22 answers

Four Year Old Has Insomnia

My four year old daughter has insomnia and I'm not sure what to do about it. I've tried several different (tons) of things to get her to go to sleep at night, but it just isn't working. She never goes to sleep before 10:00. She takes a two hour nap at school so I'm not really worried about her not getting enough sleep. I just want her to be able to go to bed earlier.

I definitely think her nap time at school is too long. I don't think she needs a nap at all. She doesn't take one on the weekends and she is fine. I'm just not sure how to get the daycare to quit giving her a nap.

ETA, again:
Ok, more info. She does not usually sleep well at all. She hasn't been a good sleeper since we brought her home. She has had nightmares (based on her doctor's assessment) since she was about six months old. If she would wake up and we weren't holding her then she would shake uncontrollably until we could get her to calm down. It was terrifying and there really isn't a good way to explain it in writing. She has pretty much always slept with us. At first it was to get her to go to sleep, then it was becuase I was worried about her waking up alone and scared like that, and there have been other things.

Regardless of how you feel about cosleeping, it works for us. We have one that sleeps wonderfully alone and one that needs us at night and we are OK with that.

So after all of that is said, she is not a good sleeper. She wakes often at night. She has dreams and nightmares. She talks in her sleep. When we do try to get her to sleep alone she walks in her sleep and we will find her all over the house. She will sit up in the bed at night and just "stare", but she is asleep the whole time.

I don't mind laying down with her at night to get her to sleep. But right now if she goes to bed with us at 10, she will fidget and squirm for at least 30 minutes because she just can not relax and go to sleep. I've tried putting her to bed earlier with a quite movie, a book, music, etc. to get her to relax before bed, but it just doesn't seem to help.

The daycare, changing is not an option. I would rather her take a nap and work with her at night than change. My daycare is wonderful and if this is the only thing we can't come to terms on then I'll deal with it. I would not send her to an inferior center just to get her to go to bed earlier. Ours is rated very highly and has been chosen by the state as one of five in our area for a special teaching program. And it is not just that, the workers are awesome and genuinely love our kids. They take an interest in their lives, like coming to offsite birthday parties and events, and care about them. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

To be completely honest, I haven't asked them about doing away with her nap time. I guess I'm afraid they will tell me no and that will give me a reason to be upset with the.

Thanks for all the advice so far. It has really given me a lot to think about. I guess I would really like to hear from someone that has had a child with similar sleep issues because if it isn't something you've been through then it is so hard to explain. Before her I would have thought that it was just the parent not being firm enough or something, but I can assure you that is not the issue in our house.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I took a little bit of everyone's suggestions. I talked to the Director at the daycare and explained the problem. They really don't have a place to put her while everyone else is napping, but they have shortened her nap time.

I also took her in to see her doctor. He suggested the regular things, bed at the same time every night, story and quiet activities before bed, etc. He did say that I could try the melatonin, but that it hasn't been tested in children and no one knows the right dose. He said to start with a quarter of an adult dose and see what happened. He also said to be sure that she has NO caffiene at all, including chocolate. I actually hadn't thought about that. I'm not sure how much she has been getting, but I'm going to watch closer and try to cut it out all together.

For about the last week I have been taking her to bed a little earlier and we "talk" for a little while (until I get too tired) and then I tell her she can stay awake if she wants, but that she has to be quiet. Within 10 minutes she is usually asleep. I'm going to keep trying this and move it up earlier little by little to see if that helps.

Thanks for all the input.

Featured Answers

I absolutely disagree with giving a child anything to get them to sleep!! As the others suggested just get rid of the nap and let her adjust to getting all of her sleep at night. No doubt she be tired earlier and sleep great once she her body adjusts to the new schedule!
Good Luck!

