32 answers

Help. Our 3 Year Old Wakes up Every Night at Either 12, 2 or 5 Am!

Hi. I am at wits end. Our 3 year old wakes up EVERY night and will not go back to sleep unless someone sleeps with her. We have tried the 'crying it out' deal but she gets so upset that she dry heaves and my husband can't handle watching his daughter so upset. We've tried taking away her favorites (Barbies, movies, etc). Nothing is working and I am losing my mind! Any suggestions would be VERY MUCH APPRECIATED.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks so much to all the incredible women who provided insight and advice. Although I'm not sure how this will turn out, I have to say I was "awakened" into realizing that my feelings of sheer frustration were probably more so because that is how I thought I "should" feel. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family where a child was not allowed to act like a child. Wow - you all enlightened me. I was disciplining my daughter for waking up in the middle of the night when she doesn't even know why she is doing it...and all she wants is security. Nonetheless, we all need our sleep. I will try several of the suggestions and let you all know how it goes. Thank you very much!!

Featured Answers

My son went through that. What worked for us is that we set the timer on the microwave for a five minutes and sat with him and cuddled. We explained that when the timer beeped, he had to go back to sleep. For whatever reason, he respected the timer. Then we set it for 4 minutes, 3 minutes, etc. Eventually, it was enough to go in, fix his covers and kiss him goodnight again.

I hope this helps! I know it's no fun.

Why dont you try a reward system? Set up a sticker chart and she receives a sticker every night she sleeps on her own, (even if you have to go in a rub her back or something for the first few nights). Then when she receives a set amount of stickers (7 or 10?) she can pick out a little toy at the store. I haven't done this but I know people who use it as a way to keep their kids in bed throughout the night.

try letting her listen to music. i use to put music on for my kids and it worked. and sit in the room until she falls asleep. hope this works.i also use to let them sleep with us and then when they fell sleep, i would carry them in bed

K.

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When you find out, let me know. My 5-yr old girl still does not sleep thru the night. I am up to bribing her with gifts each night she happens to stay in her bed. We are up to 7 nights now, not in a row though. She is looking forward to a Barbie House that cost's $59.00 so she needs to stay in her bed 59 times before this happens. She herself is very discouraged about not being able to stay asleep so I try not to make it so challenging because I don't want her stressing about it either. Hopefully by 18 everything will be O.K and all this will be as if it never happened.

Why dont you try a reward system? Set up a sticker chart and she receives a sticker every night she sleeps on her own, (even if you have to go in a rub her back or something for the first few nights). Then when she receives a set amount of stickers (7 or 10?) she can pick out a little toy at the store. I haven't done this but I know people who use it as a way to keep their kids in bed throughout the night.

try letting her listen to music. i use to put music on for my kids and it worked. and sit in the room until she falls asleep. hope this works.i also use to let them sleep with us and then when they fell sleep, i would carry them in bed

K.

Hi E.,

With my oldest daughter, I went through similar situations. As difficult as it is, you need to be patient, loving and firm. Depriving her of her toys will not work. It will confuse her since she herself is not aware of why she is waking up. It will only make her confused and anxious thereby increasing the waking up.

When she wakes up, walk or carry her back to bed, give her a hug and a kiss and explain in a firm but loving voice that she has to stay in bed. You could sit with her for a few minutes, maybe read aanother story, but explain that you will be leaving the room and she must stay in her bed. Each time she gets up to follow you, walk her back and tell her again she must stay in bed. Leave her door opened with a night light or a lamp covered with a light, sheer colored cloth. Give her her favorite toy to sleep with or a special teddy bear to keep her company. Play soft music to help relax her. It will take a couple of weeks or more to get her back on schedule but if you're consistent, it will work. At times, I used to put on a children's video with no sound to help my daughter fall asleep. The familiarity with the video made her feel safe.

During the day, keep her active and restrict naps to once a day and only before 3pm. Sleeping after 3 pm will make her fall asleep later and lead to her waking up more often during the night. Make sure she has a routine before bedtime. Sometimes a small snack before or after her bath can help her sleep through the night.

