Kid insomnia--help!

Well, my 7yo has been having a lot of trouble sleeping for the past several days. It started when a little girl stayed with us and they stayed awake too long, and my daughter couldn’t sleep even when the other one was out. I gave her some milk and sent her to bed, and she woke up crying again later.

Since then we’ve had more bad nights than good. She lies awake, worrying that she won’t be able to sleep, so of course she can’t, and she gets all upset and freaked out. After a couple of days of her coming out crying several times, we gave her a flashlight and more books than usual and told her just to read until she was sleepy (instead of waking herself up by getting up every half hour). She doesn’t have anything she’s worried about, so we just keep trying to help her relax enough to sleep.

Last night she was up until 1 AM, reading, getting bored, and crying. This was after a bad night on Friday, and we spent yesterday at an airshow in 103 heat (on bare asphalt), which I thought would exhaust her. We are getting desperate and I need to sleep.

Today I’ve had her run around as much as is possible in the heat. I’m going to give her milk before bed. Does anyone have any other suggestions, besides helping her relax and letting her read?? She’s never had sleep problems in her life and I’m clueless!

We’ve done a few things with my daughter.

  1. Warm milk - with sugar so she drinks it - not terribly successful.

  2. Guided imagery, has helped but its taken years to really be successful and it doesn’t always work.

  3. Valarian. Valarian is a calming herb. This has really worked well for her, but we don’t do it too often because - well, someday the FDA might tell me if I’m giving her cancer or something… I have read don’t give pre-pubescent children Melatonin - its a hormone.

  4. When all else fails - Benedryl. I’d rather not drug my kids, but I’d rather that then she is up until midnight or later and has to get up for school at seven.

I have trouble getting to sleep sometimes, and it started a looooooong time ago (can’t remember the age, but definitely junior high if not elementary). I’ve since found that I can’t force myself to go to sleep, so it’s little use lying there getting bored and frustrated and start thinking of how weird it is to just lie there unconscious for six or eight hours and then think about thinking about it and then not get to sleep at all.

I’ve found that the only thing that works is to try only when I’m already tired. I’m semi-lucky in that my days generally tire me out (now, they didn’t usually then…) between classes, work, homework, walking to and from school, etc. If they don’t I read. That’s what I did then…I’d lie in bed and read and eventually just pass out. But then, I’ve always loved reading. If reading just made someone frustrated and bored, I’m not sure what advice I’d give them.

Maybe soft music or some kind of nature sounds type white noise instead of reading. Is it possible the reading is stimulating her more than helping her sleep? I can’t read myself to sleep, I just stay awake until I’m done reading.

Odd as it sounds, maybe she’s trying too hard to sleep, and that keeps her from settling down. Try letting her know that resting is nearly as good as sleeping. Get her to snuggle down and be comfortable, tell her she doesn’t have to fall asleep, she can just rest, and let the music maybe distract her from thinking about it too much.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always my husband’s suggestion: a hammer. :smiley:

No, she loves reading and is a total bookworm. But after a while she got tired of it. I think, actually, that she is spending too much time reading during the day when she needs to run around more, but it’s so hot outside just now that it can be difficult to get enough exercise. Tomorrow we’ll go swimming.

We do give them quiet music at night, and that has always helped in the past. Right now she needs the music, but it stops before she sleeps. Trying too hard to sleep is exactly what she is doing! I think we just have to keep repeating “relax, it’s OK not to sleep right away” until she gets it; she’s never had trouble before, and it’s so weird and new that it upsets her a lot.

Thanks guys, keep it coming; I’ll look into the valerian thing, Dangerosa. We do have Benadryl…

I would not let her read or watch tv in bed. It can be difficult to fall asleep in bed if you’re used to being awake in bed. There should be an association between bed and sleep.

No caffeine after 2 pm. Dim lights and quiet sounds for at least an hour before bedtime. A ritual such as bath, reading, milk, bed. No night-lights or music on.

I was an insomniac adolescent and it sucked. Much better now in my older age, but still I can get worked up with the fear that I won’t be able to sleep and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a chronic insomniac since birth, here are some things I was told to improve sleep:

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. As much as you might want to, don’t let her sleep late in the morning. Have her get up every day at the same time. This will cause her to be more tired later.

  2. No reading or watching TV in bed. Have her sit in a chair in her room to read, and when she gets sleepy, then get in bed.

