Trouble sleeping

I am writing this sat on the landing outside my daughter’s room while she goes to sleep. I’m sat here because she asked me to. She has trouble getting to sleep and she doesn’t like to be alone. She says I should ‘sit tweeting’.

When she was 8 months old, I would have left her to fall asleep on her own, so why do I sit outside her room now she’s 8 years old? I don’t know. I guess we do what we’ve got to do for our kids.

She was always a good sleeper, always fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. We never heard a sound from her.

But something changed last summer. I think it was the hot weather that did it. She was born in 2006, that was the last time it had been hot until 2013, so it came as a bit of a shock to her. She went to bed, but she couldn’t get to sleep. She was too hot. She started to worry about not sleeping and about getting up in the morning. She checked the time and calculated how many hours sleep she would have. Suddenly sleep had become an issue for her.

It’s not every night, but it happens from time to time. I don’t properly relax in the evening until I know she’s asleep. We’ve decided (or maybe she’s decided) that 8.30 is too early for lights out. She can’t get to sleep at that time. So bedtime has shifted to 8.45 on a school night (which often becomes 9 or 9.15).

She has issues with Sunday nights in particular, worrying about being tired for school in the morning. Worrying about being tired, and worrying about getting to sleep, makes her less likely to sleep. I tell her not to think about it, not to worry. She’ll go to sleep eventually.

‘But what if I don’t?’ she cries.

But she will. In the end.

I tell her not to try to sleep, to try to stay awake.

She reads her book again, but it doesn’t tire her out. Her brothers go to bed and still she’s struggling.

PicMonkey sleepingCollage

She has issues with us watching the television. I don’t watch much on telly, but if I plan to watch something and tell her I’m going to watch it, you can almost guarantee she won’t sleep. She’s worrying that she’ll need me and she’ll interrupt me, or that I won’t go to her when she needs me. So she can’t get to sleep.

The first time we watched Fargo, I was up and down the stairs seven times to her and her biggest brother (who couldn’t stop coughing). With her in tears and in desperation, we moved her into our bed. I thought it would give her some comfort. It did, but she still couldn’t sleep. In the end I had to lie down with her. I think she fell asleep at 11. It was after me, at any rate. The Fargo farce was repeated the following week, but this time she fell asleep in our bed with me next to her at 10.20. When it happened a third time she managed to fall asleep on her own, but still in our bed and not until 11pm.

She had spent her whole life in a bungalow until we moved here. She was used to noise and people being nearby. With noise, she can sleep. In this house, she’s on her own and there’s not enough noise.

The last thing she says as we turn her light off every night is ‘Are the boys upstairs?’. If she knows they’re upstairs, she can sleep. If they’re not, she asks me to sit outside. Which is why I’m here now.

She’s just called me to check I’m there because she can’t hear me typing.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh bless her. I was just going to go on Twitter to complain at my (now regular) not being able to sleep past 4 a.m. Now I won’t – I’ll get through it soon and I hope she will too.

    I know nothing about kids but would putting a radio on low help for some background noise? Works with puppies!

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    • That sounds like a very good idea to me, thank you, Christine!

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  2. I thought maybe a radio or an audio book. What a stress for you and her poor lass. I’ve had sleep problems and they make everyone fed up! Hope you get them resolved soon.

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    • Thanks very much, an audio book is a great idea! (As long as it’s not a really entertaining story!)

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  3. This is an all too familiar story for us too. Our daughter finally learned to settle herself listening to audio books. The story has to be a gentle happy one but she listens to the same one every night (after I’ve read to her and dad has sat with her until she’s almost asleep). We also can’t go downstairs and have had to spend every evening watching telly in our bedroom next door to hers. She doesn’t drop off till about 10 sometimes much later. An audio book might help. x

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    • Thanks very much, Kelly. Kind of glad it’s not just us, but sorry you have this hassle. It’s also good to hear that I’m not mollycoddling her because part of me thinks I should just leave her to deal with it herself. Audio book sounds a really good idea, especially if it’s the same one as she won’t be staying awake trying to listen to the story. x

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  4. i think i started having troubles sleeping when i was about your daughters age. it was awful as my mum was just saying turn off the lights and nod off. I was worrying about things too much…what was happening in school, worrying if my friends liked me or not..etc. So you sitting with her is a great thing. Just enjoy it. She will soon turn in a teenager and kick you out of her room 🙂

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    • Thank you, Otilia. It seems these problems do start happening at about this age. Thank you for reassuring me that sitting with her is the right thing to do. I don’t want to create a rod for my own back unnecessarily, but nor do I want her to be upset.