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More Answers

Hi J.,
you did not mention if your daughter sleeps the nite thru. but I agree that a 2 hr nap during the day is too long for a 4 year old. She should maybe have a 30 or 45 minute nap if needed or no nap at all at that age. Unfortunately most day cares insist that all the children "nap". I would speak with the day care and explain your issue with her at bed time and see if they can make an exception with her- like take her to another room and let her color or play while the others nap..... or give her some task to perform etc- if they don;t want to cooperate I would consider changing day care. Taking naps during the week and not on week end will upset her sleep schedule and if she does good on week ends she does not need to nap during the week.
good luck and blessings

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,
I don't know if anyone suggested this (there are lots of responses I don't have time to read!!) so I wanted to throw it out there. 1. Sit with your daughter and teach her how to do deep breathing and then at night have her take deep breaths to relax herself. 2. When in bed, have her rub her feet together, rubbing the arches of one foot on the ball of her other foot - it's a great self relaxation technique! 3. My girlfriend was told by her naturopath to give a small dose of Melatonin before bath. They have little melting tablets just for kids and it worked wonders for her super-high-strung 5 yo boy.

Between some relaxation techniques and doing away with that nap, you should be good to go! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I absolutely disagree with giving a child anything to get them to sleep!! As the others suggested just get rid of the nap and let her adjust to getting all of her sleep at night. No doubt she be tired earlier and sleep great once she her body adjusts to the new schedule!
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with Laurie. As far as the day care goes, just tell them the problem and that you do not want her to nap. My four and a half year old rarely takes naps now. If he does, it is for less than an hour. I don't know if this will help, but both of my boys went through a period when they were around 3 of waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning and we fixed it with a high protien snack before bed. They couldn't make it through the night without getting hungry. It greatly improved their mood in the morning as well.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with some of the others. A two hour nap for a 4 year old is rarely heard of. My 4 year old will nap maybe once every 2 weeks (and that is only because he's fallen asleep in the car). I would definitely insist they not do this anymore and explain it is affecting her sleep at night and affecting your family life. I hate to think this way but the fact that the daycare is trying to nap a 4 year old sounds like they are being a bit lazy. You don't pay them to have her sleep. I think this is probably your biggest issue. Good luck. I hope you all get some rest soon!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.!

I can completely relate to sleeping issues with kiddos!! We have 5 and ALL of them have special needs. I didnt read every word in the suggestions that were given to you but browsed them. After all is said and done you are that sweet girls mama, you know best, go with your gut! I have dealt with MAJOR sleeping issues with my kids. I am actually worried about your little girl when you say she wakes up shaking, and blank staring but "still asleep." I would rule out ANYTHING medical first. My first son has aweful sleeping issues and we found out he has autsim. I would almost suggest you take her to a pediatric neurologist. they would make sure nothing else is going on and she isnt having some mild seizures. My first son we started with Benadryl to help him sleep. If there is something going on with your little girl, which is sounds like it, cuz she cant physically relax or stay asleep, they cannot help it! Benadryl helped my son immensly!! when he got older we switched over to melatonin. it is a natural supplement. Your body already makes it just some kids need more of it to relax, fall alseep and STAY asleep. I would highly suggest this! I have another son with autism, a daughter with lots of medical issues and sleep is VERY important! for you and your sweet babe. Its sounds to me like she cant help it, and allthough routines and schedules are great, we live by them, she is gonna need more. Call your dr get a referral, and try something like benadryl, if you not sure about a medication, do the melatonin. You can find the pills at a walmart, but its a little harder to get the liquid form. Some specialty stores have them, i have just gotten them offline. And just a little encouragement. I have been to about every specialist known to man kind with my sweet kiddos! It can be daunting at times. But I just take the approach that what ever is going on with them, they already have! So, I want to know, and find out what it is, so I can help them and do everything I possibly can to give them a happy healthy successful life no matter how severe or mild the issue might be. Hang in there! let me know if you have any questions! I would be as proactive as you possible can, if you dont like what one dr has to say find a different one! Oh and about the daycare thing, it sounds like you have a great relationship with them! Just ask them not to give her a nap anymore, and even offer to send a "naptime goody bag for school" she can color, read books, put headphones on and watch a DVD, have a snack. You are the momma you get to decide, ok! :)

1 mom found this helpful

I agree that nap time is super long. Find another daycare that will not give a two hour nap to a four yr old. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 4 year old girl who started fighting nap time about a year ago. I finally gave it up six months ago because I noticed that when she had a nap (usually 2 hours) she had trouble falling asleep at night. I tried giving shorter naps, but she is very difficult to wake once she is asleep. So we no longer do naps, instead we have "quiet time" in her room in the afternoon. Some day cares will allow children to have quiet time in a separate room from the sleeping children. They can use the time to look at books, color, puzzles any quiet activity. If my daughter has a nap, she will not fall asleep before 10 pm either, so I understand your dilemna. If the day care is not accomodating to your needs as a family (for her to go to bed earlier), then I'd look for another place that is more understanding. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I just reada response that suggested Melatonin or Beneadryl to help your child fall asleep. I have a niece and nephew that use it, and I also give it to my daughter, the Melatonin that is. It is safe and very effective. Melatonin is a chemical our brains make to help us relax and sleep. Some people just dont produce enough. I agree that you should probably have your child checked out for a medical condition.

