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8yo and sleep anxiety

7 replies to this topic

#1 Zeppelina

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:20 PM

Wondering if anyone has any advice/ideas/suggestions.

DS is almost 8. Up until he started school a few years ago he was a brilliant sleeper, self-settling from when he was a baby. As a toddler and preschooler he'd go to bed and if he wasn't sleepy he'd just lie there and sing songs or just daydream until he fell asleep.

In the past few years though, he's developed some kind of sleep anxiety, where if he doesn't fall asleep literally within 10 or 15 minutes, he starts to feel like he'll never fall asleep, etc. And the calling out to us starts. Sometimes with only 5 or 10 minutes between call outs. Lots of "I'm still not asleep, I'm never going to fall asleep" etc.

We've never had a super strict bedtime (generally it's been around 8-8.15pm since he was little) or put any pressure on him to fall asleep quickly. I don't know where this has come from, but we are at our wits end as it's now happening every night and we are spending an 1-1.5+ hours every evening attending to him and trying to calm him.

We've tried:
later bedtime
earlier bedtime
no bedtime, just listen to your body (he didn't handle this at all)
no clock in the room
relaxation before bed
meditation techniques
sleep 'strategies' (eg tighten and relax each muscle in your body, etc)

He won't have music playing. There's no screen time for an hour before bed. He shares a room with his sister (this can't be changed right now) so we're a bit limited with what he can do once he's in bed.

The problem ISN'T actually that he can't fall asleep - he could and does, easily, within half an hour, if he could just get past the anxiety, and get past having to call out to us. It's like a stress-release for him or something.

TL;DR - does anyone have any advice on other techniques or strategies that DS can use as a 'stress release' to relieve his sleep anxiety, other than just constantly calling out to us and disrupting himself? Alternatively, any methods for decreasing sleep anxiety?

#2 *BellBird*

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:31 PM

Does it help if someone lies or sits with him to go to sleep? One of my Kids often develops sleep issues when things in his life change (new school year etc) and I just tend to lie with him (only takes 10 or 15 mins each night generally) until that particular  phase passes. I find not making a big deal about it & ignoring the theatrics “I’ll never be able to sleep” etc helps it pass fairly quickly - within a few weeks.

#3 petal71

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:31 PM

No real advice sorry, but DS is a bit similar and the same age. He wont keep it up for 1.5 hours though usually.
Is he getting enough exercise in the day? At this age some kids stop running around in the playground so much...Or maybe a longer screen free period before bed - we notice DS needs longer than an hour with no screens before bed.

Edited by petal71, 13 May 2019 - 09:32 PM.

#4 Bearynice

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:46 PM

So do you think he calls out for reassurance? Is he worried you won’t be there if he falls asleep?

Or is it a fear of the dark or something?

I think around this age my kids have started to over think things ( eg. Thunder or friendship stuff at school)

My kids around this age used to sleep about ten hours ,is your ds getting a good amount of sleep?

I get that it’s annoying all the yelling out. I don’t have the answer for that one!!

#5 Agnetha

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:49 PM

we Had huge issues last year with miss nearly 8, similar to yours.

I trialed a few weeks of ‘special children’s sleeping tablet’ ( multivitamin) just before bed , and it worked wonders . I explained she would still take a little while to fall asleep, and would take a week or so , but the placebo worked on the anxiety of bedtime. Things aren’t perfect , but a lot lot better . Good luck

#6 Lifesgood

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:52 PM

Oh wow, this could be our DS, same age. He has mild ASD, has been a brilliant sleeper since birth - self settled, slept like he was unconscious. We could literally change his bedding and PJs if he had an accident in the night and he would barely wake. Suddenly he developed a tendency to wake up after about an hour if he was even slightly disturbed, was very upset and would not believe us when we told him he HAD been asleep. He became convinced he would never get to sleep, there were tears, getting up repeatedly and eventually falling asleep in our bed, with DH having to move to the spare room.

Eventually we stopped allowing him to fall asleep in our bed and began insisting he go back to his bed. We removed his clock, cooled him down if he was hot (sometimes we gave him Panadol) and told him to stop trying to go to sleep, that it really didn't matter if he was awake - I actually challenged him to try to stay awake (with lights out etc), explaining to him it is impossible. Of course each time he went to sleep eventually, sometimes after some tears and sobbing and I would talk to him calmly about it in the morning, to reinforce to him that it did end up ok, he DID get to sleep again.

It has mostly stopped happening now, a few months down the track.

I hope you can get through this quickly with your DS too. Good luck.

PS. We had a different but related issue with DD around the same age, removing her clock sorted it out.

#7 CallMeFeral

Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:56 PM

Why is he calling out do you? What happens if he doesn't? What happens if you don't go in to calm him?

I'd consider seeing a professional. I could be reading this wrong but it sounds like there's some kind of OCD flavour to it where he feels if he's awake he has to call out, and can't stop himself? I could be misinterpreting your description. Or else there's some kind of security thing about having you guys calm him (depending on what he's requiring you to do). But I think it might be complex enough that you need specialised advice.

#8 QuirkyMum

Posted 13 May 2019 - 10:09 PM

The only thing that worked is this arrangement: my son now has a light next to him in bed which is on all night, "sound of the rain on tin roof" is on on his Google home mini next to his bed and he has a blindfold on ( thick soft one from business class pack from qantas or United ).
We were seeing a psychologist for help and all was well apart from the fact that nothing was working... Then one night I had enough and told him he had to sleep with light on or off, he complained that light will kill the melatonin in his body and asked for a tablet of melatonin and I gave him a blindfold for protection from the light(!) instead of a tablet and turned the sounds of the rain and I didn't hear from him till morning.

Edited by QuirkyMum, 13 May 2019 - 10:14 PM.

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