Question about sleep issues (OT)

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Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
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Question about sleep issues (OT)

We're having a horrible time getting DS (4 1/2) to sleep at night. First off, he hates going to bed, but loves to read books so he'll lay down just for that. But when it comes to going to sleep, it's a horrible battle.

He refuses to sleep in his own bed anymore, is terrified of the dark to the point where he wants a lamp on even if he's laying between DH and I in our bedroom, and insists that I lay with him after books. If I get up and leave and attempt to let him cry it out, he'll cry my name and scream for over an hour. And then later on he acts like he's been pyschologically traumatized. It's maddening!!

We just had some bloodwork done at doctor for chronic fatigue, achiness, and some other weird symptoms he's been experiencing (the fatigue is obviously likely due to the fact that he isn't getting enough sleep at night!!), and all that was normal including his thyroid which I've read can cause some sleep disturbances/insomnia.

We've tried nightlights, going to bed at the same time, cutting out stimulating activites/TV, letting him CIO, sitting w/ him in his room then moving a little further out over subsequent nights, reading books about little boys confronting their nightime fears, etc but nothing seems to work. It's like I have a newborn all over again, except this kid has staying power. He's incredibly stubborn.

My next plan is to set up a chart on his wall w/ a reward system and essentially bribe him with something he really wants to get. Just have to figure out what his big currency is at this point! Also, we're going to try to engage him in redoing his bedroom. We've done some things like getting him superhero sheets, etc, but we're talking full out repainting with a color he chooses, a theme, etc.

Have any of your older LOs had issues with this and what did you wind up doing? What worked and what didn't?


kirsteng's picture
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: 10/19/02
Posts: 644

Sorry you're having problems with this Kirsten, I know how incredibly frustrating sleep issues can be. :bighug:

While my first son Kieren has definitely been our problem sleeper of the bunch, it wasn't to the level you're describing. He just hated sleeping, avoided naps and going to bed at night, and would use sleep as a control issue.

When you said that he was incredibly stubborn, it got me wondering whether his issues are actually night fears, or a power struggle with you over sleep. Does he struggle for control over other things, or do you think this is legitimately a fear thing?

If it's a fear thing, I'd be tempted to let him stay with you (maybe move his bed into your room for awhile?? so that he's in his own bed, but close to you and DH too..) until he gets over this phase. It must not be fun to be him if he's spending his nights cowering in his bed, poor guy.. Sad

But if it's a power struggle, you somehow have to give him back control of his bedtime so that it becomes HIS choice. You can't make a child sleep - geez, I learned that the hard way. Maybe not have a set bedtime for awhile, but let him know that he's big enough now to decide for himself when he's tired, when he's ready for booktime, when he's ready to close his eyes. He'll probably push it for the first little while, testing the limits of what you'll let him get away with, but after awhile if you just support his 'decisions' on when to go to sleep, he'll likely give it up and adopt a regular bedtime.

GL and kup on what you decide to do.. I don't envy you - it's such a tough thing to deal with! ((hugs))

Last seen: 4 years 7 months ago
Joined: 01/11/05
Posts: 326

I am sorry Kirsten. I don't have the magic answer. I like the other Kirsten's idea of trying to figure out if this is a power battle or a true phobia. If it is a power battle, you are going to lose (just like fighting the potty battle). I also like the other Kirsten's idea of letting him decide when he wants to go to bed. It's a long term solution, not a quick fix. But, I think it's the way I'd go. Anything has to be better than fighting with him every night.


AK2663's picture
Last seen: 4 years 3 months ago
Joined: 09/03/08
Posts: 710

I don't know much of what to tell you as I don't have any experience with older children like him yet....but it does sound like you have a place to start with advice so I hope he is able to get some sleep and you too!

Last seen: 1 year 4 months ago
Joined: 06/10/07
Posts: 1692

Keep us posted on how things are going, Kirsten. No advice here as I've not btdt just offering support.

fudd8963's picture
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: 12/27/07
Posts: 1630

Good luck. I can't imagine how difficult this has to make every night for you.

When my sister was younger, she had a TERRIBLE time at night. It all stemed from a fear she developed on a 1st grade school trip to the fire station. She STILL is scared of her own shadow... and she's 33. She would NOT sleep in our room (we shared a room at the time). I am 2 years younger and she would leave me all alone and go sleep in my parent's room. It got to the point where they took her to a physciologist. The Dr. said they were doing to right thing... to let her sleep in their room, but NOT with them. She slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. I can't remember how long it lasted for, but I think a pretty long time. She still checks all of the doors and windows in her house every time she gets up in the middle of the night, and she has a TINY bladder that got damaged during labor, so that's at least 3-4 times a night. She hates staying at my house because we have a two story house and every time she gets up she has to check all the doors and windown on BOTH floors... eventhough the alarm is set and the motion detectors would go off if anyone was in the house.

I guess where I am trying to go with this is if it a true fear, I like Kirsten's idea of putting his bed or a sleeping bag on the floor for him to sleep on. That way he is near you, but not WITH you. KWIM?

Good luck!

boilermaker's picture
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 08/21/02
Posts: 1984

We pretty much always have a blanket on the floor at the foot of our bed.....for any kid who wakes up scared. Our rule is, it is okay to be scared, but if you are, do NOT wake up mommy and daddy, just move your pillow and blanket to our floor and sleep there. I never know who I'll find in our room in the morning. Wink

Our son, Miles, refuses to go to sleep in his own room. Ever since we shared a bedroom with him last year (we were renting a 2 bedroom condo while we built our house) he is "scared" to go to sleep in his room (even though he shares that room with is big sister...oy!) So each night he goes to sleep in the hallway on our main floor and when we go to bed we just take him up to his. We tried fighting it a bit, but in the end, it wasn't worth it. So he crashes there and we move him. I figure he'll (eventually) grow out of it...but it is taking longer than I it will be a year in October.

Each of our kids has gone through periods of being scared. Right now our three bigs are all having times of fear stemming from an incident with our camper (someone threw a pipe in the back window of it and broke into it and stole stuff. Mind you, we weren't in it and it was in storage, but the kids were with Trey when he discovered it and it has scared them thinking someone could do that at our house....gah!) Last night, by choice, even our oldest decided to sleep with her brother and sister. So we have a five bedroom house and three of our kids CHOOSE to sleep together in the same room....who knows?

Good luck! I hope you find a solution. Sleep issues can be maddening.

kirsteng's picture
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: 10/19/02
Posts: 644

How are things going Kirsten? Any better??