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Older child (5) sleep issue

(13 Posts)
fluffyanimal Wed 29-Apr-15 13:07:22

DS2 is 5, will be 6 in August. He was not a great sleeper as a baby/toddler and would often want someone to stay with him, or would wake up often in the night and come into our room. When he was about 3-4, I promised him a much-wanted toy if he went to sleep by himself and stayed in bed all night. It didn't change his behaviour and I thought it hadn't worked, until several months later he suddenly of his own accord said, "I'm going to get the toy" and he was fine, just like that. After that, he would be generally a good sleeper, only waking up very occasionally.

Fast forward to now, and a couple of weeks ago he saw something in an early morning children's TV show that scared him. I'm talking something on the level of Scooby Doo - nothing at all that was meant to be scary or too old for him. He would not go to bed that night, we tried everything, and eventually he slept in our bed.

Since then he was initially difficult about going to sleep, but we got round that by getting out the CD player and playing story CDs for him to fall asleep to (something he used to have until he sorted himself out). But he won't stay asleep. He wakes anywhere between 10.30pm and midnight, and comes into our room. If I take him back to his bed, he just pops up again about 30 minutes later, and gets progressively more upset if I keep taking him back. So it ends up with him sleeping in our bed with DH and me going into his bed (I can't sleep if he's in with both of us, and DH doesn't really wake up so it's always me that moves).

When he first wakes up he does seem quite scared - sweaty, wide eyed, sometimes whimpering. I was a bad sleeper at his age too, I genuinely had lots of nightmares and woke my mum up most nights until about the age of 7-8. I think he may have bad dreams (no causes for anxiety that I am aware of, but he is very bright and his mind can make some odd connections). He often says he is afraid he will have a bad dream.

In general he is a very stubborn child, and with things he is frightened of (e.g. dogs, hot air hand dryers) he simply won't entertain any notion of trying to face that fear.

I'm getting fed up with not sleeping in my own bed, and I think that DS is forming bad habits and needs to learn to sleep by himself again. But I don't know how to go about this.

Things we've tried:
Taking him back to bed - doesn't work, he keeps coming back and/or gets distressed.
Telling him to just put his light on and turn the story CD back on if he wakes up - he just doesn't do this.
Being stern all the way up to angry - makes no difference.
Reassurance of how safe and loved he is, how cosy his bedroom is - water off a duck's back.
Promise of reward - doesn't seem to tempt him.

Things I am considering:
Pennies in a jar, take one away each time he wakes up in the night - what happens if all the pennies are taken away and there is no improvement?
A makeshift bed on the floor in our room - there is very little space, we couldn't fit a mattress or air bed, so it would have to be folded duvets, what happens if it isn't comfortable enough?

Advice please!!! What should I do? Sorry for epic post.

fluffyanimal Wed 29-Apr-15 19:17:09

Bump for evening crowd.

fluffyanimal Thu 30-Apr-15 15:35:37


BananaPie Thu 30-Apr-15 19:34:07

No idea. Sounds similar to my 4 year old so would be interested in the answer!

FATEdestiny Thu 30-Apr-15 22:51:46

Rapid return is what I'd do.

he comes to your room, you quickly, calmly, quietly take him back to bed and use the same stock sentence (something like 'you sleep in your own bed at nighttime'). Every. Single. Time. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

He won't like it. He wants to be in your bed. So it will cause distress.

You are the adult and you do know what is better for his wellbeing in the long term (sleeping in his own bed on his own). You can foresee and predict things in this way, he can't. He wants to sleep in your bed so will resist any change to that. Your time now to be the adult and accept that you know best, even though he doesn't like it.

If you can't deal with the distress that this will cause, I guess rapid return is not the option for you.

IAmPam Fri 01-May-15 21:09:47

I could have written your post myself about my five year old daughter.

Everything you are going through is exactly what we are going through. We can take her back to bed, wait for her to fall asleep then within 20 mins she's awake and back in with us again. To get our sleep we resort to just jumping into bed with her and staying there for the night, especially as we now have a six week old to contend with too (she used to just jump in our bed but as I got more heavily pregnant we ran out of room).

We tried rapid return. No word of a lie, we were awake all night and took her back over 100 times (lost count after that). We said we would stick together and get through the night. By the time the morning came we were all at eachothers throats!

I don't have an answer for you, just want you to know you aren't the only one, and I will be watching this thread to see if anyone can help us.

