Sleep help - 4 yr old scared of monsters and creatures at night(4 Posts)
My first ever post is a plea for help! I'd be really grateful for any tips/techniques please...
My (just turned) 4 yr old ds has always struggled with sleep/naps. We had got to a good place where I would put him to bed around 7pm/7.30pm, he would go straight to sleep without any shenanigans and he would sleep through in his own bed til 5am/6am. Those were the days! (It was an early start but I could live with that!)
But for the last year he's been scared to go to sleep and generally wakes up screaming with fear around 12:30am and 3am and needs me to settle him. He then sneaks into our bed at around 4am and will sleep well for another couple of hours.
He says he is scared of monsters/creatures coming into his room through the window or a crack in the ceiling. He's imaginative and has vivid dreams and seems genuinely afraid. I just don't know how best to help him - I feel like I'm letting him down as I haven't been able to help him deal with it. The disrupted/lack of sleep (he gets around 9 hrs a night) has an impact on his daytime mood, and he always has dark circles under his eyes.
He has a night-light now and I talk with him about his fears (not minimising them) but is there anything else I can be doing? I don't want to leave him to scream and cry as it is coming from a place of real fear. But nor do I want me settling him back to sleep to become a habit or necessity. Any tips or advice would be brilliant, thank you!
He might not yet fully understand that his nightmares aren't real so instead of coming at it from this angle (if that's what you have been doing) you could try helping him to defeat the monsters. Some people use anti-monster spray (just water in a squirty bottle) which you can use at bedtime with him to keep them away. If he wakes in the night just calmly chase the monster away. Don't make it a game though, just be firm and calm with the monster, telling it to go away and then reassure your ds that it's gone. Don't get into a long conversation, just give him a cuddle and a few words of reassurance then settle him back down in his own bed. For it to fully work you're probably going to have to take him back to bed at 4am as well, otherwise he'll get mixed messages about whether you're going to chase the monsters away or just let them roam his room iyswim.
A Sorgenfresser might be worth a go if he's very imaginative and understands it's his imagination creating the monsters. It means worry eater in German, they are cute toys with a mouth that zips. You draw/write your worries and it eats them up. Can also be a good way to see what's really worrying them.
We also told DS around a similar age that his favourite toy was also a ninja who'd always protect him and fight the monsters off. That helped him.
Great ideas there, thank you for replying! I've not heard of a Sorgenfresser MsPickle - that sounds really helpful to get a better idea of what's making him feel anxious. And maybe a dreamcatcher - he's really interested in spiders and webs at the moment so he could probably visualise bad dreams being 'caught'. And that's a good point Kariana about encouraging him back to his own bed with the 4am waking. The mixed messages can't be helping.
I was thinking back to when this all started, and his initial worry was around where his body disappears to at night when he's sleeping. I don't think I explained dreams very well to him at that stage, so maybe I need to talk through that again so he has a better sense of nightmares not being real.
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