Help--- 7 year old girl, complete personality change at bed time. Can not sleep...

Al - posted on 02/11/2014 ( 2 moms have responded )




my daughter has been such a good girl at bed time but for the last 3 weeks life has become hell. Literally after 5 minutes she cries saying she can not get to sleep.We start with reassuring her, suggesting she reads a little. She will read 1 page then scream that it is not working. I have put soothing music on for her, again does not help. This goes on for up to 3/4 hours, by which time we are all very frustrated and she has worked her self in to a real state. She get's really hot so strips off, start's banging about, screams for me to not shut her door ( 3 year old brother next door always gets woken). I feel that I am not a good mum as I can not settle and comfort her. She just wares her self out eventually and falls asleep. The problem being that this is not until 11- mid night. I am very concerned as she is obviously so tired for school. She is also sleep walking maybe once every 2 weeks. I have spoken to her about school and home life to see if anything is worrying her but she is saying nothing is upsetting or worrying her.
Any advise would be greatly received.

Thank you a desperate mum...


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Al - posted on 02/11/2014




Rebekah, thank you so much for your thought's and advise.

It is now 8.30pm, I am hoping for a better night and will definitely implement your idea's.

Everything is crossed..

Rebekah - posted on 02/11/2014




Any chance she saw something scary on TV or movies that might be bothering her? Do you limit what she sees and the timing of it? (Any "screens" should be turned off at least an hour before bedtime, as it tends to activate the brain. And in this case, I'd turn screens off well before that, just to be sure.)

Is she afraid of the dark? Does she have nightlights in the room to minimize that potential problem?

Did she have a bad experience from sleepwalking (did she get hurt, or frightened when awakened) that she is afraid of falling asleep and doing it again?

Sometimes kids can't always articulate what it is that is bothering them, so I'd do some extra checking just to be sure... contact the teacher and see if she/he sees any problems there, academically or socially (any bullying?).

If there are no other clear emotional issues that need to be dealt with, then all you can do is approach it behaviorally. Set a clear, soothing routine for her at bedtime (she should be part of this planning, too). Whether its a bath, or stories, or choosing the next day's clothes, whatever. Keep using different tools with her, such as soothing music (or my son loves nature sounds!). Try different quiet music that she likes, or try it for longer. Even if it "doesn't work" for one night (or doesn't work in the first 5 minutes), doesn't mean it won't work another time.

There was a time when my son had some trouble with this (he's now 8), and we allowed him to read by flashlight (since the darkened room also helps the body produce melatonin, which sets the stage for sleep) until he was so tired he fell asleep. I've also had him use other things to distract his mind so he isn't so focused on "I'm not asleep yet and I'm so frustrated!!" I would sit with him (in the dark) and we'd start a story together (obviously nothing scary or violent, etc). Then I would leave the room and he would continue to make up the story on his own, tell it to his stuffed animals, and that would get him off to sleep. Other mental distractions are to count backwards (by 2's, or in other patterns if needed) from a high number, or to do progressive muscle relaxation, or to think of an animal or food for every letter of the alphabet, etc. Somehow those thoughts can work to distract from the frustration and allow relaxation to happen. Its important to get her emotional level down so that she can fall asleep.

I found that its actually parallel to the baby stage when they had to learn to soothe themselves. I don't know how you sleep-trained your children when they were little, but you could follow a model that some parents use, of allowing her time by herself in her room (reading, or whatever quiet thing), and setting a timer and checking on her every 5 or 10 minutes. Assure her that you will keep checking, but she is not to come seek you out in between (and she is not to get loud and disturb her brother). A lot of her behaviors sound like she is trying to keep you in the room, so that time alone in her room will help her work on being alone and being calm, soothing herself during those times. As she gets better at it, stretch the check-in times to every 10-15 minutes. Offer lots of praise for the times when she is able to remain quiet/calm, and for the nights when she is more successful falling asleep at a decent time.

Another thing that might work is to sit her down and explain that rest is very important, since she is growing and learning so much right now; and because she is not getting to sleep on time, she will need to take a quiet-rest time or nap time after school when she gets home. She may not play during this time, (and she may not even fall asleep) but she needs to get caught up on her rest. *Hopefully, if this occurs when she'd rather be playing, it may enlist more cooperation from her at night so that she can avoid this. Don't frame this "nap" as a punishment... but simply point out that she needs to take good care of her body, and if she isn't getting enough sleep at night, it needs to happen somewhere else. This can happen each time that she is up too late at night. Again, I'm not promoting returning to a nap-schedule, but its a tactic to try to get her to cooperate more at bedtime with trying to settle herself.

And finally... don't be so hard on yourself. We ALL get situations that can be difficult. That's why we help each other. You are doing the best you can. This is likely a phase that she is going through, and just needs some extra guidance from you. :)

Sorry for the long post. Guess I had a lot of thoughts on the subject. Good luck!

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