s0bczak's picture

6-year-old with night terrors sleeping alone

My daughter has night terrors and just turned 6 years old in March. I'm trying to figure out how to get her to sleep alone in her own bed. I realize this should have been taken care of long ago... 6 is a little old to start. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

First, a little history... As an infant, she slept with my husband and me. When she was older, she began sleeping in the bed with my son. We found that as long as someone was sleeping next to her, she'd settle down if she had a terror and go back to sleep. If she was alone, she'd run through the house screaming like something was after her. The next morning, she never remembers it happening. Well now my son is 9 and wants a little privacy (not to mention wanting fewer kicks to his back during the night).

The past few nights I've been trying to make her sleep in her own bed to no avail. She loves her room and has a brand new queen-sized bed. The problem is, she can't sleep. She's scared of being alone, so she sits in there wild-eyed, terrified, crying, and continually wakes us up during the night wanting to sleep with us. I tried making her cry herself to sleep, but after 2 hours, I gave in. If I go in there and sit with her, she'll go to sleep, but wake up again an hour or so later.

The first night she went to bed at 9, was up from 10-12 WIDE AWAKE, went back to bed and was up again from 1-3 crying to sleep with us or my son. The second night was a repeat of the first, so my husband finally went into her room to sleep with her. We have tried dream catchers, music, sound waves, a lamp, nighttime routine, etc.

Has anyone had a similar experience? I'm wondering if there really is something that can help that we simply haven't tried, or if we just need to buckle down, stick to our guns and MAKE her get used to it.

junieg's picture

If you feel she is playing on this to avoid sleeping alone then yes, I would stick with it. However, it sounds like she is genuinely afraid so perhaps you should seek help in the form of counselling or take her to you doctor to discuss options. It is certainly unfair to your son to have him sharing his personal space with his sister. He is getting older now and may want friends to sleep over etc.
Have you tried any strategies to help her sleep such as aromatherapy or natural remedies. Is there something about the room which may have a bearing on her fear. Perhaps you could switch rooms with either your own or her brothers. Good luck anyway and keep us posted on how things go.

SnglDad's picture

In doing some looking around, there is a wealth of information on the internet. I read that one of the triggers of the terrors is a lack of REM sleep. Her severe anxiety with sleeping alone is something I would have a counselor talk to her about. A counseling session without mom or dad present may be able to get the answer as to whether this is actually the night terrors, or a strong willed young lady who is determined to get her way. If she is afraid to sleep alone, is there a cat or family dog that would ease that fear?

acitez's picture

a toddler bed might have been more friendly than a queensized bed.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

Counceling is a good start. Also looking into a sleep center at your local hospital is another option. Your daughter may have to spend the night, but she'll be monitored by drs who will oversee her sleep patterns. Based on their findings, they may be able to offer some good suggestions.
Also, I was wondering if you're aware of any frightening situation that your daughter may have experienced that may be the cause of these night terrors. I wld research night terrors to try to determine what may be causing these episodes. Then focus on how you can help your daughter. I don't think letting your daughter sleep in your bed is the answer. That only causes more problems. Can you possibly put a cot or air mattress in your daughter's room so that maybe you and your husband can take turns sleeping in there? Gradually, you can ease your way out of the room once your daughter feels more comfortable sleeping alone. Not sure if this is the best idea, but it's another option to explore.
Lastly, I thought of hypnosis. I'm not a huge believer in this approach, nor have I tried it, but I've heard of people that swear by it. If all else fails, it wldn't hurt to try it, I suppose.
My youngest son used to wake up crying, and sometimes we wld even find him downstairs on the couch in the morning. Now that I hear your story, I'm not sure my son was having night terrors, but I wonder if he was just sleep walking or waking up from having a bad dream.
Some things that worked for us were sticking to a routine at night, every night. We also started using a nightlight. Make sure you avoid any "scary" movies or stories before bed as well. My kids love all that stuff, but for a young kid, it can be frightening. Hope these suggestions help.

