lie with him till he goes over which he generally does quite easily but then any time from midnight onwards he dives through saying he needs us and is having bad dreams. We settle him back in bed again sometimes within a few minutes he is asleep sometimes it can take longer. We have tried a dim light on all night but felt this kept wakening him more. He has a glow plug on all night and he has soothing music he can play too. Obviously as it's been going on so long we do get very grumpy with him as we have work in the morning. Another funny trait that has appeared in the last month is he needs to know exactly where I am in the house and keeps checking on me (especially at night time) and is putting lights on in rooms that are between us - would almost describe him as a leech. Glad to read all these very similar stories as I thought we had a serious issue going on. Keeping fingers crossed that this is just another phase in his maturing and our parenting and it will pass at some point - hopefully before I need matchsticks to keep my eyes open !!!!

Jan 04, 2016
A resource NEW
by: Jose

We are struggling with this with our 7 year old boy. We resolved it by letting him into our bed, but that brought other problems. I ran into this resource. We are trying it out. The most thoughtful stuff we've read on the web. Will let you know how it goes. Good luck!!!

http://www.ogradywellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/HelpYourChildSleepAlone2.pdf

Jan 10, 2016
My 2 year old wont sleep NEW
by: Anonymous

I have a 2 year old and it's hard for me to keep staying awake every night until 6 in morning, my 2 year old keeps waking up ever since we moved house she wont sleep, my child cries eyes out saying that these people keep telling to get out of bed and won't let her sleep and she always goes to sleep at 7 pm that's my child's bed time. My child always slept trough the night and i have never had this kind of thing happening.
I was asking my husband about it but he thinks I am funny.
My child also says these people are touching and waking my child up.
Have anyone ever come across anything like this and what would you suggest.
Thank You.

Jan 10, 2016
Following up NEW
by: Sleepless in CO

I posted on this thread back in Oct or Nov- we were struggling with our son calling out in the night and being very clingy at bedtime. He didn't express fear as much as he thought it was unfair that he had to sleep alone while his parents slept together (he's an only child so is the only person in the house sleeping alone in their own bed which also feels challenging).

I really like the article that Jose shared

http://www.ogradywellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/HelpYourChildSleepAlone2.pdf

I also found a blog post that talked about providing comfort and reassurance and reminding parents not to get too frustrated and angry. We spent a bit more time during the bedtime routine giving our son time to talk, and rubbing his back to help him relax and calm down as we were tucking him in. It seemed to work a little, but our son still expressed fear and frustration that he had to sleep by himself and he's now been begging me to sleep with him every night for 4-5 months.

I hadn't seen the article that Jose shared, but finally decided on my own to do a little test. We don't give our son candy or sweets on a regular basis so candy is definitely a treat. I told him if he stayed quiet in his room all night he would get a piece of candy. And guess what? He stayed quiet!! We are now 4 nights in to this test- and he has stayed quiet every night. The article above mentions introducing a small reward to your child if they stay quiet and I'm thinking/hoping this gives our son the motivation to go back to sleep on his own, and my plan is to keep this up for a couple of weeks, then talk about and celebrate his success and see if we've set a new, better habit in place. Don't know yet if our plan will work- but we already had a consistent bedtime routine, we are consistent in not letting our son into our bed, and the rewards mirror all of those steps outlined in the guide, so I am optimistic. It's (cough) amazing how much a little reward has done for our son. I was very worried he had some big underlying anxiety issue, but seeing him instantly 'flip' to good behavior with the promise of a treat is giving me hope that this is a natural phase that combines some insecurity with a child pushing the limits to see what they can get away with.

Good luck to everyone else, and I'll post again to let people know if this was successful long term or not.

