Child Sleep Problem: My Child Used to Sleep Well and Now Has Stopped!

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  • October 30, 2012

Would you like to have me answer your child sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s child sleep problem video:

Hi! I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady. And today, I’m going to answer Stacey’s question.

Stacey wrote in and said the following, “We’ve read your book and it worked great for our twins when they were babies. Now, they are 7 years old and one is having a sleep problem. He says he wants me to sleep in his bed. He has a fit at bedtime and wakes up during the night crying and carrying on and often waking the entire house including my three other children. Prior to this, he was sleeping well. It started after the holiday break, the school break. He also says he doesn’t want to go to school and he seems insecure. Any help with this child sleep problem would be greatly appreciated. Stacey”

Stacey, I want you to know that it’s not uncommon for me to have parents write in or call in with ask questions about their older child who either didn’t sleep well up until now or used to sleep well and now something has changed.

You gave me some very important information in that you shared with me that he used to sleep well and something happened over the holiday break that caused him to feel insecure and “need” you at bedtime. So, I would talk to him about what is going on. The wonderful thing about this age is that he can talk to you about what he is feeling and thinking. Try to figure out what happened– was there a conflict with a friend at school, with a family member, was it something he saw on television that is now troubling him. It sounds like something has triggered his anxiety.

Dealing with Your Child Sleep Problems

I would listen, reassure and validate his feelings. Ask him if there is anything you can do to support him. Tell him that you’re going to stay with him while he learns how to go to sleep or remembers how to put himself to sleep and assure him of his safety and that mom and dad do a great job protecting him. At his age children no longer worry about monsters under the bed because they pretty much understand that monsters don’t exist. They worry about the outside world coming in, so burglars, “bad people”, scary things like that invade on their security and the safety of their home. So, that’s why you want to reassure him. I’ve had children in my practice tell me that they heard on the news or at school about a child who got kidnapped or they heard about something on the radio and they become scared.

I want you to reassure him that you and your husband are there to protect him, that you check on him at night before he goes to sleep and that you do a really great job. Talk about this during the day and at night.

Reassure him without increasing his anxiety or creating a new sleep crutch like lying down with him or singing him to sleep for example. You can certainly do the Sleep Lady Shuffle at this age. Start by the bed or by the door, hall in view, etc. Make sure to offer lots of praise and and positive reinforcement for all of this good work in putting himself to sleep and back to sleep. As always, it is essential that you are consistent every night and through out the night returning him to his bed, reminding him of his sleep manners, reassuring him of his safety (if he asks) and resuming your chair position.

So, again, I would also encourage you to read the relaxation techniques in my book because he might need that if he is waking up scared. Teach him to throw the scary thought out and to replace it with something else because if we don’t replace it with something else, then you know what happens with all of us, the scary thought comes back in!

If your child’s sleep problems persists then I recommend you speak to your pediatrician. Some short-term play therapy may be beneficial in helping him to overcome his fears.

Alright. I hope that helps and good luck!


Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you can relate to this Mom’s struggle and would like to share your thoughts or words of support for her, click the “reply” link under this article and leave a comment or question.

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  • farukshina says:

    Dear SleepLady, I have used your method on my son Nikolai since he was 4 months old. Worked really well on him., I had to use it again and again (overall about 5-6 times) after each serious illness or travel or things that disrupt usual routine. We use the version when you come to the room, calm him down and step out and do it again. Because the chair by the door would disturb him much more. I am subscribed to your e-mail list. However, I am in unusual situation that I haven’t seen anyone came across in your e-mail list :(( My son is now almost 3 y.o. (BOD: November 9, 2009). This unusual behavior started in January 2012 – he was 2 years and 2 months old – and continues up until now. My husband and I are exhausted :((. At the beginning of this unusual behavior we had some sleep-routing interruptions: we had my father visiting and of course he wasn’t listening to us and any training we’ve done to Nikolai. Right after my father left, Nikolai broke his feet (toddlers fracture) and of cause I had to check on him in his room every time he called “mama”. However, since January this year I am struggling with sleep coaching him. The thing is that there is no one to coach, sort of to say 🙁 Nikolai calls “mama/papa” 5-7-10 time a night….. When we go to his room, he would be seating in his bed, once he sees me, he immoderately falls on his pillow and goes back to sleep. Well…. there are variations: he may ask for a sip of water, ask to locate his lovey toy in the bed, ask to cover him, etc. But it literally takes 30 sec and he is asleep again.  When I leave the room, he does care and he does not protest ever.Thus, what do I do to deliver the message that he has to stop calling mama and go to sleep by himself?? We are exhausted!!!! To wake up 10 times a night and go to work in the morning is a killer :((( I tried NOT to go when he calls. But the longest I’ve waited was 10 minutes and he kept calling mama/papa….. loudly, with a bit of crying sounds in his voice. Once I finally get up, go, once I open the door to his room – boom! he is back on his pillow and sound asleep. Note: he falls asleep by by himself, alone in his crib in a separate room. What heave changed? How do I coach him if he goes back to sleep ok? Pleaseeeee HELP!! Its been a;most 9 months now :(( We are struggling and exhausted.

  • LuciesList says:

    Not to be an alarmist, but I would be VERY concerned that something very traumatic has happened to this boy. I would try to figure out what it was. I would treat this very seriously.

    • farukshina says:

      @LuciesList Thank you for you reply, LuciesList, but definatelly no. Wrong direction. My boy is 100% choleric, so am I. My post may sound dramatic 🙂 as we are, and me the most, tired of waking up 10 times each night. Boy is absolutely fine. Yes, this year was full of events and emotions (grand parents visit; broken foot and the cast; very long trip to motherland, etc) and a bit overwellming, but so were other years when the training worked fine for him. He doesn’t scream when he wakes up or protest when I leave the room. He simply needs to see me for a second and boom! he is back to sleep. He’s done it with me, father, grand parents, whoever. He will come up with a reason to call on us… like “I want water” or “Can’t find my lovey in the bed”. But you can definately tell those are lame. He goes back to sleep and doesn’t object me leaving the room. How do I train him then that it is not good to call on parents in the midle of the night for nothing?

  • howtosleeponyourback says:

    This is such an interesting topic! I also run across a post from that talks about sleep problems with kids. It is true that sleep disorders are common these days even to kids.