6 year old (not)-sleeping issues

(16 Posts)
Sukebind Fri 10-Jan-14 13:22:23

Hi - Sorry this is so long but felt I ought to give full background.
My 6 yr old DD has a lot of trouble getting to sleep. She can fairly often be awake at 11pm or later even on a school night. She usually has plenty of exercise during the day, aside from whatever they do at school, and we have a stable bedtime routine. It doesn't seem to be affected by what she eats.
She finds it hard to 'turn off' from the day - this sleep issue started in Year 1 (she is Yr 2 now) - and also to calm her mind down. She suffers from a lot of worry about the dark, monsters and also fires. She knows monsters aren't real but says she can't stop thinking about them. I allow her about 15 mins of reading time with the light on and then I turn off the main light but she has a Gro-Bag thingy on the main light bulb which creates a sort of half-light; she also has a night light and the door open onto the landing where the main light is on.
All she wants to do is read and read because she says if she stops and is left with her own thoughts (I have suggested she makes up stories in her head as a way of drifting off) then the fears become too great. She also worries about school, e.g. she was concerned over the holidays because she knew she would be starting to get literacy HW next term. This is particularly concerning for her because she finds it hard to get work done as she worries about making mistakes and so just doesn't put anything much down. She also gets very worked up by stuff e.g. yesterday she was crying when my mum collected her from school because she couldn't get her origami right and she couldn't find her DOB on a timeline they had been asked to take home and fit their family's DOBs onto.
So she will lie in bed miserably for hours but will also sometimes come downstairs and complain about it and say she is lonely and scared and needs company. If I ever let her cuddle up to me at this stage she falls asleep very quickly.
I took her to the GP who suggested putting her to bed at 9pm rather than earlier and then staying upstairs nearby but this hasn't been particularly effective and was very difficult because my DH doesn't get in until well after 8pm and I then need to do our dinners and we need a little time together of an evening.
Does anyone have any other suggestions, please?

GetUpEarly Mon 13-Jan-14 01:18:29

Sukebind
I'm sorry to hear of your issues. My 6yo DD sounds a little bit similar to yours. Going to bed was a nightmare. However, it has recently got better as I knew that she wanted to get her ears pierced so I started a reward chart and that helped. Is there something your DD really wants?
I also used to put my DD to bed a bit later then lie on her floor listening to a DVD so she wasn't allowed to talk to me but I was there nearby. I think putting her to bed later may help - maybe try it for a week (and make dinners in advance or get DH to cook?). Hopefully it won't last forever and you'll get your evenings back.
Maybe also discuss her concerns with her during the day to see why she's worried about school?
I do sympathise - I'm currently up at 1am as I'm having issues with my 4yo DD waking!
Good luck!

Sukebind Mon 13-Jan-14 09:30:44

Thanks for your advice! I spoke to Youngminds after I posted on Fri and they also suggested I speak to AnxietyUK, which I did. I feel like we have tried all the usual stuff suggested on the net and in books, e.g. listening to CDs, rewards and so on. She does want to go to sleep and I feel offering rewards at this stage is going to make her more anxious about not being able to get to sleep. On the advice of the helplines I spoke to, I am going to see how she does this next week, especially as this is the first full week of term, and then possibly take her back to the GP the week after if there is no improvement. Thanks again for your help - I hope you manage to sort your 4 yr old's waking issues. My 4 yr old DD also wakes virtually every night but compared with the elder ones's issues I feel it's not so terrible at the moment!

Cherryblossom11 Mon 13-Jan-14 09:49:38

My 7 yr old DD has had monsters/scared/worried issues at bedtime on and off since about yr1 also. One thing we do that sometimes works is a bit of visualisation to get rid of the monsters - sounds a bit 'woo' I know, but bear with me!

We start by both imagining a box. We talk about the size, colour and type of lid it has. Then we say that we are going to put the monster inside it. We put the lid on tight , and I ask her what she imagines she's securing the lid with (eg ribbon, what colour? Or Sellotape etc etc)

Then we imagine walking with the box to a very heavy, tall metal door, open it up to see lots and lots of shelves (in my head it looks like the last scene of raiders of the lost arc, don't know what she imagines of course) I ask her where she would like to place the box; top middle or bottom. Then we put it down, walk out of the door, and shut it with a loud clang. We do all this in a very calm, quiet way.

This really does work sometimes to calm her thoughts- I wouldn't for a second suggest it works every single time, but might be worth a try?

Sukebind Mon 13-Jan-14 10:13:28

Thanks, Cherryblossom. I will give it a go. I have read about making a literal box and putting in worries but your idea sounds good. I will give it a go!

