Anxious bedtimes

(8 Posts)
Twoseventhsaweasley Tue 29-Mar-16 07:25:18

DS 1 is nearly 7. He has a diagnosis of ASD. Anxiety affects him in many aspects of his life.

Bed times are tricky at the moment so I would love a bit of advice.

At the moment he has a bath, goes down stairs for a drink, and then I take him up to brush his teeth and go to bed at about 8pm. I read to him and then sit by his bed until he is asleep. No matter how long I sit with him, the second I stand up to leave the room he wakes up. His immediate reaction is to cry and scream. If I sit back down he will quickly settle back down and go to sleep. However, as soon as I stand up to leave he wakes up again and cries. This goes on and on until I eventually lie down at the bottom of his bed. The longer this cycle goes on the more anxious he becomes and the more likely he is to keep waking up.

I have tried leaving the room with him relaxed but awake with a clock in front of him, telling him that I would like him to lie quietly and I will be back in 1 minute. I was hoping to gradually build up the time I am away so that we can work towards me leaving him for long enough for him to fall asleep without me next to him. As soon as I turn my back to leave the room he starts shouting and screaming. He does not seem able to lie quietly without me for any time at all.

I have tried sitting slightly further away from his bed with a view to gradually getting further and further away until I am sitting in his door way, and then on the landing. This just makes him cry as well.

I have tried offering rewards for lying without crying for 30 seconds. He lives in the moment to such an extent that he just wants me next to him.

Thank you if you have read all that. Does any one have any ideas? He is a lovely boy. I just want him to get enough sleep.

OP’s posts: |
MattDillonsPants Tue 29-Mar-16 08:32:08

Could you try story tapes or the radio for him? It sounds terribly stressful for you. flowers

Marshmallow09er Tue 29-Mar-16 10:23:26


My DS (7, ASD very deman avoidant abs huge anxieties) very similar to this.
We are seeing CAHMS (pretty useless I have to say) who said its like seperation anxiety. It got so bad I was sleeping on his floor most nights (don't do this!!)

If we leave him he screams, bashes door down, wakes his sister and just point black refuses to even get into bed.

But then....

His OT suggested walkie talkies and oh my goodness so far it's working! It's like he has the reassurance he can talk to his whoever he wants (plus the excitement of a walkie talkie). I though he'd use it all the time but generally he only does once or twice.
We've only been doing it for 2 weeks so I don't know if it's a long term solution (god I hope so!) but it's been amazing to have some evenings back.

Marshmallow09er Tue 29-Mar-16 10:24:28

(Sorry to typos - in a rush but hopefully you can decipher!)

Marshmallow09er Tue 29-Mar-16 10:24:44

*for (gah!)

Marshmallow09er Tue 29-Mar-16 14:02:46

I'm back now and just wanted to add flowers because I know how tough it can be.

People in real life (not on here because everyone knows you throw normal parenting manuals out here!) said things like I was 'letting him win' and I just needed to leave him (but he's 7 - he just trashed his room and came downstairs and refused to go back up. So leaving him really didn't work).

The only thing that worked was me lying next to him; and I knew it was making a rod for my own back but if I didn't he would be having 3/4 broken hours sleep a night then terrible days at school (well, worse than normal! Today it took 4 members of staff to carry him through the door as he refused to go in - once he's made up his mind about anything it's very difficult to shift him, physically and mentally!)

But it's all anxiety - decrease that and hopefully things will improve (I tell myself!).

My DS was always a good sleeper - I used to think, at least we have that!
But starting Year 2 just ramped up his anxieties so much it spilled out everywhere.

There's a very good book called 'What to do when you dread your bed' that we used as well. I would recommend that too.

DS just couldn't cope with the thought of being alone (and he has a big fear of being sick which he then convinced himself was going to happen if he was on his own).

Good luck.

Waitingforsherlock Tue 29-Mar-16 16:38:14

You have my sympathies Twosevenths. flowers. My dd, now 13, was the same for years. You might find what I'm about to say encouraging or demoralising, I'm not sure which, but if I start by saying that currently she doesn't do it very often at all, hopefully you will see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I spent years creeping out of her bedroom at 10 or even 11pm sometimes hoping that she was finally asleep, only to hear her cry out thirty seconds later in distress. She would sometimes sleep for a couple of minutes only to wake again in abject terror. She also used to sleep walk sometimes when she was very stressed. We didn't know at the time that she has Aspergers so sometimes I would get so frustrated with her and would lose my temper. Don't let people tell you that you are giving in; separation anxiety is hugely debilitating for our children and IMO sleep training can be counterproductive.

So, what made the problem go away? This is something I can't really tell you. it just sort of happened. She changed bedrooms and I gave her almost total carte blanche over decoration and style. She really wanted to be able to go to sleep alone, so this was a real motivator for her, ( she was 12 by this time). She would ask me to come and sit with her for a bit, then send me away until she gradually managed to do the whole process by herself. I never believed that it would be possible. I now know that the anxiety must have been linked to the coming day rather than the one that had just happened. She would voice all her anxieties as she started to drop off to sleep. She is no longer in conventional education, ( not a solution that I recommend BTW), but home schooling has contributed to the reduction in her night time anxiety.

I would imagine that some CBT might help, but I do feel that sometimes that type of anxiety is almost primal and it will take a lot to shift those fears.

Has any health prof. ever mentioned Melatonin?

Twoseventhsaweasley Wed 30-Mar-16 07:34:28

Thank you very much for all of the replies.

Matt Dillon DS 1 loves music with a passion. We have tried the radio in the past and it worked well in that he allowed me to leave him for a few minutes at a time, provided I kept going back. Unfortunately, he did not go to sleep at all. As he was happy and it was the school holidays I kept going and going with it to see what would happen. I eventually had to turn it off at 1.30 am and sit with him until he fell asleep.

Marshmallow Thank you very much for the suggestion.We have some walkie talkies, so if I can teach him to use them they could be a great idea. I totally agree that separation anxiety is the problem and anxiety is the root cause of it all. I am sorry that your DS is finding school difficult at the moment. My DS has never physically fought going in to school, but I used to have to drop him off each morning knowing that he could not function there. I hope that he is getting the support he needs to make it better.

I have never left my children to cry at night. I have always felt that it was not a good idea. DH told me last night that he thinks all DS 1's sleep problems are caused by me never leaving him to cry it out as a baby. I may of course be wrong, but I think that being left to cry would just increase his anxiety and make bed times and sleep harder.

We had a brilliant bed time last night. It only took an hour to get DS1 to sleep. Unfortunately, he woke up several times in the night which he does not usually do.

We are on the waiting list for CAMHS, but given that he was referred over a year ago and we have still not heard anything I am not holding out much hope.

Waiting I am glad that your DD is finally finding sleep easier. It seems that increasing maturity and the ability to communicate her anxieties has really helped. DS 1 is still struggling to be able to express what it is that makes him anxious, but I hope in time he will find this easier. I think motivation to be able to do things and stop anxiety getting in that way can be key. I have read a book called "Anxious Kids Anxious Parents" that suggests this.

Thank you to you all for your advice and for sharing your experiences. It has really helped me to know that I am not alone. You all sound like fabulous parents who are doing your absolute best for your children.

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