As for your husband spoiling her, I'm all for it. A child needs constant love and security in order to grow up into an independent and stable adult. I also don't agree with letting her cry it out. I believe that leads to a child growing up feeling insecure and lacking confidence.

In time things will go back to normal. God's blessings.

My 3 year old daughter has never really slept through the night since she was little. She was up 3-4 times a night every night almost. It got better when she turned 2 but even then she was still up once a night normally and now when she wakes up she is screaming and won't let me hold her or touch her. It's strange and has me a bit worried. Normally she will calmed down and let me lay with her after about 5-10 minutes and pure crying and screaming but boy I wish I knew what was bothering her. She's very vocal too with her voacabulary so I ask her if she had a bad dream or hurts...sometimes I get a yes from one of my questions but not normally. Anyone go through this? I'm worried she might be suffering from something but she is so mature and advanced for her age that I don't think it could be developmental....I don't know!

This is super difficult, and I am going through the same thing with my almost 3 year old who used to sleep through the night. I have always wondered if it was because she is in the middle of potty training and urinating in the night wakes her up. (She is still in a diaper). We have tried to set some reasonable boundaries like we can rub her back if she is in her bed with her eyes closed and quiet and have tried to encourage that we have to work together in this way to solve the problem, i.e. she has to contribute too. She was running into the hall and crying which often woke up my son (age 5). She is getting better, and our nights are getting better, but it is slow. She has a handheld nightlight that she can keep in the bed with her (designed for this). She has a bottle of water by her bed if she needs water and lotion for the "itchies." All of the above have been used as reasons she can't sleep. We let her keep a lamp on because she has also said she is afraid of the dark. Recently, I sleep in the guest room which is the next room instead of the master bedroom which is downstairs. Occasionally I will sleep in her room with her, but I'm trying to be very consistent about her sleeping in her room, i.e. not in our room. I think it helps to be sure you nurture yourself too because 24 hour parenting takes a toll, particularly if you are not sleeping. Take time to physicially and mentally be away from your little ones whether it's getting a workout, indulging in a coffee away from home, getting a pedicure. Those times away make you appreciate your little ones more.

I very much understand your frustration since we are struggling with our almost 3 year old son a lot lately over sleep issues--since he figured out that he is getting a baby sister in a few months. He sleeps through the night but bedtime has dragged out to 60-90 minutes and he doesn't like to stay in bed or go to sleep unless on of us stays with him. We also are trying to get him moved into a regular bed and out of a crib but are pretty much stalled. He wants to sleep in the regular bed but won't settle down and sleep there. He has been very clingy and has needed a lot of extra reassurance that Mommy and Daddy love him since finding out about the new baby.

The other thing that occurred to me is that her adoption may be playing a role in increasing her need for security and reassurance. You might want to read a little about adoption issues and use the adoption of your second child as a way to talk to her about the adoption process. There are lots of great books for children and adults out there as well as other support resources. I know NJ has an adoption information clearinghouse program that lends books.
Also free adoption counseling is available--it was set up as a support to children being adopted out of foster care but is available to anyone who needs it. (I worked as a counselor for an agency that had this program.) And of course there are tons of resources available online.

Hi,
I,ve just read about your concern. I had the same issue and still do sometimes. My daughter is 3years and 4 months old. From about 6 months old she started waking up at least 4 times a night. I remember of dreaming just to have a good night sleep , once. I was told to use all the methods such as let her cry it out, be tough, etc. I knew that all these methods only hurt my childs nervous system. We came to a conclusion that we have to be patient and attentive to her needs. We ask her a lot, what bothers her, what would she like and what she feels comfortable with. Although we think 3 year olds are still not able to think as we would like them to but they are actually very bright even smarter than us. Talk to your child , make her feel you are completely involved in her needs.
These sleepless nights will pass soon.
Good Luck and Lots of patience.

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