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe the daycare needs to move your daughter up to the next age group. They should have a rest period, that does not require them to nap, but just have some quiet time on their mats, no longer than 30 minutes..

Is she almost 5? Could be 2 hours is too long of a nap for her. In all day kindergarten they get about a 20 to 30 minute rest period, but no nap. Also what time is their nap time? What time do you all eat dinner? What time do you give her, her bath each night? All of this could be too late, so she is too wound up at night..

The other thing is that since it is still very bright at 7:30 or 8:00pm, many kids have trouble believing it is time to got to bed. I would suggest no TV or running around after dinner. Instead some quiet time and then a very warm bath, then a story in her extra cool (use a fan, not just a ceiling fan), darkened room (get black out curtains or fabric to cover her windows). Read very slowly and quietly and do not engage your daughter in conversation during her bedtime story. Make sure there is no loud tv, phones ringing, loud talking through the house at this time.

Check out some of the posts about how to get kids to go to sleep at night and see if any of that helps.

Hi J.-

I understand your reluctance to create a problem with the daycare, but if they do naptime the way other daycares my children have attended do then they should be able to at least wake her up earlier if not eliminate the nap entirely. In my experience daycares have a set minimum rest time (could be an hour). They have all the children lie quietly for that long and then allow those not still asleep to get up and play quietly while the sleepers are allowed to continue sleeping until they wake up on their own. It could be that your daughter is the last one left sleeping (as my daughter always was) and that her sleeping 2 hours is not really the school norm it's just that she is so tired that she continues to sleep. I would say you should talk to them about it and see if this is the case. If so, ask them to wake her up at the end of the required "quiet time".

By the way, my daughter went through a phase (about 6 months) where she was having night terrors quite regularly. It is very scary and I completely understand where you are coming from.

Best of luck to you,

Hi J.,

I went thru this last year, and my daughters pediatrician recommended Melatonin. It is a natural sleep aid. I was not at all in favor of giving my child medicine to help her sleep, but this worked excellent and I realized that I needed to get sleep as well. I would crush up a 5mg pill and I would give it to her with some yogurt or something she liked and about 30 minutes later she was ready to go to bed. I only had to do this for a few weeks and then she got in the habit of going to bed around 8 on her own. You can get Melatonin at any drug store. Hope this helps and good luck.

Great book describes your situation (and mine, a few years ago) to a 'T!' "The Seven O'Clock Bedtime" book is now out of print, but can be found through many libraries and Amazon. I was reluctant and skeptical, but advice was simple, kind, profound. Changed our world completely. Documents why biological rhythm is for little ones to go to bed closer to the 7 pm range, and why those of us with kids who are still WIDE awake at 9-10-11 pm have just 'missed the window.' I watched the kids for a while, and started to notice the tired cues I was missing, and was EASILY able to shift some things over the next few weeks that supported my wild one into a reasonable bedtime. Author is very realistic, a mom herself, and respectful of working mom issues. Side effect - calmer, more flexible kid who got sick less often.

Also - naturopathic approach can also support a body that relaxes to get the rest it craves. Often a mineral deficiency, usually magnesium, often calcium too, not at all uncommon these days. No, dairy (contrary to the public health campaign) is not usually the most absorbable form. There are minute dose versions that are very effective, try asking at a health food store or Indigo Forest's Holistic Health Center (Ann Arbor) for 'Cell Salts' or a kid-friendly high quality magnesium (need organic or aware company, since oyster based source, for instance, is often high in heavy metal contamination.)

