Please help. My 6 yo won't stay asleep

My six year old daughter won’t stay asleep at night. It started during Christmas Break and now it has been 2 weeks of sleepless nights for her and me. My husband is also not getting sleep because she comes into our room crying about not being able to sleep at 2am almost every night. I will not give her benadryl anymore because that can cause serious side effects. Melatonin isn’t working. I have an established bed time routine where we do baths, scriptures and prayer , then bed time story between 8:30 and 9:30 then to bed by 10 pm. She shares a room with her twin brother and I am worried she is causing him to lose sleep as well. I started a rewards chart and intended to mark every day she stayed in her room at night without getting up and waking me up and in 2 weeks she has only gotten two marks. I have talked to her, yelled at her, made her stand in timeout, taken her back to bed without talking to her. Literally nothing is working. I am sitting here at 3 am for the 5th night in a row silently crying to myself in frustration and because I am not getting any sleep. It is making me physically sick. My stomach is in knots and I can’t eat. My patience is wearing thin. What am I going to do? It can’t keep going on like this.

It’s just a phase.

Everything in raising children is a phase.

Personally, I think you’re overreacting. Maybe your daughter likes the attention she’s getting over this. Cut the rewards program, and just lovingly take her back to bed at night. You might even lie down with her for a few minutes till she’s back to sleep. This won’t last forever, and no one said parenting was supposed to be easy.

Sleep deprivation is part of the job description. It gets better.

Then you move to the next phase. Whatever that entails.

Thanks Leffan. I needed that assurance that this will probably eventually pass. I also need sleep :stuck_out_tongue: so I need something to get her and the rest of the family through this phase without any casualties. Any thoughts?

Man. Stuff like this happens while parenting. I feel for you.

There’s really nothing more I can add. Kids are going to stretch your limits. I don’t suggest bringing her into your bed, because that’s a habit you don’t want to get into, but lying down with her in her bed might work out best for everyone.

Hey, my kids are teenagers and I’m no expert, but please believe me, what you’re going through is par for the course.

Relax. She’s probably just as frustrated about waking up during the night as you are. Help her out. You’re her guiding and loving mother. She needs you to be there for her. Don’t get angry with her for waking up. No one benefits from that.

This seems so obvious, but… have you eliminated all caffeine? That not only includes pop (including many non-cola flavors, you have to read the label) but also chocolate, including things like chocolate milk.

There is a variation on sleep patterns called “segmented sleep”. That’s where you sleep 4 hours, are awake for an hour or two, then sleep for another four. When menopause introduced this to me I was quite upset, thinking I had a serious problem. The least disruptive solution for me was to accept this to some degree - when I wake after 4 hours I get up and do something quiet for an hour, then go back to sleep. There may be some difficulties doing this with a 6 year old, but if she has fallen into this pattern (for whatever reason - for some people this is their normal) then that approach might work.

It doesn’t sound to me like she’s doing this to be difficult - you state that she finds it distressing, and disciplinary actions that, I assume, normally work for her aren’t doing the job you want them to. If it continues much longer you might want to speak to her doctor about this. I gather you have a reluctance to put her on long-term sleep aids but occasional use might be appropriate for her.

A sleepless kid can be a problem. I have a niece who, due to required medication, had a terrible time getting sleep as a child. Part of dealing with it was to teach her to not disrupt other peoples’ sleep when she was awake. Part of it was both parents taking turns being up/taking care of her so one parents wasn’t always constantly sleep-deprived as well.

I think it may be time to take their bunk beds apart because there is no way I am going to crawl into her top bunk if I need to lay down with her. Lol
and I know she is frustrated. She told me two nights ago that she wished she was never born because she can’t sleep. It broke my heart to hear her say that. I just hugged her and stroked her hair and she feel asleep in my arms while we were sitting on the couch. I know exactly how she feels. I have struggled myself with periodic bouts of insomnia since I was her age. My biggest concern is how to get her to not wake everyone up just because she can’t sleep.

My mom is a segmented sleeper. I wonder if it could be genetic. I agree that it is going to be hard for her at 6 to figure out how to quietly occupy herself when she wakes up in the middle of the night. I know she needs me to be sweet and understanding and patient. But at 2am and 3 hours of sleep my patience has taken a vacation. And I hate myself for being that way.

I don’t think it is anything upsetting her that happened at school Since it started a few days after Christmas break started. She was so excited to go back to school this week when break was over. I am sure it is probably something I did or said. I tend to blame myself when my kids are haVing problems. I never feel like I handle them correctly. I often wonder why I was blessed with children when there are so many more deserving and patient people out there who can’t have kids and would be better parents than me.

