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4y/o anxious/scared at night

(5 Posts)
Missnearlyvintage Sun 19-Mar-17 22:47:31

Hi all, I didn't know if any of you had any thoughts or have had similar experiences with your LOs please?
DS co-slept with us from 3 weeks old, he moved into his own room about 6 months ago, (his decision, completely supported and lots of praise etc.) and all was going well. The only time he came into our room at night was if his nappy had leaked as he still doesn't wake up when he needs a wee at night. Fair game we thought and not an issue.
For about 2 months now though he has been getting more and more anxious about night time and his and our sleep is getting very disturbed as he repeatedly comes into our room (up to 10 times a night). Sometimes he'll say he's had a nightmare, other times he'll show his anxiety more in his body language, but he obviously isn't happy at bedtime or in the night most of the time and I'd like to help him as things we've tried so far haven't helped him very much, and things that used to help him are now less effective. Sometimes he wants to come into bed with us (no room so most of the time we refuse unless my husband is working shifts and he sneaks into bed into my husband's place without me knowing), other times he doesn't appear to know what he wants.
Usually he likes someone to sit in his room while he falls asleep in the evening, so sometimes he wants this at night too, but if DH is at work I have a younger one to get to bed too so he has to sort himself out and I check on him and soon as she is asleep.
My husband was ill for 6 weeks recently and this hasn't helped, but he is better now and we've tried so hard to reassure DS that all is now okay.
We've tried/ have resorted to;
Calmly talking in the day about worries in his life and worries around bedtime
Clear bedtime routine
Sticker chart and lots of praise after good nights
Asking what he thinks would help him and following through if he has practical ideas
Taking him back to his bedroom repeatedly with very little interaction
Talking to him about the negative effects of the household not getting enough sleep and the positives of everyone getting more sleep. We have been on less family days out recently as we are all so shattered and us parents are fed up with him waking up happier in the morning while we're absolutely shattered!
Talking about nightmares/worries in the night if something is obviously on his mind so he feels like his worries are being listened to and he doesn't have to bottle them up
Getting cross at him when he doesn't listen when we're trying to reassure him and help him get back to sleep
Getting frustrated and feeling very tempted to let him scream it out at night, but this hasn't happened yet (aside from sometimes tantrums over being put back in bed and left again with much interaction), and I'm so reluctant to do this as I was petrified of nighttime as a child and it wasn't dealt with at the time so those anxieties have followed me into adulthood somewhat. (I don't think I've passed anxieties onto him hopefully unless genetically so, I try to be very positive about night time).
I will be calling HV in morning as we are at the end of our tether now really. I don't think it would be that bad if something consistently helped him feel less anxious and relaxed him enough to go back to sleep, but it's getting more and more difficult and more and more lengthy.
To put into perspective, today we watched Zootropolis after it was recommended by friends in his class. There were points in the film where he jumped through shock, (wouldn't have let him watch had i of known!) but he wanted to watch the rest. Afterwards he was obviously worried as there was so much conversation about it. We had a discussion, he aired worries, we moved on to light hearted topics at dinner and during bedtime routine. DH said he would sit with him while he fell asleep. DS was asleep so DH left. Within 5 mins DS ran through to where I was getting DD to sleep and looked panicky. I went to his room to help settle him and laid with him as he was quite worried. At one point I moved my foot at the end of the bed and he jumped. After some fidgeting I asked him to close his eyes so I could sing to him and he could concentrate on my voice and get relaxed ready to go to sleep as he wasn't getting anywhere with my lying with him. He was too scared to close his eyes and got quite worked up. DH came back and they got out of bed to break the thought cycle and go to loo/ have drink etc. Back into bed and DH spoke to DS and said we were there to protect him, and keep him safe, and that it was bedtime. By this point DS could hardly keep eyes open even when sat up (now an hour after usual bedtime), and did settle to sleep.
I think most of the time he is genuinely scared/worried but I don't know how to address that seen as talking and trying to find the root cause, (other than bloody zootropolis!) doesn't seem to be working!!
Thanks in advance!!

outputgap Mon 20-Mar-17 11:01:04

I don't have any brilliant advice, but he does sound anxious. I have a 3 year old who does get worried sometimes about fox noises, people/foxes/monsters coming into the house and gets into our bed sometimes when he has a bad dream. I think it's an age when they work more and more things out and thus things play on their minds. He can now reassure himself that the house is made of brick so no foxes can come in (thanks 3 little pigs!). So I guess, you should keep reassuring him until he can reassure himself more. I would try to squeeze him in your bed if he's up 10 times in the night just so you get some sleep.

And a final aside - is he at nursery? They haven't started banging on about school, frightening him, at all?

MrsMarigold Mon 20-Mar-17 11:16:56

Your poor DS, there is nothing worse than being frightened in the night. Could you get him his own double bed?

My DC aged 4 and 5 are quite anxious and have always woke up terrified in the night, DS had a real fear of ghosts and monsters for about two years. They both have double beds and I go to them at night when they are frightened. I always stick rigidly to the bedtime routine and cuddle them as they doze off. It works brilliantly for us so it might be worth a shot.

At bedtime, DD has her story first then just rolls over and falls asleep then and DS who is older has his second. If DD is asleep we move to his bed. In the night if they are both scared, the three of us get into the same bed, I lie in the middle and they doze off again quickly, then I go back to my own bed, there is enough room to extricate myself. DH's job is very intense so he always stays in our bed.

We are all well rested, now DS is almost 6 - he rarely wakes up in the night and never gets up out of his bed.

Missnearlyvintage Wed 22-Mar-17 00:35:04

Hi, thanks for your replies it's reassuring to know we're not the only ones going through this, rubbish as it is.
I think I'm going to cave in and put his mattress in our bedroom, for now at least. It will be a squeeze to fit it in but I can't think of another way around things at this point. Him and DD wake each other up, but DS wakes everyone up with his scared wailing several times most nights anyway so it might be better than that? One can only hope...
The morning after I posted the first post on this thread I took his bed frame down, to eliminate 'monsters under the bed' issues, and decluttered his room incase there was anything casting shadows in low light etc. Despite him liking the new layout, it's made little difference to his nights. 'Monsters under the bed' hasn't been said though so that appears to have worked a bit!
He's ended up at the end of our bed tonight sleeping on a couple of layers of duvet on the floor, with another duvet on top of him, after an hour of him being terrified of me leaving him in his bedroom alone. And telling me he couldn't close his eyes because he always has bad dreams. Definitely not ideal him being on the floor and I may well scoop him up into my bed in a moment, but he was hinting towards it and was asleep within two minutes of lying down so it was obviously what he was after.
DS came into our bed last night as well, resulting in me having back ache all day today from being squashed between him and his sister, so that's not really a goer long-term, and DH is not keen at all on giving up his space in the marital bed again, (having only come back in with me recently) after years of being banished to a single bed on his own while I co-slept with DS.
I can't stay with DS at night unfortunately if I go into his room to settle him back, as DD is co-sleeping with me in a side-car cot arrangement and still breastfeeds, so I'm not comfortable leaving her with heavy sleeper DH or on her own in there when he is working early/night shifts.
I imagine I'll get slated by the local health visiting team when my referral goes through for their sleep clinic and they find out I've let him move back into our room, but my temper is frayed and I really can't be dealing with all these wake ups at night. I've always had a short temper but recently I've been struggling not to get angry about most things, most of the time, and that certainly isn't the way I want to be around my kids. Thanks again.

outputgap Wed 22-Mar-17 20:34:11

Thanks for the update. Sounds good, and, you know, fuck the health visitors if they don't like it. You really need sleep, however you get it. Good luck with it.

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