Other parents have also found relief with herbs that soothe the nervous system (nourishing, not sedating) like chammomile or valarian (kid versions also at www.VisitIndigo.com) Also - some children are having reactions to vaccines that show that their immune & nervous systems are possibly hyper-responding or inflamed, and therefore on a hyper-alert mode most of the time. Often related when issues start around 6 months. Indigo Forest has rental videos and classes to nicely inform parents of the less publicized info around immunizations, if you are interested.

Good Luck!

well yes as everyone has stated that her naps are to long my son have been have nightmares, talks in his sleep and gets out of bed sometimes but what do i do just pray for him but it does not happen every night so any way i hear putting Vita Cal under the tongue helps with a better nights sleep my sons has no problem sleeping if he has a bad dream we talk about it he gets it off his chest and falls right back to sleep so you may want to think about the Vata Cal it is calcium which the baby needs anyway kids should get around 600 iu (DV) this has 400 so its a win win to me if the baby sleep threw the night

read th lable of this natural supplement

I also read in a kids book that Lecithin helps with this also you can read abou it at
it helps with brain neuro-transmitter production

i wish you all the best I do know pretty much how you feel my son is 8 so have went threw this for the last 6years

Be Blessed

Hi J.,
I had a similar experience with my oldest daughter, but not to the degree that you have with your daughter. Mine is basically a night owl. When she was 4, she was in preschool at a center that was also a full-time daycare, so they were required by law to have the kids lie down for a certain amount of time. I also didn't want to switch her to another school b/c the one she was at was so wonderful and I didn't want her to experience that trauma. What I worked out with my daughter's teachers was that she would lie down for one hour, and if she wasn't asleep, they would allow her to have a book to look at while she was on her mat, or allow to to get up and do a quiet activity. Unfortunately, very often she would fall asleep right at the one-hour mark, and I would arrive 2 hours later to find her still sleeping. I would then find myself putting her to bed at 8:30pm and spending the next 2-3 hours putting her to bed every 5 minutes or so. It was exhausting and frustrating. It went on until she was finally developmentally able to lie down for that hour at naptime and not fall asleep. It took a long time. Part of the problem was I think the teachers really WANTED her to sleep b/c then they got a break and could get some things done that they couldn't do with kids running around. I had to keep telling them over and over what a hard time I was having at bedtime, and finally they started letting her get up (instead of pushing the hour to an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half to see if she would fall asleep!). But, my daughter never slept with us (none of us got any sleep when we tried it if she was sick or something), and she hasn't ever had nightmares. Is it possible your daughter is having night terrors? Different from nightmares b/c they seem awake during the terrors but in reality they are asleep. From what I understand it is incredibly scary for parents but the children don't remember it and eventually grow out of it. I believe it is important not to wake the child from a night terror but just soothe them until they lay back down and are calm again, which it sounds like you're doing. My youngest is now 4 and I can see her developing into a night owl as well, but she is at a preschool where they only lie down for 30 minutes a day, so she doesn't fall asleep. I've noticed recently that often when I put her to bed at 8 or 8:30, she will stay up and play with her toys for awhile. I just let her. As long as she is staying in her room I'm happy. If she's not ready to fall asleep yet, then she can sit in her bed and talk to her stuffed animals until she's tired enough to close her eyes. Is this something your could try with your daughter? I've always heard/read that TV is stimulating and you shouldn't let your children watch TV for one hour before bedtime. If you have a very sensitive child then music might have the same effect. Have you considered having her evaluated by a child psychologist to make sure there aren't any underlying issues at play? Okay, one last bit of advice, my niece was a terrible sleeper from the time she was a newborn. My SIL let her sleep with them for quite a while, but then when they moved to a new house when she was about 4, they put her in her own bed but my SIL would lie down with her until she was asleep. Once her daughter was asleep she would get up (if she hadn't already fallen asleep herself!) This kinda helped to transition the little girl to her own room/bed, without the scariness of not having mom or dad nearby when she was trying to go to sleep. She started sleeping better at night when she wasn't sleeping with her parents (I think co-sleeping is great, but it can also make for a restless night when the child starts getting bigger and you're all kicking and shoving each other all night long!). She is now 12 and sleeps on her own just fine. I hope this helps, if nothing else to just let you know you're not alone! Good luck to you, I know what you're going thru isn't easy.

Wow! You sure have an unusual problem there. I'm not sure if this will help, but it may do so here goes.