sunshinecoach's picture

Night terrors are very real to a child and sleeping alone is a big deal for many kids. My own son has always had problems sleeping frombeing tiny when he only slept for an hour at a time. Even now (almost 8) if his routine is changed at all sleeping is the first thing to be affected.
Personally I'm not a mother that can leave her child srying for hours, I just get too upset and he ends up distraught.
My suggestion is to place her in her own bed every single night (no exceptions). Have a story and a chat about the day. Once you are ready for her to go to sleep tell her that you are going to saty with her for 5 minutes and then you need to go and do some jobs or see daddy etc, tell her you will come back in 10 minutes, or 5 if she gets upset, make sure you go back at the time stated, do not get into a conversation, simply go in and let her know you're there. A quick kiss and arrange the bedding, or stroke her hair etc, try to avoid any talking, if she talks simply say it's time to go to sleep now. continue until she falls asleep. Once asleep, if she wakes up in the night keep her in her own bed and go through the whole proceedure again.
I know this sounds like it's going to be very time consuming but it works without too much distress.
I would also recomend a childrens relaxation (go to sleep cd) for her to listen to when she is alone.
I hope this helps
Wendy Tomlinson

9467229's picture

so how do you deel with that=)

unknown's picture


My 14 year old son when he was 9 years old used to have a similar problem. He used to be afraid of going to sleep even if he slept with his siblings in one room. When he finally did fall asleep he woke up several hours later in terror. He wandered around the house sniffing all the time petrified that the house is on fire and driving me crazy that he indeed smells smoke. He couldn't fall asleep only in my room near me. This lasted for days, it came to a point that he regressed from an a+ above average student to a B student. I was at my wits end and was ready to go to a phsychiatrist. At that point in life I had a baby girl born in my eighth month and that's when my life drastically changed and gave him relief too. It happened when I brought home my baby who was born with premature lungs and the doctors told me that she will be prone to all kinds of diseases that will circle around. Like virus, flus, colds etc. When she was 3 weeks old she got such a bad cold that I was literaly up all night as she had problems breathing and I was afraid to leave her and go to sleep. She was also tiny weighing 5 lbs 4 oz. I had other children and knew I need to do something to build her immune system I can't afford having a sick child all the time my other kids needed my attention too. Its then when I started looking into natural remedies and was also informed of the toxicity and harmfulness of our daily household cleaners and personal care products. I did not believe in it and was very skeptical about it. Anyway to make a long story short, within time I uncounsiously started to avoid buying the toxic ones and started using the nontoxic ones. After a period of approx. 6 weeks my little 2 year old colored his sheet with a crayon and my son who is a very particular type switched his sheet to another sheet that was still washed with the toxic cleaners. After 3 days of sleeping on it he had another anxiety attack, its then when I realized that for about 3 weeks he was fine, I was to busy to notice the change for better as we tend to take good for granted. So what happened now? After analyzing what I did differently from the past 3 weeks and came to the conclusion that the sheet was laundered with the detergent that I stopped using already. I switched back to the sheet that was washed with the nontoxic deterg.and within a few days his attacks totally disappeared.

By the way since I use natural remedies I cut my doctor visits to null, and that premature baby has seldom been sick.

waplef's picture

I know how you feel, for a while it was hard for my daughter also. Almost every night she will get into my bed, my husband will be upset with me and told me it was my fault. So I knew I had to do something about it. I tried staying in her room until she fall asleep, but then I will fall asleep also and will wake up early morning, then get to my room try to go back off to sleep, before you knew it;it was morning.I leave a night light on in her room and that helped for a while. So I did the only thing I could do, I lock my bedroom door, she was not able to come into my room during the night. It hurt sooo bad and I wanted to comfort her, but I knew I was doing the right thing for her.
Now she sleep's in her bed, sometime she will come into my room if she have a bad dream and I will let her stay the night, but I will not let it become a hadit. I know it will be hard for you to try this, but sometimes as parent we must exercise tough love.

Best of luck.

jimrich's picture

Just do the best you can.
good luck