Hey now. Don’t beat yourself up. No one is a perfect parent; we all make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t over think this. Kiddo needs a hug and some support. Get through it together.

New babies can be noisy sleepers. Rather than her disturbing his sleep, he may be disturbing hers.

Honestly, I’d probably just take her into bed with you. She’s six, you don’t have to worry about “starting a bad habit”–it’s the two year old that you don’t want to have in bed with you for the next 4-5 years. But a six year old is towards the end of growing out of co-sleeping anyway.

Wow. I vaguely recall my son (now 19) going through a similar phase. My response was to bitch at work about it in a joking way. It was a phase and it passed. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

When my daughter (now 23) was brand new, I didn’t realize that sometimes babies just cry. For the first month or so I would change her diaper every-time she cried. I was throwing away a dozen bone-dry diapers every day.

Help her come up with a solution. This isn’t your job to fix; it’s hers. Of course, at 6, she’s probably going to welcome input, but at the end of the day (heh) it’s her body, and no one - adult, child or infant - can make themselves fall asleep until their body is ready. So maybe tell her that, first. Not sleeping is not bad. Not sleeping is not being naughty, or worthy of being yelled at. So apologize for that, and mean it.

The problem is what she *does *when she can’t sleep. That’s the part that needs correction, and a new plan of attack. Bothering mom and dad (or brother) is not an acceptable solution. Not only because it doesn’t fix the perceived problem (you can’t make her sleepy, either!) but because it creates the actual problem - disturbing your sleep, too!

So ask her what she can do, instead. Let her think about it for a few minutes, and if she comes up with nothing, ask her if she’d like you to help brainstorm ideas. Then she gets to pick from the list of ideas, and prepare whatever she needs to prepare to implement those ideas.

Some options:

Read a book in the living room where she won’t disturb her brother. Set up: a book, a light with a switch she can reach, and maybe a blanket to snuggle under.

Color quietly. Set up: a coloring book, markers/crayons, and again a light she can use.

Listening to music. Set up: an ipod or CD player with headphones, a favorite CD

Make a bracelet. Set up: the loom and hook, a bag full of rubber bands, etc.

Play with dolls or Lego or other quiet toys. This is a conditional plan, contingent on her actually keeping them tidy, or cleaning them up before she goes back to bed…no fair leaving Lego on the floor for you to step on before your morning coffee!

Drink a glass of milk. Help her set up the milk in the fridge before she goes to bed, in a cup with a lid in the fridge.

She may very well have other acceptable ideas; listen to them, veto any that don’t work for you or other people in the household, and let her choose. I would not accept “watch TV”, for example. Even if she uses headphones, I personally find that I stay up longer if there’s a TV on; even if my body is tired, my sleep is adversely affected by TV. That’s true for most of us, so watching TV has never been an acceptable plan for my kids when they can’t sleep. It’s just too stimulating.

Giving her the power to make her own plan and set up her own midnight nest may be all she needs to calm down enough to sleep through the night. Or she may need to implement her plan, but that’s also empowering, and gives her a sense of accomplishment because she’s taking care of herself and her own problem.

When she feels sleepy, she cleans up, and goes back to bed. If all goes well, you’ll sleep right through it.

  1. Is she getting enough fresh air and exercise during the day? Often in the winter, we don’t. If you’re not physically tired, it can be difficult to fall asleep. If this is an issue, sign her up for some classes (ballet, taekwondo, swimming) to help her body tire itself.

  2. She’s probably getting more sleep than she realizes. If she’s acting normal during the day (e.g. not walking into walls or falling asleep over her dinner) then I’d assume she’s getting enough rest.

  3. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it by crawling into bed with her or letting her sleep with you. If she comes in crying, assure her that it’s okay to not sleep all night. Tell her that it’s perfectly normal to go through phases of no sleep, and assure her that if her body really needed sleep, it would. Tell her that as long as she’s resting, that’s good enough.

  4. If it continues, take her in to see the doctor and rule out any physical causes. But I’d ask him not to talk about it in front of her, because she’s already anxious about it.

Good luck!

This is what we did. Our kids went in and out of co-sleeping phases and it really wasn’t an issue at all.

Things that helped: no TV, video games, movies, computers etc on school nights. No sodas. Both were too stimulating. Bedtimes at age 6 was around 8:00 (after a bath, snack and story). They read quietly themselves until 8:30 and lights out. 10 seems late for a 6 year old, but each child is different. But I found if my kids were overtired at bedtime they didn’t sleep as well. My son was, and remains, a terrible sleeper, but this helped.

