4.5 yr old wakes scared at night - ideas of tactics?

(10 Posts)
CPBsMum Wed 06-Jan-16 23:24:44

Our 4.5 yr old wakes at night scared. This has been going on for about 8 months to some degree but got really bad a few months ago, was OK over Christmas but got bad again in the last few days. Sometimes she can't go back to sleep because she is scared for hours. I can manage when once a night but when 3 or 4 times it's obviously too much. She is a bright and imaginative but slightly anxious child (won't watch Disney films "in case there's something scary") but no health problems or anything to cause anxiety at home or school. The issue got particularly bad when they had a "dragon" visit the playground at school (teachers pretended a friendly dragon came an laid an egg)- she was really excited about it during the day but terrified at night, despite reassurances that it was good and couldn't come to her house anyway and eventually I just told her the truth (made up by teachers) but she didn't believe me!
We have tried everything we can think of - light outside room left on, lying in her bed till she goes to sleep (bad as she wakes and we're gone and it doesn't solve anything), reward charts, chocolate button in morning if slept through, reassurance from next room, going in, sitting on her bed, standing by her bed and reassuring and then leaving (= screaming which can't have as her bed is on the neighbours side). I have tried to understand what is scaring her - sometimes it is "monsters", sometimes hippos or foxes but I get the impression it is more a general fear. No reassurance will help. Suggested a monster spray or a toy to protect her but she says no.
She's not too bad going to sleep - the checking on her in 5 mins tactic sorted that out when that was an issue so I'm wondering if anyone has any tactics that worked for them?
Ideas please anyone?
Thanks in advance.

AliensInUnderpants12 Wed 06-Jan-16 23:57:37

It might not help at all but I can remember having very vivid nightmares as a child and my mum used to give me a cuddle and a drink and then used to get me to sleep at the opposite end of the bed by moving my pillow up to the other end. For some reason it really helped me to go back to sleep. Might be worth a try?

Hopefully someone else will have some other suggestions too smile

CPBsMum Fri 08-Jan-16 14:38:59

Thanks Aliens. I'll give it a go. Good way to break a cycle I guess!

Mynd Sat 09-Jan-16 21:30:03

My daughter is 4 and has had night terrors and nightmares since age 2. I've tried loads of things but what's working well right now is a clear wine bottle filled with purple, blue and white mini fairy lights on a battery. I told her it's Elsa's magic protecting her (she's 4 and loves the film) and it really has made her relax. Is there anything similar you could try?

Believeitornot Sat 09-Jan-16 21:32:37

I sleep in with mine - we have a bed set up especially in their room. Gradually they slept through and we got back to our own bed.
I had awful nightmares as a kid - was very anxious and wild imagination.
My ds seems a bit similar - he needs good physical exercise and funnily enough if he gets too hot at night he has nightmares. So we keep his room very cool and make sure he doesn't have thick pyjamas on.

Twistedheartache Sat 09-Jan-16 21:34:31

We got then 3yo dd's biggest cuddly toy to act as a lookout
More recently I got some worry dolls from Amazon which shouted precisely once
I do let her sleep with the light on if she asks or did til I bought her a touch contact lamp or even at times let her sleep in my bed

Twistedheartache Sat 09-Jan-16 21:35:11

* she used not shouted ffs

moosemama Sat 09-Jan-16 21:49:57

My dd, now 6 - blimey no, actually, 7 this week - has been through periods where she would wake several times a night saying she was scared.

I bought her a rose quartz angel off Ebay that she keeps under her pillow so she can hold it if she's worried and also a dreamcatcher to hang above her bed. Those seemed to help with the general anxiety.

We're not religious, but dd goes to a C of E school and believes, so we use this book which has a repetitive prayer/mantra to say before you go to sleep. This has helped all three of my dcs at different times, as it becomes part of the bedtime routine and helps them relax and feel safe.

As I said, we're not religious, but as dd attends a school that is strongly religious and therefore currently believes herself, we're happy for her to feel safe and protected by the things she already has belief in.

moosemama Sat 09-Jan-16 22:01:38

Sorry, meant to say. She also keeps a small children's torch next to her pillow that she can switch on if she needs to, although her room isn't dark because we leave the landing light on.

Dd is definitely worse during term time, when there's such a lot to think about/deal with at school - and she's similar in that she only started watching Disney films last year because she was worried about 'the baddies' in them. I think their general anxiety levels go up and then it all comes out in their subconscious when they're asleep, hence it not really making any sense.

Another thing that might work is for her to listen to a children's guided meditation as she's going to sleep. I know of a few children whose sleep has improved with these, as they tend to go to sleep more relaxed and sleep more deeply as a result. There are quite a few on Amazon like this one but you could try searching for one that specifically targets anxiety - I am reliably informed that this one is very good.

CPBsMum Mon 11-Jan-16 16:51:52

Thanks very much for the suggestions! We will give them a go! She has had a torch she never uses and has a night light that she just needs to touch to turn on but never does in the night. She also has the CD and although it helped a bit in the beginning it doesn't really work consistently.

Thank you all for your ideas though - really appreciate it!

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