3 Year Old Waking up in the Middle of the Night

Updated on July 24, 2008
L.C. asks from Longs, SC
5 answers

My son turned three last month and for the last couple of weeks he has been waking up in the middle of the night crying. Some nights all we have to do is go lay him back down because he is sitting up and problem solved because he is not even awake. Other nights we have to spend some time calming him down and then he will go back to sleep. He has always been a good sleeper and this has never been a problem before. I do not even know where to begin to fix this situation and I know some nights we do not have it that bad when we can just lay him back down but other times he will get out of his bed and come into our room crying. We usually catch him on his way to our room and can put him back in bed and he will go back to sleep. He has never slept in our bed unless he is sick and that is a rare occasion. I am concerned why he is waking up and if it is bad dreams why it is almost every night that this happens.

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

I wanted to thanks everyone for their advice and just let everyone know that the waking up has haulted for now. At least for that reason, now we have moved on to waking up because of bed wetting since he has been potty trained during the day at least. I have got some good advice from some other questions and answers but please see my question about potty training at night.

More Answers



answers from Savannah on

Could be nightmares or nightterrors that are waking him up. The difference between the two is a nightterror is where the child will call for you adn he doesn't reconize you or looks straight through you (it's a very creepy and scary feeling!!). You may be a total stranger to them as well. They are actually still asleep (sleep walking) and you shouldn't try to wake them up but keep them calm and safe. Most of the time it will last under 5 mins and they will go back to sleep and wake up in the morning without a clue as to what happened!! My daughter used to have these a few times a week at first and they slowy fadded away to non at all. She still 'sleep walks' but nothing like the night terrors.

If it's nightmares and he is scared of monsters/booggies man in the closet or under the bed, get him some monster spray. All it is is a water bottle with water in it. And you spray it in the air to keep the monsters away for the night. Talk to him about how they aren't real and make sure he isn't watching too mcuh TV before bed getting his little imagineation going as well.

Good luck



answers from Atlanta on

We always let our little ones sleep in our room if they're needing some extra comfort. You can keep a small sleeping bag and pillow, or something soft, and if he comes to your room, he should sleep just fine knowing he's safe near his parents.



answers from Atlanta on

It seems that around ages 3 and 4 children start having a lot of nightmares and vivid / emotional dreams. It has been that way for each of my five children. I think it is a normal part of their brain development. He will outgrow it. Try not to run to him when you hear him during the night. It sounds like he is still asleep much of the time. It's not going to hurt him to cry or talk in his sleep, even if he sits up. If he gets out of bed (which you said he does sometimes), then you know he needs you. We have always had our children sleep on the floor by the side of our bed if they get up in the night. One of my daughters used to come to our room just about every night when she was four. I got to the point where I kept an extra pillow and blanket next to my bed. Then she started bringing her own pillow and blanket with her. Some nights I didn't even have to wake up. She'd just come into my room and put herself to sleep and I'd find her there in the morning. In fact, she did that last night. (She just turned five.) I wouldn't worry about the bad dreams unless he seems to have a lot of anxiety during the day. Then I would talk to your pediatrician.



answers from Albany on

My son did the exact same thing he has slept great from the day he came home from the hospital, and just after his 3rd birthday he started waking up. I personally don't agree with having him come in your room when this happens because in a year or less you will behaving different problems you will have to revers later. Is he potty trained? My son will be 4yrs old in Nov. and he still gets up to go to the bathroom but that's it. When he started getting up crying I would go in there talk to him ask him a lot of questions and talk it out and usually by that time he has calmed down and I was able to reassure him it was OK. I also changed a few things in his routine I watched what he ate before bed like no sweets after 5pm and snacks were banana's, Cheerios etc. no TV I know it sounds crazy but I have a child development degree and I remember learning about TV and Video games 3-4 hours before bed can cause restlessness so just monitor what he watches I screen all my sons shows and I have been appalled by some of the show they show on the cartoon channels.( they are rude and scary) We always read a book before bed and reassure him I am not far away. We even bought him a fun easy to use flash light, and in a week he was fine and now every morning over breakfast he tells me all about his exciting dream. I think for them its the fear of the unknown!! I hope this helps I completely feel for you I was scared and distraught to see my poor baby so scared !! Good luck



answers from Atlanta on

I agree with the other post. My son seemed to have a lot of nightmares at age 3 and 4. Much less now that he is five. Sometimes he'd wake up crying and tell me about his bad dream. Other times it was more like a "night terror" I think... where he didn't remember it in the morning and wasn't really awake although he seemed to be (these are creepy!). You might just have to wait this one out. When my son has a bad dream we usually take about something nice he can think about while he's trying to fall back to sleep. As the previous post said, provide comfort when he needs it, but don't go overboard. I remember my son got to the point where he'd sort of fake a bad dream to get some middle of the night mommy time and we had to make it clear that this wasn't acceptable!

Next question: Strategies for Nightmares?