Jan 11, 2016
two year old not sleeping at night NEW
by: Anonymous

Thank you all so much for responding.
My 2 year old slept with her dad at night last night and still kept waking up and screaming and i slept in her bedroom to feel how it is to sleep in my child's bedroom after my husband suggested it. And actually I felt this weird vibe around me, I didn't really took it in consideration that my child got touched on her back at first as i thought nothing of it as kids have good imaginary anyway. As my oldest one had a imaginary friend for 2 years and it just got to the point were i felt like i'm going crazy.
But anyway back to my 2 year old's bedroom, yes i experienced something very weird, i felt like i'm a sleep but the same time awake and i couldn't move my body for a while i felt someone like stroking my head but only light, however this might sound crazy i didn't hear any voices, in a morning i didn't say nothing to my husband as he would defiantly think I need some help myself.
I have had experiences like it myself as i was younger, but now mainly i don't feel anyone touching me i just know when someone is around me, I can not see anyone but it makes my legs go dead cold to the point i can't hardly move them and I'm just thinking if my daughter could of got something like it from me.
I have had a lot of experiences myself , like not being able to get brush of my head and arm and it's banging on my head or printer being switched of for days and out of plug sockets and its printing out stuff but nothing is there or taking pictures and theirs like white orbs surrounded.

However i will try to do the routine, even though theirs always been one anyway, and will see how it goes. Also I been told to go to church and get some water and give my child to drink some and make some crosses in her bedroom on each wall door, windows, well good luck to you all too.

Jan 11, 2016
Two year old not sleeping at night NEW
by: Anonymous

tried bed time lamps, tried stories, songs, baths, sleeping on own, with child, without, asking her whats happening all she says is this lady is saying my child to get out of bed as she is tired and not letting her sleep and get out of room, this just happened 10 min ago and I sat down with her and i know shes two but i said: if anyone touching you, or saying anything to you, you know mummy and daddy is in the house, they need rest too and so are you, so that you can rest your little head and arms and legs and ... goes on and then I said but if you get scared then say get out of my room and never come back, just go away.So she repeated after me.
So I checked up on her and she is a sleep, fingers crossed, i might get some sleep tonight.

Jan 22, 2016
Same issue 6 year old daughter NEW
by: Natalie

Hello all i am so glad that i am not the only one out there. I am sat at work today feeling like a zombie after little sleep again. After around 5 months of irritated sleep i am so fed up of it. My daughter gets up around 2-6 times a night so no reason other then to need me or walk around my room to get my attention. I am normally such a calm and understanding person but this last week has been horrible at night in our house (especially after i though i cracked the bed sleeping habits last week) The last two nights have been the worst me, my husband and daughter have been having full on arguments in the middle of the night and its not helping anything. I think over time me not getting the correct sleep is making me sleep deprived yes but most of all making me stressed and worried about my daughter.

**So what have i tried :- All of you are after help and may feel as helpless as i do so here is my experiences.....

1.Bed time routine:- We adjusted our bedtime routine a few months ago and even moved the time to half an hr later as we worried she may be getting to much sleep - this has helped her understand its bedtime but if anything she just gets more nervous and worried as the time approaches.

2.The reward chat- We tried a point for every hr you sleep, points for getting to sleep, points for being brave, points for not crying .... you name it we had a chart for it. We did money rewards, sweets, get so many points and we have a family day out... They all worked for a little while and then stopped again cus the points didn't matter or she would say she feels under pressure.

3.Over love her - I have covered her in cuddles done all the "love you to much" games. So for example i would hug her when i put her in bed and not let go until she giggled and said "ok that's enough mommy" i would tell her when she woke up in the night she just needed a "top up cuddle" and make a joke of it and for a while it worked and made her feel comforted she would sleep for bigger chunks of time but still get up. Then she would what cuddles and climb on my lap to try and sleep FAIL.

4. The tough love approach - So this one by far is the hardest but when you haven't slept for days its surprisingly easy to be tough. So this was a strict bed time, not allowed out of room, no cuddles just sitting on her bed. again FAIL just made her worry and she would wake up more then ever.

