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9 year old suddenly won't sleep in his own room!

(17 Posts)
mumindemand Mon 24-Jan-11 13:59:58

My 9year old son has taken to not allowing himself to fall asleep in his own bedroom even though for the past 8 years we have never had a problem. He says he is scared to go to sleep and gets upset about 'maybe' waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep. He says he is scared eventhough he shares with his 11 year old brother and has the light on. He is still awake when we go to bed and sobs when I say he can't come in our room and also physically shakes. We have recently allowed him to sleep on a mattress in our room where he is more than happy to fall asleep. This has been going on for around a month and shows no signs of improving. We have tried being understanding and supportive and also tried being tough too but it's not working, he is even happy to have 1 months worth of no clubs and no sports to let us let him sleep with us. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

Doowrah Fri 28-Jan-11 20:58:51

What is it that he is scared of?

Chil1234 Sat 29-Jan-11 10:52:19

My guess is that he's scared of feeling scared now. It's a 'phobia' reaction... can start with something genuine but then the anxiety stretches to more irrational things until finally you're upset about 'maybe'... things that haven't even happened.

Is the room full of 'stuff' and could these things be emptied out, even temporarily? As someone that has suffered nightmares their whole life, I find that ordinary objects in half-lit rooms can take on frightening forms when you're semi-awake. The dressing gown hung on the back of the door looks like a person, for example. The slippers on the floor look like rats.

Once the room is more bare, there is less for the imagination to work on. Then you could try quietly sitting with him as he goes to sleep in his own bed. I'd also recommend talking to your GP. There are mild sedative preparations that are suitable for children that age... If he's happier that he'll stay asleep, the fear may recede.

Chil1234 Sat 29-Jan-11 10:56:14

I should add to the above that stress often makes sleep problems worse. There's the stress of night after night of bad quality sleep. There's also the stress of other things in life. Could there be something in your 9 yo's life that is causing him anxiety?

mrstoady Sun 27-Feb-11 22:35:22

This is my story as posted previously on another thread.

Hope it helps
I have experienced for years a similar problem with my 8 year old son who is still terrified of being kidnapped after the Maddy Mccann situation. Prior to this he was always a good sleeper. Since then I have tried everything to get him to sleep through the night without waking us and to go to bed without us going up every 5 minutes. For many months he would not even be downstairs on his own either. The amount and length of disturbances would vary depending on the level of fear at the time.

This is what has worked for us:

Star charts did sometimes but sometimes the fear would be greater.

A bed in your or a siblings room does work but after a few months we realised this would be a long term thing and not good for him or us in the long run. To be honest he would still do this now if given the chance. I wouldn't recommend starting this up or sleeping in your bed. It is a hard habit to break.

A worry book in which he could write down his fears and then close up to take them away. He still uses this tactic but again it is not effective all the time.

We realised that the more we shouted and told him to go to sleep or showed our frustration with him in any way whatsoever, made the situation 10 times worse and was guaranteed to make it a lot harder and a longer night for us.

We always put him into bed and always refused to stay with him for any length of time. We always promised that we would go back in within 5 minutes whether this was bedtime or the middle of the night. Sometimes we would only go in a couple of times sometimes more but he had to trust us that this would happen and showing our frustration would mean it would go on far longer. Talking was kept to a minimum and fears discussed in daylight.

We eventually discovered (and this was the secret to virtually solving everything) Why oh why did I not see the link before! It would have saved us years of sleepless nights.

A vicious circle emerges.
He is tired and therefore worries more which wakes him up several times through the night. He therefore is even more tired which exacerbates the problem and so on.

Now I have realised this, I can break the cycle immediately it starts up by sending him to bed earlier (daughter has to pretend to go to bed at same time and then come down again) and being very calm and understanding and going in every 5 minutes in the night. Within a couple of nights we are back to ok again whereas before that it would last a long time before we had a less afraid period and less disturbed nights.

Hope this helps. We tried treating it as manipulative behaviour early on in our experiences when the softly softly approach didn't work and tried to be hard with him but the fear was genuine and the only thing that minimised the fears was the above. Believe me I tried lots. I really wish you well because when you are tired yourself, it is really difficult to be so patient in the middle of the night.

tiredbrightonmum Tue 01-Mar-11 17:01:30

All of the above sounds familiar to me too - we have an 8 year old son who, to be honest, has never really been a great sleeper but since October he has been waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning almost every night (we sometimes get one or two nights where he sleeps through but then it reverts back to the same problem). He complains of "tummy ache" but only during the early hours, not during the day. I have taken him to the GP and there does not seem to be a medical problem. We crazily started letting him sleep with one of us, just to get some sleep ourselves, but as the GP pointed out, this was just going to perpetuate the problem. But at 3 am you just do whatever you need to get through it don't you?! Now we are at the stage where he comes in to our room, we take him calmly and quietly straight back to his own bed and we stay with him until he falls back to sleep. We've accepted that for whatever reason this is just the way it is at the moment - hopefully it will change at some point, but at least he is staying in his own bed and room at night. He doesn't complain of nightmares, I suspect it is a general low level type of typical 8 year old stress. If we ask him if anything is worrying him he says no.
I hope it will sort itself out naturally, and I hope everyone else on this thread gets a restful solution too! I would agree with the last post, just try to stay calm (I know it is hard) because losing control makes the situation far, far worse.

mrstoady Tue 01-Mar-11 20:20:47

We've only just come out of the dark tunnel (hopefully permanently) but it was hard work. I agree with Chil1234 that what was an initaial fear became a phobia and a habit. Good luck with sorting your problem out tiredbrightonmum. Would it help to try the returning in 5 minutes so that he doesn't get reliant on you being there to fall back asleep?
It has helped me to know that i am not the only one with an older childs sleep problem. Most of the other threads deal with babies.