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  5. Aw poor little thing. I had similar issues while in yr5 so was 9/10. I vividly remember not sleeping until well after 11pm. I would hear my parents go to bed. Their tv on. Their talking. The clocks ticking.

    I’ll be honest. I was awful. My parents refused any sort of sitting with me. I cant remember if i asked them to. Maybe not as mum was super strict with bedtime and lights out.

    I taught myself to sleep again. Through my teenage years i had rituals before sleep. I slept with the radio on sometimes. It worked though. I rarely have issues now (unless you count children keeping me awake) if i start clock watching i move it out of sight.

    I hope you can find a way to help your daughter. Not sleeping is stressful for all.
    Hugs for you both. X

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    • Thanks very much. Interesting that it started at a similar age to you. I know I was often awake until about 9.30 (I went to bed much earlier), but it never worried me. I just lay there until I fell asleep. Even now, clock watching is a bad thing for me. I try to resist looking at it if I wake in the night. x

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  6. I have had to bad sleepers and at the moment Oscar nearly 13 (sorry) still can not settle very well. He went through a stage of being totally fine then we moved house too (I think the same time?) and since we have moved we have reverted back!

    Are you too soft? Personally what can we do except be there for our children. I was a terrible sleeper and still creeped into my parents bed at Oscar’s age! I can remember being so scared of stuff and I guess because I can, I understand how Oscar feels and yes am possibly too soft!

    So when you have the answer or I do, then we will shout to each other!

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    • I have a nearly 13 year old too, but he’s a good sleeper (when he can eventually be bothered to go to bed!). I know that I’ll be there for her, whatever her age. I’m glad my husband supports me and doesn’t think I’m mollycoddling her – he sees how distressed she gets sometimes too.
      Will definitely shout if I find the answer! Thanks 🙂

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  7. When my son was about 9 he struggled to go to sleep. He was up and down the stairs; too hot, too uncomfortable, too many noises outside his window etc etc.
    I had to sit with him and chat until he dropped off. Just awful for me and for him.
    But it turned out he couldn’t sleep because he was afraid he’d have a nightmare. He’s never suffered with them at all but something started him off.
    I turned to Twitter (of course!) and ended up speaking to The Moiderer who was just in the middle of training to be a hypnotherapist. She sent me a recording for him to listen to when he got into bed. Just relaxing talking and it lasted about 15 minutes.
    After 4 days he was totally and utterly cured of it. And I’ve been banging on about it ever since! He’s nearly 12 now and has never had an issue since. A couple of times he’s said ‘can I listen to my recording tonight’ but he never did. I think the thought of it helped to be honest.

    It’s defo worth a go my friend. Can’t bear to think of children going through this. She’s obviously got herself into a destructive habit and just needs a hand out of it. Best of luck x

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    • That sounds brilliant, thanks! It’s amazing that all of the comments here seem to be about children of a similar age, so it’s obviously something which seems to affect them at this time in their lives. I will talk to my daughter about it, then get hold of the recording. Really appreciate you commenting.

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  8. I really hope that you find something that works to give her comfort soon. I used to fall asleep listening to a story CD and that might help her feel more secure? Children can sometimes be very savvy about what can help them so your daughter might have some other ideas that don’t involve you having to sit at the top of the stairs x

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    • I think she quite likes me sitting at the top of the stairs! (Luckily there is an armchair there!). She is fine if she knows the boys are upstairs, and even better if she can hear them talking. I think the story CD is definitely worth trying though. Thanks very much.

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  9. Oh crikey, how upsetting for you both. Kitty used to sit in bed reading for a couple of hours until a couple of months back when something just ‘clicked’ and she could then just get into bed and sleep. Audio story cds are a great thing at bedtime if they are struggling to get to sleep, less stimulation than reading or watching tv but still something.
    I hope you find a away around this soon Sarah x

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    • Thanks very much. I’m really going to give the story CDs a try as she can just close her eyes to listen and will hopefully be able to drift off as she won’t actually be thinking about sleep. x

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  10. Have you tried leaving a talking book on or some white noise for her to drift off to? I always went to sleep listening to a story when I was in junior school.
    Hope you both find a solution soon xx

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    • I think that’s definitely the way forward! Thank you very much for commenting. x

