sleep problems

My 8-Year-Old Is Afraid to Sleep in Her Own Room. Help.

Sad, upset little boy sitting on the edge of his bed. Covering his face with hands.

Sometimes, our readers write to us seeking help–when this happens, we turn to you, our readers, for answers. One mom’s 8-year-old is having sleep problems (which we so sympathesize with) and wrote to us explaining her problem. This is what she said:

“My 8-year-old daughter refuses to fall asleep in her room. She usually falls asleep either in our family room or our bed and I transfer her to her room. About a month ago she has been waking up about 2-3 hours later saying that she can’t go back to sleep and refuses to go back into her room. We have attempted to punish her, but it does not help. She has no problem falling asleep on our floor or our bed. Just her own bed.

I need this to stop! Can I sleep train an 8-year-old and let her cry it out like I did when she was 9 months old?”

So, we went to Facebook and asked you. Here’s what other Kveller moms had to say:

“Sounds like there is a true underlying fear of something (or someone?). I’m a huge believer in children being able to find a safe (to them) space to sleep. Can you put a mattress on the floor of your room for her to sleep on while you work on getting to the bottom of her fears? Perhaps she would talk with a therapist if she’s not willing to talk with you about it?”
-TR

I went through a phase when I was about 11 years old where I could not go to sleep in my own room and kept going to my parents’ room, which was the only place I could fall asleep. At the time, I didn’t know how to describe my anxiety to my mom or how to explain that every time I tried to fall asleep on my own, I’d get overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and worries swimming around in my head. I just knew that the floor of my parents’ room was the one place I felt safe falling asleep. My parents did try making me stay in my room to sleep through the night, but that ultimately resulted in a lot of crying and sleepless nights. After a month or so of knowing I could come into my parents’ room to sleep if I felt like I needed to, I eventually transitioned back to my room on my own.”
-KW

“There must be a reason why she doesn’t feel comfortable in her room. Try spending more time in it during the day, doing stuff she enjoys, so she makes some positive associations with the space. Maybe offer to have her pick out some new sheets and make it more ‘her’ space? If she is worried about being alone all night, one thing I did with my daughter that made a huge difference was to go in when she was asleep and take a photo of her, and show it to her in the morning. This a) reinforced that I did check on her at night, and b) gave me an opportunity to say things like ‘look how cosy and comfortable you look in your bed’, ‘you were really fast asleep and having lovely dreams’ etc etc. Good luck!”
-HG

“Does she have a REASON why she can’t fall asleep in her room? Is she scared, is she overstimulated, does she need a night light, maybe a noise machine? Is she willing to work towards a goal and a reward for staying in her room?”
-AM

“Our son came into our room until he was 10. He was very anxious. A wise psychiatrist told me we could medicate him or leave a blanket on our floor for when he needed it. After a while he stopped on his own. Perhaps let her watch an iPad in her bed? We didn’t have this issue with our older children so it was tough to know what to do.”
-MF

“Sleep in her room with her until she falls asleep, give her the comfort she needs. Find a comfortable and positive, cozy and comforting bed time routine. Then when/if she wakes up, have a sleeping bag or a mattress in your room for her. No punishment, it will make it worse. She is afraid, and needs you. Crying it out when she was younger may be causing the sleep stress, but don’t feel bad, we do what we do until we know better, and then we do better. Also, it’s normal for all of us to be afraid of the dark and the night, especially developing the brains in children. Note: I have a degree in child development and kids of my own.”
-NA

“Sounds like she has anxiety and/or trust issues. Punishments and crying it out will likely exacerbate the problem. Seek counseling from a pediatric sleep counselor.”
-DC

“Maybe she is having nightmares and needs you to comfort her. Fill a spray bottle with water and a nice scent. Make a label that that tells her it’ makes her room safe and happy sleeping area. Make her sheets nice smelling and warm. It might help you. If not, hopefully some else has better advice.”
-AG

“I remember being scared to be in my room alone at night as a child. Then my niece had the exact same anxiety! For me, it was just lonely and the dark was scary. I loved the suggestion I read here about the night light that projects changing images on the wall or ceiling, aromas, white noise, etc. Anything to distract from that loneliness. Also little rewards helped my niece. For example, a treat for doing it at the end of each week. Looking back, I am so glad nobody got annoyed at me for feeling anxious!”
-LR

“My daughter had a phase once, she would cry all night and refuse to sleep in her room, or she would sleep but wakes up every other minute. Then one day, we redecorated her room and she slowly going back to sleeping in her room with no problem. We invented a tradition every Shabbat, all of us (including the dogs and the cat) would sleep on the couch beds in the living room, and she is allowed to sleep with us if she sleeps in her own room the rest of the week. That helps.”
-RW

“Pop-up tent sleepover with story time and a sound of nature CD, iTunes or machine (ocean waves works well too). Preceded by a warm bath then warm milk sipped during story time. You can also try glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Snuggle in sleeping bag and on the night she transitions to stay in room on her own, a small flashlight that projects images in the wall till she falls asleep.”
-DZ

Have you dealt with sleeping problems with your kid–or when you were a child? If so, share your experiences below.


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Kveller Staff

The Kveller staff is made up of the hard-working folks behind your favorite Jewish parenting website, Kveller, of course.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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