  3. Get a white noise machine and turn it to the least stimulating sound (for me it’s rain). Helps tune out the little random noises that bug me and keep me up.

  4. No caffeine after lunch time (which you probably already have covered).

  5. Nothing stimulating within 2 hours before bed (exercise, exciting TV programs, etc.)

Good luck with this. I haven’t ever really mastered my insomnia, but I’m sure that’s because I do not abide by #1 or 2 on my list.

Celestial Seasonings makes an herbal tea they call Sleepytime Tea. It’s quite good, especially with a little honey or other sweetener, and it might relax her enough for her to be able to sleep. Of course, she shouldn’t drink too much, or she’ll have to get up to pee.

Sometimes having a regular bedtime routine can help, too. For instance, making sure that she has an outfit laid out for tomorrow, a bath or shower (probably tepid rather than warm in the summer), and having a bedtime story read to her. Even if she’s a bookworm, she might enjoy being read to.

I’m going to ask a weird question…

What did she and her friend talk about when the friend was over?

I’ve been pretty insomniac all my life, but I know I get more worried when something’s on my mind, and when you’re a kid and not sure how to broach a subject with mom and dad…it can get pretty hectic in the brain.

For instance…I used to spend the night at a girl’s house. My parents let me, with hesitation, because her mom was a biker lady and that’s definitely not us. I was always instructed to call home immediately if anything weird happened.

So one night, we’re all sitting up as girls do (we were probably middle-school age), and my friend explained to me - as I understand now - that she’d been molested. And her mother (I think doing some screwed up mental damage clean-up) had told her that she needed to get her “cherry popped” so that she could have her period eventually. (I’m remembering this from years on, so I may have the details wrong, but I know what I understood at the time.)

So combine the weird subject with the weird terminology (not language that I’d heard or that we would use), and you’ve got one confused little girl. I eventually asked my mom if I had to have something happen to me in order to have my period. She set me straight, sleepovers there ceased, and I went back to my normal fretful self.

I’m not saying her friend told her anything as bad as all that, but talk of death, injury, ghost stories, god forbid molestation…some strange conversations happen late at night, and kids can’t always put adult concepts into child vocabulary. It might be useful to sit down and talk to her about what happened or was said that night, in a very open and non-interogatory way.

“I noticed you haven’t been sleeping very well, especially since Susie came over to spend the night. You know, Mom’s always here to listen to you, even if you think you can’t say it right. Is something bothering you? Did you and Susie have a talk about some things you don’t understand?” - something like that.

She might genuinely be worried about not being able to sleep, but there may really be something behind it that she’s not sure how to talk to you about (she may not be quite aware herself) so “I can’t sleep” becomes the easiest thing to say.

That’s not a weird question, Merry Magdalen, it’s a perfectly sensible one. I well remember some strange topics coming up at my own sleepovers. We have asked her if there’s anything she’s worried about and so on, and she says not. She is a very forthcoming kid–she usually asks me about anything she thinks is weird (very unlike me, I never said a word about anything!)–so I’m inclined to believe her, but I’ll probably ask her again.

I don’t think she’s ever had caffeine, I’m pretty strict with soda. She usually gets lemonade or Sprite.

Those are all great suggestions and we’ll work on them. We do have a bedtime routine and I read aloud; we’re almost done with The sword in the stone.

We did somewhat better last night; I think she’s in a sort of mode where when she wakes up even a little bit, she automatically sits up and starts getting upset. Last night there were some disturbances, but not as bad; and today we’re going swimming to really wear her out. I think this will probably last for a little while longer, though; I’m hoping we can help her to relax and re-set herself.

I did a bout of insomnia last Winter. It was horrible, I became afraid of my bed (and I’m a grown up). Completely irrational - but its so easy to be irrational on very little sleep. I asked to get an Ambien prescription, got a few nights of “the sleep of the damned” (Ambien sleep for me is horrible, but its better than no sleep) and once I had sleep I could sleep again.

I was going to suggest an audio book, but you’ve got the reading aloud thing, which has to be just as good. I like audio books because they have the advantages of reading - lack of pressure to sleep - but you can curl up in a comfortable position and close your eyes.

Good luck - I also had a lot of trouble sleeping as a kid. I would read until all hours of the night in order to fall asleep. It got better when I developed a nighttime routine involving a bath, when I was about 13.