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  11. I was like this as a child and to be honest, still am to a certain degree. I hate being the only one awake in the house and my middle daughter sounds very similar to yours. Over the years, we’ve had HUGE issues with her sleeping habits…coming up and down the stairs, crying fits, awake til the early hours. It was particularly bad when we moved house, twice in the space of 9 months. I think she felt slightly unsettled, not a lot, but enough to upset her sleeping patterns. Could this be it do you think? Over the years we’ve found lots of things to help….story CDs, headphones on til she falls asleep, a small light on, worry books. I’ve never let her sleep in our room as I she’s a definite ‘give her an inch and she takes a mile’. She too likes to know that people are around and that there’s noise. I’m sure she will get it sorted soon enough. Remember: everything is a phase!

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    • Thanks very much. It seems like this is a pretty common problem and I’m glad that we’re not the only ones, although it’s not nice for you! I think moving house was a bit of a problem – remember how my daughter went obsessively tidy in the rented house?! Headphones/ story CDs sound good. She also has to have a light on. Luckily once she’s asleep she doesn’t mind being moved into her own bed.

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  12. Ah – my daughter was also born in the hot summer of 2006! Annoyingly we were “kept in” for a week because they thought she had a temperature! Err.. no – she’s just BOILING! Like me! I know sometimes I have to turn our TV off because our programmes “sound scary”. And I think at the 7/8 age, they hear LOTS of things at school we’d probably rather they didn’t. I did spray a bit of my perfume on a t shirt and let mine have it once. That seemed to help. But whatever your gut tells you, is the right thing to do xx

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    • It really was very hot in 2006! I hadn’t thought about them starting to hear about things and half-understand things which they might find upsetting, but that makes sense that it hits them at this sort of age. Thanks very much, we definitely have to do what works, even if it is a bit unconventional! I think it’s the smell of our bed which my daughter finds reassuring and helps her to drop off to sleep. x

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  13. There’s some brilliant advice! That might be a good idea. She does enjoy reading and usually reads for a few minutes, but there would be no harm in her reading for longer if it helped her to settle. Thank you. x

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  14. We worry so much about our children getting enough sleep that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they vary enormously in the amount of sleep they actually need. My youngest often complains about it being too quiet in the evening, particularly when his two oldest brothers are away studying, so we all have to make as much noise as possible toy comfort him. I don’t have set bedtimes for mine, we keep it flexible and that seems to take away the pressure to fall asleep. They can listen to audiobooks, read or anything else as long as they don’t disturb other family members and they’re not grumpy the next day. It seems to work.
    You don’t sleep much either do you so perhaps it’s hereditary? I know I have always had periods of not sleeping much and I always prefer to do something rather than tossing and turning. As you say the worry about not sleeping can then stop sleep coming! Good luck and no, I don’t think you’re creating a rod for your own back. Even if you are, it’s your back and your choice. Do what feels right!

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  15. It’s hard isn’t it. Since it got brighter in the evenings it’s been the same with our youngest. We have a ceiling fan in our room and think that helps to get him off to sleep.

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  16. Gosh that sounds tough, my eight year olds still go to bed at seven but bash around for a while pretending to sleep – however they share so have each other for company x

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  17. So sorry Sarah, it sounds like a difficult situation, but you’ve had loads of good advice above, I really hope one of those suggestions helps. My little guy didn’t sleep well for his first year, and I remember how hard it was having the evening constantly disrupted. He’s a good sleeper now, but still has the occasional night where he struggles – and I always have to remind myself that he’s just a little person, and we all have nights where we can’t sleep because of a busy brain don’t we?! x

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  18. I was going to say an audio book as well. In fact, if it is the same book every night then maybe the first few times she’ll stay awake to hear the end of the story, but soon it will just become a familiar comforting sound. But perhaps avoid Roald Dahl… When I was her age I had trouble getting to sleep. Just like her I would worry about how long it was until morning. I’d lie awake listening out for the church bells chiming the hour and count them, and then think: now I only have 8 hours until morning. I invented all sorts of games to play in my head to help me get to sleep. One of them was that I would recite a poem in my head for each letter of the alphabet. In the daytime I would set out to fill in the blanks if I didn’t have one yet for a particular letter. I often did fall asleep in the middle of the alphabet! And I ended up learning a lot of poetry by heart. I even wrote a song about not being able to sleep which I performed with some friends at our monthly school show…

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  19. Awww, bless her. It must be so difficult. I second/third the audiobook idea. My son LOVES his.

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