As a child I barely slept, I would stay awake late into the night and always was the first up. I slept (so my mother tells me) only about 6 hours a night. This changed a bit when I came into my teens. As an adult I suffer from terrible insomnia, sometimes I sleep only 3-4 hours a night and feel sick because of it. My dreams are vivid, and I have a lot of nightmares. It seems this is bought on by any form of stress, I'm just "highly strung" I guess.

As an adult I have discovered 5-HTP to be absolutely fantastic. It's a serotonin precursor, your body needs it to produce serotonin which is required to sleep. My body seems to need this. Its natural, you get it from health stores. It takes about 5 days of taking it daily to build up enough in my system for it to work. If I take it daily my insomnia is gone. There are no side effects, I certainly have noticed none. You cannot take it with alcohol or some prescription medications, but that's probably irrelevant for a 4 year old.

If you wanted to give this a go a naturopath may be able to help with advice and dosage.

I wish your daughter a good nights sleep!

Unfortunately, I don't have any advice for you... just want to reassure you that you're not the only one dealing with this kind of an issue! My 3 yr old son is the same way. He was a complicated sleeper from the get-go - and still is... Fortunately, I stay home with him and provide daycare in my home. Every other child still naps but not my son!!! He sleeps with my husband or me EVERY nite, we only have a queen size bed, so we don't all three fit. Therefore, my husband or I have to sleep in our son's twin size bed. It's almost become a joke between my husband and me... "who's the lucky one tonight?!?!?!". Just wanted to let you know that you're NOT alone!!!! Good luck with your daughter.

What time does she wake up? If the daycare insists they have a rest period, maybe you can wake her up a little earlier so she will be more tired at night?

I have to wake up my son between 6-6:30 in order for him to nap at school and be tired enough to go to bed at night. He is 3.5 years old. If he naps at school, he goes to bed around 8-8:30 pm if not then he goes to bed closer to 7:30 pm.

Good luck to you,

Definitely drop the nap completely. She will learn to do quiet time (yes, its a bit harder for the daycare people initially but its your life as well and she needs to go to bed 7:30-8pm so you can have a life and your own time). It sounds exactly like my first born (daughter) and removing the nap was the solution. In fact we did everything we could to make sure she didnt even get 15 mins during the day because that would be enough to keep her up till 9-10pm!

Share your concerns with your childcare provider (I own one)and arrange to have her do an activity vs napping. Given your satisfaction with them, I would expect they will be more than happy to do so. We've a number of children that same age not taking naps and will have them do a quiet project or do some reading during nap time.

Your story has really touched me. I am a mother of seven children. My oldest is 14, my baby is 1. I admire you for your patience and compassion. I do have a sugestion for you and it comes from my heart and my own experiance. It may or may not be for you, but I believe it may make all the difference.

2 years ago I found a juice. I know there is a lot of stuff out there, and that is what I thought too, but I was desperate. My son was two at the time and could not sleep and would not eat, and the health care professionals I was dealing with where very concerned and had no advise for me. At the same time I was suffering for devestating migrains and headaches all the time. A friend introduced me to this juice and to be honest I didn't think it would help my headaches, but I couldn't tell her no. Three days after taking this Mineral Supplement Juice my headaches were gone. It didn't accure to me no offer it to my son, but one morning as I was drinking it he came over and asked me for some, like babies will do. HE LOVED IT. He started askinf me for it constantly. So I shared with him none stop for 3 weeks. When I took him in for his check up he had gained 4 lbs. in 3 weeks he was sleeping again and he was eating again. They were amazed and asked what had I done. Just the juice. Amazing. I looked further into this juice. It is Aloe, and Sea vegatable, freeze prosesed. All natural but what was amazing is not the juice, my and my son were just missing the minerals, the essentioal nutrients that we cannot get from the grocery stores. When my son had those back in his body his body started healing itself. I know very little about you and hope this message is of value. As I said it may or may not be for you now but it made all the difference for us. All 9 of us now drink it daily and the result are amazing. Our bodies are amazing. My heart goes out to you and I hope for your best and the best for that presious baby.

C. G

Warm bath before bed with SUGARFREE Hot chocolate Milk when warmed up has sleeping properties natural

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