19 answers

11 Year Old Won't Stay in Her Room at Night

How can I get my 11 year old daughter to stay in her room at night? I put her to bed in her room. She doesn't go to sleep and says she can't fall asleep. She reads for a while and can't fall asleep. She has tried watching a movie and didn't fall asleep. Sometimes she will come down and say she had a nightmare. Other times she just says she's scared and doesn't want to sleep upstairs by herself. She is upstairs and our room is downstairs. She ends up sleeping on the floor by our bed. This has been going on for about two months and it is driving me crazy because my husband and I have no privacy anymore. Help! What can I do? Any ideas?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My daughter did this just before she became the independent teenager that couldn't stand to claim me as her mother. Looking back I wish I had embraced that time more.

1 mom found this helpful

Is she drinking or eating sugary things maybe with caffeine after 3:00 in the afternoon? That will keep a lot of people awake.

More Answers

Hi P.,

Has anything changed in your daughter's life or routine lately? Eleven is a pretty rough age as I recall - lots of social changes and pressures to fit into a narrow box at school, etc. It's an awkward time to be a kid and it doesn't help to have the added pressures to be some non-existent perfect role model (whether it be looks, clothes, athletics, grades, friends, etc.). I would encourage you to sit down and ask her how things are going and to listen for anything that could be the source.

I used to have real problems sleeping as a child. Some of it was definitely due to my family situation (abusive step-father). Part of it was due to my personality and tendency towards anxiety. I would work myself up by looking at the clock and counting the hours/ minutes I had left to sleep and the longer I couldn't sleep, the more worked up I got about being tired in the morning. It was a bad cycle. I did use a tape of ocean sounds, that helped. Any kind of calming nighttime routine (hot herbal tea/ breathing/ stretching/ yoga,etc.) would help.

Another part of my problem was that I was just thinking about everything too much. When that happens, it really helps me to write things down and get them out of the running loop in my head. You might suggest she write in a journal or diary (you could get her a pretty blank book if she's interested).

Also, does she get enough exercise during the day? That helps with a good night's sleep.

I would really encourage you to explore the cause and identify some ways to calm her down rather than looking for a drug at this point. Good sleep is a critical life skill, so it's worth figuring out the true cause and working towards a long-term solution.

Good luck,

2 moms found this helpful

First thing I would be concerned about is that something bigger is going on. Something with other kids/school or maybe even someone being inappropriate with her. Not sleeping is usually a big sign of something wrong. Kids will not usually tell you straight out so you have to bring up scenarios and let her know that no secret is too big for you to handle and you are her closest confidant. You may want to do this with her while giving her something else to focus on like going for a walk somewhere private. Children have a hard time with face to face conversations especially about things that may be intense. I would let her keep sleeping in your room until you get to the bottom of it and then go from there. She obviously needs to be there for now and needs to know that you are there for her. I wish you all the best.


1 mom found this helpful

I agree that there is something going on in her life that is upsetting her or scaring her. It might be anything... a situation at school or increased stress as school has gotten harder this year, the onset of puberty, or a generalized anxiety over something she heard on the news. There has been so much negativity on TV about the economy, and a kid this age can pick up on that stress if it's affecting anyone in her life (My 10 yr old son has been asking a lot of questions about it). Absolutely get her talking and see if you can work out what is bothering her.

I think if books and TV aren't working, try something else. I agree with more exercise during the day, watching what she's eating, and trying some calming bedtime routines. Having soft music or some type of "white noise" playing in her room is a great idea. You might want to try lying down next to her at bedtime and rubbing her back, talking softly to her in the dark. This might be a time when she would open up to you if the lights are off and she doesn't have to look directly at you, and is feeling a little more relaxed and safe.

Whatever the reason is whether small and simple or big, this behavior isn't something that would start happening out of the blue for no reason at all, so I think you need to pursue the cause. Think how awful it would be to find out later in life that there was something really wrong and you didn't know about it, or even worse, that you ignored the warning signs. If she won't talk to you, try other adults in her life or get her into therapy.

