Sleepless in Nebraska

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 2003

Dear Annette,

I have three children, ages 7, 5, and 20 months. My older children go to sleep well each night around 8:00 or 8:30 pm. All three of my children follow the same nightly routine of stories, songs, tooth brushing, and prayer. They share the same bedroom.

Typically my 20-month-old will fall asleep in about 15-20 minutes after being put to bed if myself or my husband sit by his bed and require that he stay in bed. (This is not our ideal for bedtime but became necessary about 3 months ago when we had to move him to a toddler bed from his crib when he began hurdling the side of his crib.

We are hoping to slowly phase this out as he gets older by sitting further away from his bed until we are outside of the room.)

The real problem begins anywhere from 12:00 am to 2:00 am. He gets out of bed and comes into our room in a zombie-like state. If we take him into our bed he typically cries and kicks (if ignored he can continue for quite some time).

If I take him back to his bed, he also cries and screams and fights to get out of bed. If I take him in the living room, he will sometimes fall asleep on my shoulder (until we attempt to lie down again) or other times he continues in his half-asleep/half-awake mode of fussing and kicking. I don't believe these are night terrors because I have experienced those in the past with my other children.

Typically if I can get him to wake fully and sit quietly on my lap for about 30 minutes or so, we can get back to bed. The problem starts all over every couple of hours. He is not getting adequate sleep and neither am I. All of our work with him when he was under 1 to fall asleep in his crib on his own and sleep through the  night has gone completely out the window.


Sleepless in Nebraska


Dear Sleepless in Nebraska,

Since your son has been trained to sleep through the night there must be something awaking him.  You say he is not fully awake, yet he is kicking and screaming.  Health problems intensify at night since there is no other stimulus to pay attention to.

First, I would get him a priesthood blessing or a father's blessing.  If this doesn't remedy the problem, then get a through check up for your son.  Be sure to mention the problems your child has been having to your doctor.

Meanwhile, I would make sure that the child knows that he must stay in his bed by consistently taking him back each time he comes out so he know that his actions for companionship are not getting him anywhere. 

Please realize that all behaviors exist to get the person what s/he want.  When they do not, the behavior is extinguished.  Before this happens, the behavior is intensified in hopes that it will still get the person what s/he wants.  Then periodically it is resurrected to see if it has gained its power back.

It does not sound like your child is exhibiting behavioral problems, rather medical ones which are beyond his ability to cope and which continue to arouse him through the night, enough that he comes for help.

I hesitate to mention using drugs for helping your toddler to sleep.  I think this should be your last resort.  Whatever conclusion you come to on this issue, make sure you are fully informed by your doctor on the dosage and side effects of the drug even on  over the counter drugs.

Before acting on any informed information, make a decision and then ask the Lord if this is what needs to be done.

See:  How to Make Good Decisions

 Keep your doctor aware of any changes for the worse.

I hope you find the root of the problem soon.

Best wishes,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

If you found this article or website to be of value to you, please click here to support this website with a voluntary donation. $5.00
Suggested payment per online question asked of Annette. $10.00
Suggested payment per hour of phone consultation or counseling. $80.00
Search This Website
Search The Web