12 answers

3 Year Old Crying at Night

Is it normal for a 3 year old to cry herself to sleep every single night. I'm not talking about 5-10 minutes, but longer.
As a baby, you could lay my daughter down and she would pass out right away. As she got older, she'd be alseep within 10 minutes. We now deal with her being up and crying off and on for 30 mins to an hour every night. It's breaking my heart..mine and my husband's.
It does not matter if she's napped during the day or not so I don't think it's that she's not tired or too tired.
Anyone else who's dealt with is and can offer some advice?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I just read an article that stated that children view going to sleep as a separation (from their parents, their toys, things that are still going on in the house, etc.) The article suggested have a strong and consistent bedtime routine lasting about 30 minutes. Anything less than that and the child feels rushed to bed. The article suggested some options to include in the bedtime routine such as a bath, reading stories, even just spending time together in the child's room.

More Answers

Hi S.,
my heart just breaks for you and her as I read this. I haven't dealt with this but you are studying to be a Nurse so I know you have probably checked her diet to see if maybe something she is eating or drinking might not be agreeing with her or mabye she is afraid of something. I am praying for a solution for you.

My son is 2 1/2. He cries himself to sleep when his naps are too long, etc. I know that you said that it does not matter if has taken a nap or not. Here are some things to try.

1. My son has a little night light or a hallway light is left on for him. If I turn if off too early, he wakes up and cries.
2. There are kiddo projectors that display a cartoon scene or stars on the wall for them as well. Some have music, some do not. My friend uses this as a night light for her daughter.
3. I make sure that he goes to sleep with a full tummy, socks on his feet (when your feet are warm it is hard not to want to go to sleep, think about your last hot pedicure!) soft jammies, and a couple pat's on his back. It really depends on your climate in regards to the warm jammy issue but definetly put her in socks.
Let me know if this helps. Remember just like a pain in the rear Pt (patient), some need more talking to/assurance than others.-Kujo

This is not normal behavior, that I know of. There's probably a problem somewhere. Like maybe she is having nightmares and is afraid to go to sleep. Perhaps she is getting to the age of being afraid of the dark. Maybe she is getting some late teeth? At any rate you need to try to talk to her to find out what is wrong and come up with solutions together. My son started crying at night when we moved him from his crib to his big-boy bed. Come to find out, he was scared because there were no walls and he thought he'd fall out and all of a sudden there were monsters. So, we put pillows on the ground where he'd fall out of bed so it wouldn't hurt and either me or Daddy have to read him a "happy story" and check for monsters every night before he is okay to go to sleep. The monster checks have gone on since he was 2, (he's now 3.5 yrs) and it's become a fun night-time ritual rather than the necessity it used to be.

S.- We experienced a similiar situation with our son, we took him in for a thorough medical exam just to ensure it was not a health issue- to our suprise he has reflux and laying down at night was causing him pain. They began some medications and within a few days he was back to his normal routine. Good Luck and I hope this helps.

I agree with all you have been told. I'll tell you what I did when my first son started having bad dreams. Saying prayers every night is part of our bedtime routine. Every night I say "Please God, may we have no bad dreams, only good, happy ones." Then my child gets his turn (I have 3 boys). I have heard things like "please keep the owls, bats, witches, Santa Clause... away." I found that although they may still have some bad dreams the dreams never seem to have a long lasting influence. I figure it is a combination of being able to voice their fears, knowing I am aware of the fears, and the belief that Mommy says God is protecting them that diminishes the importance of the night fears for them. I have also heard of some parents buying a dream catcher and getting their child to believe the dream catcher will catch all the bad dreams while they are sleeping, keeping them safe.

Not sure if you have tried this but this is our routine. I read one book, turn on very soft lullaby music and he gets to sleep with soft toy. I have trouble when he has napped so we are in the final stages of not napping. Also if he knows that the rest of the house is still awake he is very restlass so we all act like we are going to bed also. Hope it helps!