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same problems when I was that age. I was terrified of the sound of silence. I know it is strange but to me it was deafening! Use Christmas as an excuse to get her a cd player or mp3 player of some sort that she can set to play all night long. I had to do this for years. The music quieted my thoughts and quieted the silence. If it was silent I could think about everything and had the most overactive imagination - I also have also had a problem worrying so I would replay events over and over in my head. Music was my saving grace. As random gifts my mom would buy me CDs or I would save up to buy them myself. Now you can buy itunes cards or even buy cds on cards that download to the mp3. Amazon keeps running amazing deals on mp3 accessories and so it walmart (search value packs on their website).
Above all else don't belittle her fear. I know it isn't good to be afraid, but I see you're a Christian and the answer tends to a be, a lot of times, that you shouldn't have problems or be afraid. Help her talk about her fear and help her find ways to conquer it. Help empower her over her fear (in daylight of course). My mom was pretty good about this, and had me talk and she and I came up with the music solution together. I hope you find an answer!


1 mom found this helpful

Oh dear--- P. - I think there are two issues:
1. What is making her so upset? ( I strongly urge that she not be allowed to watch tv or movies after - her bedtime- studies are very clear that children have more trouble sleeping after tv - not less - maybe a check with her pediatrician?? -- Has she recently started into puberty? Could that whole roller coaster ride be upsetting her?? What has changed in her life?

2 . You as parents have a right to say '' no, dear heart- this room is YOURs and that room is OURS - sorry- the sleepovers are over - or a more gentle approach might be to say ''' you get one sleepover a week- and WE decide when it is available - one and one only - AND you will lose it if you come in and claim our room when you should be in yours''' I'm not saying MY ''''rules''' are right for your family- but you have a right to make some sort of rule that you and your husband can be comfortable with- - once you make your decision together- you and your husband- stick to it like your life for the next decade depends on it- as it likely does. ( Children this age behave as though they want perfect freedom- but they actually crave our being firm and reliable - it's a tough deal- but you CAN)

aka - Old Mom ( raised 3, working on 4 and 5 - )

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter did this just before she became the independent teenager that couldn't stand to claim me as her mother. Looking back I wish I had embraced that time more.

1 mom found this helpful

P., your daughter seems to be having some significant stress and anxiety keeping her awake. I would say she needs someone to talk to. I don't know what kind of communication is typical between you and her, but I think you need to sit her down for a good one to one. The trick is to coax out of her what is going on, without putting her on the spot. If she won't open up with you, please find someone else. Is there another adult in her life with whom she feels close? Perhaps you can ask that person to take your daughter to lunch. There are ways to get kids to talk without them even knowing it. Clearly, she is suffering. Please be patient and consider that she is calling out for guidance, but doesn't have the ability to communicate it clearly. Poor thing. I wish you and your daughter well.

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter is ten and was starting to get like that too. I finally started to read with her at night, and making sure to have a bed time routine. Also, she has a bunk bed and sleeps on the top bunk. I hung a peice of nice material around her bed with eye hooks and clip on curtain hangers; it is completely not see throught but has sparkles on it. She has not had a problem since she has her own 'cool' loft. In her bed she has a light with a timer to sleep woth. She also has a shelf where she keeps a few books and 2 flashlights (she paid for them with her own money). I also got her an alarm clock with a projection picture to shine on the ceiling (her birthday was last month; that the only reason there is so much in that space lol).

I just noticed you are in CMA (my Mother in-law is in CMA) anyways; that is the best ideas I have right now.

Do you have a dog or cat that could maybe stay in her room with her? I am almost 52 years old and have been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. I have a hard time sleeping if my husband isn't in the room with me. If one of our dogs is there it helps me sleep. I just always feel safer I guess. Is there anything you can give her that will help her feel "less alone"? I wish you the best. I know it's tough for both you and her.

My oldest had trouble sleeping and I ended up getting her melatonin to help her stay calm at night. She has OCD and her mind would race about things that she didn't really need to be thinking about....it caused a lot of anxiety and insomnia. The melatonin really helped her.

Another thing you may try is to reward her for sleeping in her room all night. Positive reinforcement works wonders!