tiredbrightonmum Wed 02-Mar-11 19:59:16

Thanks mrstoady, I will be trying the "back in 5 mins" it sounds like a great idea. I did once say "I'm just going to the loo, I'll be back" then I sneaked off back to bed, only to be found by him 10 mins later in an accusing manner "mum you lied"! Well, he did have a point, so I won't do that again! I agree with you that it is so helpful and reassuring to read about other people who have older children with sleep problems. I honestly think that our children need us more emotionally as they get older, and that disrupted sleep is often a result of the worry and stress that they experience on a daily basis. That's what I tell myself to keep calm and rational at 3 in the morning smile

mrstoady Thu 03-Mar-11 09:29:18

If you do the 5 minutes thing then give yourself a get out clause by saying that you will try to come in after 5 mins but of course you may fall asleep. Promise that you will try not to fall asleep though, and of course don't, so that you build up the trust. Later on when trust is established, sometimes you can judge that they are so sleepy that the chances are they will be asleep the next time so you can relax and go to sleep. Obviously sometimes you do misjudge this and they come back in but then you can say sorry I fell asleep. Frustrating but if you stay calm and sympathetic it does work. Don't enter into long conversations though. Good luck.

tiredbrightonmum Thu 03-Mar-11 13:58:18

Will do, top tip. Thank you! Last night he woke up saying his arms were hurting (not his tummy this time). We think that's because of too much basket ball on the Wii so now we're in to a whole new challenge - keeping his Wii time to a minimum. Does parenting EVER get easier?!!!

mrstoady Thu 03-Mar-11 20:43:40


Let us know how you get on

Everhopeful Wed 27-Mar-13 12:08:30

11 yo DD and I are going to have to try the 5 mins thing - I also think she shouldn't have telly less than an hour before bedtime, but she would take that as a punishment...might have to be tried though. I read somewhere (brain fuddled through lack of sleep so no idea where) that screens of any sort stimulate your brain to stay awake, so thought I might try that.

All very frustrating for us both though and means that her emotional responses to minor problems during the day ain't the best (mine neither probably)

Emz078507 Mon 29-Aug-16 20:03:07

9 year old with sleep problems.. Hi does anyone still use this site?

My 9 year old boy is have serve sleep I g problems that he wants either me or the hubby to be one up one down when he goes to bed.. Then sometimes as little as a hour after he has gone to sleep he is up shaking and sweating really bad say I g he can hear noises he then.refuses to sleep back in this bedroom, we have allowed him for the last 3-4 no this sleep on an airbed in our room, but now our 3 year old wants to do this too,
We have tried the talking and supportive route with no success, we have tried the grounding route has no effect, even room his pride and joy away football no effect at..
Last night i slept on the landing right outside his bedroom door.. He stayed in bed and slept only because he knew i was there..
Any suggestions would be really helpful thank u in advance smile

Lisa237 Sun 04-Sep-16 20:38:22

I feel your pain, my 8 year old daughter suddenly started waking during the night saying she was scared of burglars then murderer. She does not watch any programmes after 7pm and we don't have the news on as this makes her worse. She now will not go to bed on own screams and gets so worked up she shakes. We have tried the tough approach taking stuff away ie ipod....and the soft approach discussing her fears rationally staying with her but she will not give in. It doesn't help we have had her room extended and she was in our room for 5 weeks. We have tried to make her room nice new bed, bedding but she still does not want to go to bed. Now she will not play upstairs unless someone is upstairs ie sister in her room and she will not go downstairs on own. I have tried the herbal remedy called rescue remedy teddy bears but no difference. Any advice on what to do as reading the previous threads I have tried most of them.

Emz078507 Sun 04-Sep-16 21:01:55

Hi hun... Im in the exact same boat.. Feels like I've tried everything and nothing works.. We notice a bit of a difference keeping to a strict bedtime during the school holidays that he settles better but still up every night anytime from 11pm-3am, he wont give up until he has the airbed in our room

Sorry i have no other advice, just know that your not on your own.

GoosePimple100 Wed 07-Sep-16 23:01:12

Similar here too. After never having sleep problems 10yo suddenly started dreading going to bed after classmates started duscussing a particularly nasty video game about children being abducted. Its gone on 3 months now. Have tried door open, nightlight on, temp sharing with his brother, comforter, discussing his fears during the day, encouraged him to spend more time in his room in the day. Nothing has worked. Will only sleep if his main light is on full blast, so hes not getting good quality sleep. When temp sharing with brother would either put main light on or get into the other bed so giving his brother poor sleep too. 10yo's behaviour has dipped as hes not getting enough sleep. Cant see any alternative to a visit to the doc confused

Sl1nkyMalinki Wed 16-Nov-16 23:19:35

I'm in a similar position and this thread has been really helpful. 10yo DD says her room is scary and she hates it.

It's hard to know whether this is a phobia/habit/bad behaviour. Firstly the whole killer clown thing from a few months ago scared her, second, she is terrified of spiders and there was a huge one in her room which crawled onto her leg in the night and thirdly she really wants her room redecorated! We've only lived here from 3 years and her room has been decorated twice in that time already! My room hasn't, neither have several other rooms in this house! She is comforted when her little brother has a sleepover in her room, but the problem there is that she won't go to bed at a reasonable time and therefore disturbs him when she comes to bed. Also I'm pretty sure it's not good for him to sleep on a futon long term AND he needs his own space and a decent sleep.

I'm worried that DS thinks DD is the favourite and is treated differently. Truth is, I have no idea how to handle her.

She is a very determined, strong minded child and I'm afraid I'm a weak parent and allowing her to have her own way. I don't know how to break the cycle.

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