5. Bed time story and the magic sleep wizard - so there is a book called "The rabbit who whats to go to sleep" brilliant book its wrote by a child philologist and helps your child to relax. (you need this book) So with the book the wizard left her some invisible sleep powder and a sleep blanket that keeps her safe and sleepy at night. This worked for 2 nights she slept 11hrs both nights this was last week and now we are back at square one. She told me this morning the blanket dose't work and she thinks the sleep wizard is watching her.

ANY OF THERE COULD WORK FOR YOU...... SO TRY THEM ALL! your child mite just need a little push in the write direction and not be as stubborn as mine.

We thought our daughter had night terrors, sleep anxiety, sleep disorder, night mares. We as parents have felt rubbish, successful, fed up, worried. But at the end of the day this is a normal thing for a child to regress to. They start there life sleeping in someone then with someone and then on there own and now at this age there emotional levels, understanding of life and imagination are expanding they can't quite understand why they have to be on there own at night. I told my daughter she has a comfort zone in her head and at the minuet its a bit confused and only whats mommy at night when it should really what her bed and teddy. She understands that what she is doing at night is strange and she stresses herself out cus she is so sleepy at school. She has even talked to her friends about it and they all sleep ok so she doesn't understand why she is different.She keeps telling me she is trying to sleep and stay asleep but she is forcing herself to wake up...This is obviously making things worse so sleep anxiety is in full swing with my little princess. The more we stress over it the worse it is.

BUT today i found this
http://www.ogradywellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/HelpYourChildSleepAlone2.pdf

READ IT!!!!!

Tonight is a new night and i am going to sit down with my family at dinner time and talk then through the Snooze Easy Rules and make it exciting and fun, a family bonding game. Not make a big deal about night time anymore.... Bring back the reward chart as she responded to it so well maybe use tokens this time? she can swap the tokens for money or tv/tablet time. LETS TRY AGAIN. This time i think a no pressure attitude may help be firm but not angry and not be so harsh with bed time, just make sure she is in her room by a certain time. I think me and my husband need to change our attitude towards the situation instead or resenting her we need to understand that she cant help it and one day it will just stop and we will all sleep again.

Nothing last forever and a fresh look at something can make us all feel much better about it.
I will keep you updated on progress and good luck to you all may we all get some sleep again soon x

p.s sorry for the massive post just wanted to help x

Jan 22, 2016
Great Reference Article NEW
by: Sleepless in CO

Yep- as a few people have shared, this article offers TERRIFIC advice:

http://www.ogradywellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/HelpYourChildSleepAlone2.pdf

We've offered our son a reward now for staying quiet through the night and have had great results in the two weeks since we tried it out. No more waking up and calling out!!! (and we'd been struggling with this for a good 4 solid months)

Mar 21, 2016
past life traumas can cause sleep problems/phobias NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi guys-
I know this may sound crazy, but I took my child to a past life regression therapist who deals specifically with children and adults who have unexplained fears/phobias. In one session we found the REAL source of his fear and worked it out and ever since then, night times are peaceful. I know many people will discount this, but it worked wonders in our house.

May 04, 2016
Nathalie feedback NEW
by: Julia

Would like to ask Nathalie how things are now. Did it work for you?

Jul 25, 2016
Screaming sleep NEW
by: Anonymous

My 8 year old crys before bed, then wakes up and crys during the night. She says that she has a blocked nose, she feels sick or that she is not comfy. She wakes up the house and she won't stop. PLEASE HELP !!!!!!!!!!!

Aug 08, 2016
Fearful 8 year old! NEW
by: Anonymous

Came across this thread because her father and I are at our wits end. Counseling didn't help. She is extremely intelligent so the little "tricks" don't work. She is legitimately scared and her mind takes over when she awakes at night. I am a behavioral therapist and have tried all I know but nothing works. Hoping moms would have some real life advice!!!

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