My son is 10 and he would sleep on my floor over the most comfy bed anytime! Don't tell, but he sleeps with a stuffed animal :) For him it's general anxiety. We found that having a fan run for some white noise (so he's not fixated on noises in the house and what they are), a stuffed animal and a 1/2 tab of melatonin help him drift off in about an hour. Before these things....he would lie awake 3-4 hours waiting for me to go to bed so he could sneak in and sleep on the floor. My son loves Awana by the way! :)
Sometimes the before bed ritual can help - nice warm bath where she has time for a soak or something.

Is she drinking or eating sugary things maybe with caffeine after 3:00 in the afternoon? That will keep a lot of people awake.

sit down with her and ask her what the real problem is. she will tell you eventually.

She is at an age where sleeping upstairs or down shouldn't make any difference. So my next thought would be.. school issues. I'm guessing that she has just transitioned to middle school -that can be stressfull and if she has been coming to your room for the last 2 months.. that is my first gut feeling anyway..
You mention that you are involved in Awana (awesome program!).. maybe you could mention to someone there that she is friends with, maybe a teacher/pastor/another parent/high school helper, (assuming again.. that your daughter participates in the program) to pull her aside and ask if there are any upper-class kids that are giving her trouble at school. I know my daughter doesn't always confide in me at first eventhough we have a very open/close relationship. sometimes it helps break the ice when someone else starts the conversation.
I hope this helps
God Bless

You may want to think about having her get some acupuncture. Acupuncture is really really helpful with sleep problems (either not sleeping enough or sleeping too much!). In Chinese Medicine, there are actually "patterns" that can occur in the body that can lead to inability to sleep, and feelings of fear and anxiety. (I used to go to Acupuncture School so I have some experience on that end.) Rarely do you feel the needles and an acupuncturist knows to be gentle with a child. Also, they may prezcribe some very gentle herbs for her to take that can help calm her at night. I would suggest checking out the School of Oriental Medicine in Portland as you can take her to the student clinic there for $25 or $35. They will be very gentle with her. Also, another reason why I would highly suggest taking her to an acupuncturist for this situation is because if it goes "untreated" then the "pattern" can develop into more complicated "patterns" in her body down the road. Acupuncture is all about bringing the body into balance and she is exuding signs of slight imbalance but these signs over time can really move into much more imbalanced states thus making it more challenging to get back into balance. Acupuncture is amazing!

If she feels comfortable sleeping on the floor in your room, you might let her do so for a little while longer. Then, gradually move her out to the hallway, then the living room, then upstairs. Give her a small reward for sleeping in each place. My daughter went thru a similar experience, and it was complicated by chronic illness. She will eventually be able to sleep in her room by herself.

Hi P....
good suggestions so far...I think I can add just a bit to what's already suggested so as not to repeat.

Perhaps your Daughter's "Tank" is low. She may be showing anxiety about sleeping, but perhaps it would help to spend some more quality one-on-one time with her. either mom or dad or both indivudually.. or family time if that has been missing too. Specifically! - doing things with her which are encouraging and uplifting to her.

I know it can be a busy time of the year this month, however it will pay off. Even going so far as to let her know when the next 'daughter/mom -daughter/family' time is will give her something to look forward to as well.

all the best ;)

so i've got advice. it may sound weird but, i heard about this in my church's parenting class. You and your husband need to have "couch time". I agree with responses of maybe she is stressed. And this could be the answer. Now im not insinuating anything about your marriage :) Sometimes children are insecure in their home life for any strange reason, they are kids and they're learning life. So, "couch time" is this... 15 minutes on the couch or at the table or somewhere where she can notice, just talking to each other, how was your day?? saying i love you, just mom and dad, no interuptions. and watching t.v doesnt count. :) and neither does bedroom time :) Good luck!

I have a daughter that is 10 and she is the same way. I think kids this age have a lot on their minds and they think too much at bed time. I try to talk to my 10 year old about her day and get every detail possible each day. Also, I stopped her video game/tv/computer usage at night unless it was for homework purposes. This has seemed to help quite a bit.

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