My DD (6) can be similar. It helps that she sleeps in the same room as her brother so she has company. Also, she has her rituals which help her sleep - so she always wears bed socks, and keeps her feet out of the bed; she has a teddy who sleeps at her back, and another couple who she cuddles etc. We did consider trying to wean her off these, but they seem fairly harmless, and she was genuinely distressed before we came up with these things.

One thing we did for the 'bad dreams' is that my friend made a Christmas decoration which looks like a dream catcher (it's a gold hoop with sparkly thread across it in a random pattern), and we let her put that at the top of her bed.

Also, we did have a reward chat for her when it was especially bad, and she found that quite positive, and liked putting the stickers on. It was larger than just sleeping - so we included brushing teeth etc. on the chart, and that meant even on a bad night she always got some stickers to put on.

Overall, it seems that feeling like she has done things to be in control of her situation has helped her.

Sukebind Mon 13-Jan-14 11:05:22

Thanks Chrysanthemum. Yes, I think it's a balance between her regaining some control over the situation (feeling her fears and worries don't control her and take over) and also ensuring she knows she has support from outside. She said this morning that worries have to be dealt with my the person on their own so I told her that's true to some extent but sometimes you need some help and guidance to know how to deal with them. I will try to help her using some of the ideas that have been posted because I would like to avoid the GP if possible as I feel it makes her feel there is something 'wrong' with her.

Beamur Mon 13-Jan-14 11:11:21

You have my sympathy. My DD is also going through a phase (also 6) of struggling to drop off. She has a very active imagination and whilst she's not commented on monsters etc, I suspect her mind is too busy sometimes to let her sleep.
I usually pop up and see her about an hour or so after she's been put to bed and mostly she is asleep, but if not, I actually get her up out of bed for a while, take her downstairs or into my room, have a snuggle, a quiet read for 15 minutes then put her back into her own room. I guess it's what I do for myself when I can't sleep - I would go downstairs, make a drink and then read for a while until I felt tired. I try not to make the out of bed time too rewarding though, I won't allow games or much chat, but she does get some company.

Sukebind Mon 13-Jan-14 15:39:44

Hi Beamur, Thanks, yes I have been leaning towards the letting her stay down with us for a few mins if she does come downstairs to say she can't sleep. A lot of the website etc. talk about not-rewarding her for being awake but I can't help feeling that's not hugely applicable here. She wants to be asleep and is genuinely miserable about not being. Anyway, she has come out of school talking about a worry box so will try that tonight as she seems keen and she suggested it herself.

Beamur Mon 13-Jan-14 19:10:32

Sukebind - I know what you mean, but I don't think my DD is forcing herself to stay awake in order to have 15 minutes of attention. It's not that rewarding, but I think it does help to soothe her, makes her feel less alone at night-time and helps her be in a calm frame of mind to try again.
If you do decide to let her get up, I'd suggest you keep any time up very low key, maybe have a snack and a cuddle, quick reassuring chat and then try back to bed.

Sukebind Tue 14-Jan-14 09:20:47

Yes, that's what I had in mind. In fact, last night she didn't get up but was very low. She said she wanted to pretend that she didn't even exist which was hard to hear. We tried the putting worries in a box in your mind thing and that seemed to calm her down and she was asleep before 10.30 which is an improvement! She still wants to make a worries box so will look out for one today - seem to have used up all our old boxes over Christmas!
Thanks again everyone for all your help.

Cherryblossom11 Tue 14-Jan-14 12:06:44

Pleased the imaginary box worked even a little bit; definitely worth trying a real box, that might suit get better still. It must have been really hard to hear her so down.
Really hope things improve for her soon x

Cherryblossom11 Tue 14-Jan-14 12:07:18

Suit 'her' not suit 'get'

Sukebind Tue 14-Jan-14 12:15:36

Thanks Cherryblossom!

Beamur Tue 14-Jan-14 16:36:16

I suddenly remembered about worry dolls earlier today! Your little girl has a problem that has been troubling small children in many countries for many years. You can make/buy 'worry dolls' to tell your woes to, tuck them under your pillow while you sleep and they will take care of the worry for you. Would this work do you think for your DD?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worry_doll
www.ebay.co.uk/bhp/worry-dolls
pageturneradventures.com/2012/02/let-worry-dolls-take-your-troubles-away/

Sukebind Tue 14-Jan-14 21:38:41

Hi Beamur,
Thanks for the idea. She did mention them yesterday as apparently a girl in her class brought one in to show and tell. We discussed it but in the end she thought the box was more her thing. I will definately keep them in mind though, thank you. Have let her stay up til 9pm as she was quietly playing and reading upstairs. She had a school trip today so I am hoping the combination of the two will mean she drops off soon!

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