I have a 3 yr old son who now hates to go to bed at night. He does the same thing and its horrible to listen to. Does she have a small cd player in her room? Maybe you could put a classical music CD on to help her fall asleep? It worked with my first son who is now 5 but not with my 3 yr old unfortunately. But maybe that would help? Other than that, I too get to listen to the heartbreak every night. I hope it changes for you soon!!

Hi S.:

Wow, the crying before bedtime came be miserable. My name is S. and I'm a mother of six. Aging from 24 yrs. down to 6 yrs. All very different. I can share what I do, even to this day. One half our before bed, everyone gets in pajama's, reads their Bibles (except my little man who is 6) and then might read something else until bed time. The house is becoming quiet slowly and everyone gets the idea.
I pray that helps you.

I can't really offer any advice, my own 3 year old does this, and I'm not sure why. I'll go in there and all he'll need is a drink of water and he'll go right back to sleep most nights. Some nights though he wakes up 3 or 4 times in one night. I know how frustrated you are about this, because I'm just as frustrated with mine though. Just remember, this WILL pass, our children will not be adults that wake up in the middle of the night. I argree that you should try a CD in her room, or, I know a lot of people don't agree with this, but maybe give her an hour or two of TV in her room, but shut it off after a certain amounnt of time. I did that with my daughter when she was a little over 2 and she is just fine now at 4. Good Luck.

Hello S., my name is F. H, and I currently live here in Germany. I am studying to be a Psychologist, and to me that doesn't sound normal. I would like to suggest that you along with your husband may need go back to her basic sleeping habits more in depth , starting from infancy. I see you pointed out a little about that. I was just wondering if most of her infancy was spent sleeping with you and your husband most of the time and if so, until what age? If so that could be a contributing factor. It would be difficult and can be difficult to try to break a any child much less a 3 year old out of the habit of sleeping with parents, then beggining to sleep alone. That would cause some anxiety for the child and this may regard the act of crying for an hour or so before falling alseep. Another thing could be fear of the dark or fear of abandoment from the parents generally speaking. If none of these things are factors, I would suggest consultation with her pediatrician, as there could be some other underlined issue where your child is concerned. At any rate good luck and I hope that this helps, by the way, I am a mother of three, 17, 13, and 10. Have a good day!

I just read an article that stated that children view going to sleep as a separation (from their parents, their toys, things that are still going on in the house, etc.) The article suggested have a strong and consistent bedtime routine lasting about 30 minutes. Anything less than that and the child feels rushed to bed. The article suggested some options to include in the bedtime routine such as a bath, reading stories, even just spending time together in the child's room.

It sounds like she might be afraid of something. At the age of 3 is when imaginations start to really take off, but they can still have a difficult time telling what is imaginative and what is real, and she may also not know how to articulate why she is crying to you. At this age is also when kids don't want to stop their day to sleep, they want to keep playing or interacting with Mom and Dad, and sleep seems really awful. When my daughter was 3 is when she started coming up with numerous reasons to stay up, saying she was thirsty, that she was hungry, that she had to go to the potty, that she had to find something, etc. 3 is actually a very trying age, personalities can suddenly seem to change and they can really test your patience, and yes, break your heart by crying for 30 minutes. Try changing her bed-time routine a bit and see if that helpss. I just read that TV can keep kids from falling asleep, even if has been a couple of hours since the TV was turned off. Try playing a quiet game, then offer her a light snack, like a couple of crackers and a bit of milk (a snack eliminates the I'm hungry or thirsty excuse to get out of bed), then have her do the normal potty and burshing teeth, washing face routine, then read a calm story and put her to bed. Even though it's extremely difficult, do not keep responding to her crying, that only reinforces it. Go in once or twice, pat her on the back, give her a kiss and tell her it's night time, but after that you should ignore her crying and she will eventually go to sleep, and although it is very trying, this will pass in it's own time. Good luck.

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