Thisisnotworking Sat 02-May-15 14:57:43

We have the same issue with our now 6y old DS. A reward chart will work temporarily, to get a much desired toy for example. But when he's got that he starts coming back.
For the next step we have told him he has to stay in his bed on school nights but can come on weekends. It's too daunting for them to give up the comfort of your bed for good, cold turkey.
Find something they really want, for us it was a 100£ Lego set shock for the reward chart, they will eventually learn that they can do it.
DP often stays with him till he falls asleep, then leaves with a night light on. Bed sharing with his sister also helps.
Let him chose new covers, duvets or a special night light?

Sorry the app isn't working properly I can't really see what I've written so it might be a bit random

fluffyanimal Fri 08-May-15 10:14:47

Thanks for replies. Like IamPam rapid return doesn't work. We have opted in the end for a makeshift bed on the floor of our room - just a pile of duvets, though there is barely space. If DS wakes up while DH and I are still up, we take him back to his own room. But once we've gone to bed, we leave him to creep in and sleep on the duvets.

I'm happy enough because my sleep is less disturbed, but I think DH may be finding it harder to relax as the pile of duvets is on his side and he worries about treading on him if he needs to go to the loo in the night. I also recognise this does nothing to break the habit.

WowOoo Fri 08-May-15 10:31:06

Have you tried something like a worry doll or pillow?

When ds went through a nightmare phase we wrote his worries down and put them in a toy..a bit like a worry doll. It worked a treat, so worth a try.
Talk about nightmares during the day and ways of calming himself down - holding a special toy or putting some calming music on?

I'd do rapid return. It will be exhausting for a short time, but worth it.
It's also horrible seeing a child upset, but talk about it as much as you can during the day and tell him what to expect, even if he cries and gets sad.

I wish I'd done it far sooner to be honest. I forgot what it was like not to have a child in my bed!

It was hard work as we were both tired but we chose a week where we were both on holiday so work was not affected.

GreenOlives Fri 08-May-15 18:05:23

We had exactly the same with our DS1 which started when he was nearly 5 and only improved when we paid for a sleep program last Autumn (15 long months after the problem started!)
We had tried literally EVERYTHING! The sleep consultant recommended versions of gradual retreat or rapid return - we decided to bite the bullet with rapid return. She said we should be like robot mum and dad - not angry, not happy just neutral. We had to make eye contact and just take him back to his room and say "it's nighttime ds1, go back to sleep" or words to that effect and not be drawn into any conversation.
It was utterly horrendous for the first week - she said that if he literally came out again straight away over and over then we would have to hold the door shut for a minute. She warned us that this would make him REALLY angry (which it did) and she also said with older children they often make themselves vomit or wet the bed deliberately to try and get a reaction and he did this too sad
By the end of week 2 he stayed in.his own room all night and after 6 weeks he was sleeping through without calling out to us.
On the whole he has slept well since then but the last few weeks he's been having nightmares and calling out to us again which is fine but now he's back in the habit of calling out anyway whether there's been a bad dream or not so we may be on a slippery slope again!

fluffyanimal Sun 10-May-15 16:34:47

I do appreciate people sharing their experiences, it's good to know others have had similar problems.
Glad rapid return has worked for some, but I'm simply not prepared to push a child to the point of wetting themselves or vomiting, and I know DS would do this as he has sometimes got to the brink.

I like the idea of the worry doll. He does have two favourite teddies which are both 'fierce' animals (a lion and a dragon) so I could get them to 'eat' the written down worries perhaps.

GreenOlives Thu 28-May-15 11:36:32

Forgot all about this thread and just seen reply - know it sounds fairly hardcore but the night DS vomited it was sheer temper on his part because I think he knew at that point that we were determined!
The benefits to the whole family (on mood, concentration etc) of us all getting undisturbed sleep was amazing and imo worth a short period of upset. If rapid return is not for you then try a gradual retreat approach - will take longer but is obviously less distressing.
I think the key is to decide on a technique and stick to it no matter what if you want to make a permanent change to the night time antics! Good luck! smile

PeterParkerSays Thu 28-May-15 11:45:54

We had something similar with DS (also 5) after watching Monsters Inc for the 2nd time (no problem at all watching it a month earlier). I read online about him finding something else to distract him when he wakes up, rather than thinking about his bad dream, so a toy that makes a noise or a music box, for example. It didn't work for us as DS just went into auto pilot when he woke up and got up to come into our bed rather than sitting up and thinking "oh yes, I play with X now".

What worked for us was getting DS a better mattress so he had a better quality of sleep and was less likely to wake up, and a sticker chart so he got something for a run of sleeping in.

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