One last item, during fifth grade my sons sleep became really terrible. He was a wreck in the morning and disengaged in school. After a few weeks we went to the doctor and it turned out he had a very bad case of Lyme disease, which made his joints ache. A month on antibiotics and he was back to his usual self. This happened after Thanksgiving and into December. If things don’t improve you might want to check with a pediatrician. It’s probably not Lyme, but could be something else- pinworms, a UTI, etc.

I think step one is to stop punishing or rewarding over this. It reminds me of my sons eating issues, as in he wouldnt eat meals when we’re having meals. The arguments got frequent enough that he started getting upset when he heard it was lunchtime.

now, your daughter wakes up and is stressed and scared over being punished, that isn’t going to get her sleeping again. I think you need to accept that she is going to wake you up for a while, and set up your situation to minimize the effect on your life. It’s right to try and get her back to bed on her own, but when it doesn’t work, you are just making her miserable, so you have to change tactics.

Personally, I’d ditch the rewards chart. It implies that she’s doing something wrong by waking up, when she doesn’t have any control over that. That’s got to add to the stress of the whole thing for her.

I also wouldn’t blame yourself. I know the temptation, but not everything the kid does is about you. Blaming yourself is a waste of energy you really don’t have to spare, and the kid will pick up on it and be even more stressed.

I’d make sure she’s getting enough exercise during the day, like PunditLisa said. Apart from that, I’d focus not on altering her sleep pattern, but on helping her find ways to work with it that don’t disturb the rest of the family. My four-year-old recently learned how to read properly and is all into books, so if it were her I’d put a reading lamp and a stack of books by her bed, and explain that if she wakes up she can have a nice cosy read till she’s ready to go back to sleep. (She actually used to wake up about an hour after she went to sleep, talk to herself for up to an hour, and then fall asleep again. She outgrew it.) Whatever your daughter’s equivalent is - her go-to peaceful activity - I’d work with that.

The big thing, for me, would be to make sure I didn’t present this as something terrible that she’s doing, or something terrible that I’d done, or something terrible that’s happening to her. Nobody’s doing anything awful here. It’s a pain-in-the-bum phase, it’ll pass, and the job for the two of you is to find a way to ride it out as painlessly as possible.

I like Why Not’s list of things to do. You may also want to read up on segmented sleep just to have some basis for telling her that she isn’t broken or a bad person for waking up at night, some people just do.

You might also want to rethink your own sleep schedule. When my daughter was born my husband and I slept in shifts, him from 8pm-2am and me from 2am-7am. Neither of us got a full eight hours but we both got enough sleep to be functional. If you have the ability you might go to bed earlier so when you wake up at 2am you’ve had 5 hours of sleep or wait it out and go to sleep when she does for round 2 and sleep from 3am onward. Hopefully this will be temporary for her, but if you can adjust your own sleep schedule for a short while it might make this a much less unpleasant experience for you both.

She wakes up about the same time each night? Then you have the option of pre-emptive waking. In that you go in about 15 minutes or so before she typically is waking uo and wake her up. She is at a different sleep phase and will fall back asleep quickly. In this case you could possibly just break the cycle for a week or two and then be okay.

Another alternative is to have a little sleeping bag under your bed and establishing that she can come in, pull the bag out and sleep on your floor any time so long as she does not wake you up. If she does then she is walked back to her room. As a parent it is only a sleep problem if it disturbs my sleep. Often after a week of doing that it will fall off and you find her there anymore. If not it is at least no big deal if she sometimes is.

I assume you’ve asked if she is waking up afraid of anything in particular or having a nightmare. If so there are some other approaches, basically giving her the tools to deal with what her imagination was able to create (such as a spray bottle of monster repellant with a little lavender oil it and explaining how well imaginary monster repellant works for imaginary monsters … so on.)

One bit with WhyNot’s list if you go that route is to have her convinced that is okay if she does not fall back to sleep right away and to not try to force it but every 10 to 15 minutes of quiet play go back into bed and to try again for no more than 10 minutes. If she does not fall asleep it means she does not need to and go back and quiet play again. This requires her being good at reading the clock however and not all 6 year olds are yet.

It might be worth it to take her to the pediatrician to rule out any physical causes. If it had been only a few days I would guess that it was a low grade ear infection, but it sounds like its been a while which may rule it out. The times when my five year old has started doing this consistently have usually been due to ear infections. However, my son has been a pretty solid sleeper. Once or twice a month, however, he wakes up in the middle of the night and comes to crawl into our bed, which startles me awake.

I don’t think that punishment or rewards really applies, and it may be making her more anxious, and thus likely to wake up.