5 year old dd won't sleep alone

(5 Posts)
moochy1 Mon 28-Mar-16 02:22:56

Dd is 5 and has naturally always been v high needs since she was a baby, like the Duracell bunny on an emotional roller coaster non stop all day and v clingy, but I could cope with it (I'm a sahm but due to health issues), because her sleeping was always so good, 12-13 hours solid all night.

Over the last year since she was 4 and started school her sleep has deteriorated, it started with not wanting to go to bed, then getting out of bed multiple times a night, totally normal at that age we thought, but then moving on to being terrified of sleeping on her own, so because she gets herself in such a state that she is sick from crying, we let her come in with us when she woke in the night. This then progressd to wanting to go to bed in our room from the outset when it's her bedtime, and now she is terrified of being on her own even in our room during the evening for the few hours we're downstairs before we come to bed.

She's an only child and I can't help thinking if she had a sibling to sleep in with she'd be ok, but then not every only child has a phobia about sleeping on their own, do they?!

Nobody is getting a decent night sleep, the GP wasn't much help and just gave us a bottle of travel sickness syrup as a sedative to "re-set" her sleeping which we weren't comfortable using. We've tried all the usual gentle approaches, and when we've got short with her or taken her back to bed she has gotten herself in an hysterical state. I'm baffled about why this started when she'd been the complete opposite for 4 years and such a good sleeper who loved her bed, does anyone have any suggestions of things we can try? The GP said there's nothing they can offer us as a service to help, I thought there might be a sleep clinic or play therapy to get to the cause of it or something?? Please help!

MattDillonsPants Mon 28-Mar-16 02:36:22

Both my DDs had this. The eldest is now 11 and grew out of it at about 7 and my youngest is now 8 and has just grown out of it.

I just kept allowing her to go to bed in our bed....luckily DH and I agreed with this approach...we figured that she was still small, needed us and that was fine.

I know this is not for everyone though.You could consider making her bed really atractive with maybe some net curtain type things....glam it up a bit...and get her a small tank with goldfish in it...and lights so that she can watch them while she's in bed in the dark.

stilllovingmysleep Mon 28-Mar-16 08:24:38

Personally I would really prioritise finding a way to get her back to her bed as I don't think it's good for her to be there with you but also definitely not good for you as a couple, as both she and the two of you don't have your separate spaces. So I would try, if it were me, to work with my DH on a gradual plan to get her back to her bed, that's one thing, and there are various ways to do it.

However, you say she's always been clingy and worries about separation so do you think that starting school and leaving you behind at home worried her intensely, to the point of regressing and wanting the two of you super-close to her at night? It seem as if something happened (in her mind / in terms of her fears) when starting school, she probably got increased separation anxiety which does happen at that age. I think the problem probably got worse because of you allowing her to come to your bed at that point--I think once parents do that then children just continue wanting to come to parents' bed, it's only natural. This is not a criticism of you by the way, just what I think happened. So it may well be that she's not any more that worried about school but still has the habit / satisfaction of coming to your bed.

That's why I think the 2 things need to be separated out: 1) to attend to her separation anxiety (if it still is there) and clinginess by lots of special time, discussions, reassurance & trying to understand her point of view but 2) work firmly on a plan of getting her back to her own bed.

corythatwas Mon 28-Mar-16 12:31:59

I was going to say the opposite to stillovingmysleep and suggest that coming into your bed at night isn't necessarily that big a deal as long as you can get her to fall asleep into her own bed first (allowing yourself and your dh some privacy).

Both ours did it and they grew out of it. I did it as a child and so did my brothers; we have all managed to establish proper grown-up sleeping patterns. I thought it was a cultural thing at first (grew up in European country where they appear less worried by this), but dh tells me he and his brother did the same in the 60s in this country.

If you can't get a good night's sleep with dd coming in, is it because she fidgets/kicks/makes a noise? Or is it because you feel bad about it?

stilllovingmysleep Tue 29-Mar-16 09:45:58

I know that many parents swear by co-sleeping. However, there are many arguments to be made against co-sleeping when it comes to older children. For a child like the OP's who has separation anxiety & clinginess, I think that by implying (by allowing DD to sleep with you) that she can't manage eventually--with mum and dad's help initially--to sleep on her own, in her own bed & her own room, the message is that she can't really manage to self-soothe and that her own bed & own personal space is not a safe one. Also, it's giving the message that the couple relationship between parents and their own personal space--their bed--is open for children to use as they wish, in which case the difference between generations isn't really respected or understood. I think this doesn't help children.

All this is again not a criticism: our own DS also slept with us on & off in the first couple of years due to tiredness & sleeplessness. I just think it's a really valuable skill if the OP's DD manages to trust her own bed & space again. She will eventually feel so proud of herself for managing that. And her parents can help her to do that step by step, it doesn't have to be done in a cruel, abrupt way.

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