4 Year Old Constantly Waking up at Night and Coming to Parents Bed

Updated on July 13, 2009
J. asks from Minneapolis, MN
7 answers

Our son just turned 4. For the last month and a half he's been waking up in the middle of the night and coming to our bed. We do not care for this behavior and very much want it to stop. If we woke up when he came in our bed (there were nights we didn't notice until morning) I would carry him back upstairs and he was fine. However, he then got to the point where we had to sit in his room or the living room for 2 minutes and then he was fine. Now - he's super emotional and there is no reasoning with him. Some nights I have no choice but to give in. When he goes to bed he asks if I'll stay up. For whatever reason, he just does not handle us being downstairs in our room well at all. He shares a room with his 18 month old brother.

Sometimes he says he has a bad dream or that the monsters are after him.

Does anyone else have or had this problem. How do I get him happy about sleeping in his own bed again? He has figured out how to climb over the gate on his door so that doesn't stop him and he goes absolutely buzerk if you close his door. He likes it open.

I just don't know what to do anymore and I'm tired:(

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

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

More Answers



answers from Des Moines on

That can be a volatile age socially and emotionally. Do you have any books that talk about common developmental changes that come at different times for children? T. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints 3-6 might help you understand where your son is coming from. Marguerite Kelly is another good author on child development.

My advice is to respect his fears and need for you at night. I would not close the door on a distressed child at night. I think it's normal for preschool-aged children to go through phases of being able to sleep on their own and needing support from parents at night.

My parents had a policy of never letting children into their bed, and it didn't make me a great sleeper. I had terrible sleep problems even throughout elementary school. For that reason, I decided to try to meet my children's nighttime needs and not to make them tough it out on their own.



answers from Wausau on

I would say that once you address what's scaring him so much, the problem should disappear pretty quickly. Little kids have a hard time telling the difference between a bad dream and reality. To them, it's as if the bad dream really happened. And the same is for monsters. They are very real to a child. Please validate his fears, treat them as you would an adult coming to you with significant legitimate fears. My son is 3 and we have discussed on occasion the monsters he is convinced live outside in our yard. Ask your child questions about the monsters, and then really listen. Be interested in what he says about them. Same for the bad dreams. If you can do this talking BEFORE he gets emotional or hysterical it works a lot better. Once they're terribly upset, it's just time to calm them down. Reassure them that you can and will protect them from the bad dreams and monsters. Treat it like any other real problem. It's your goal to listen and validate and then help him come up with solutions to these problems. Listen for when he makes a comment during the day or at bedtime about a monster or scary dream and use that as your opening to ask questions- what was the dream about? how did you feel? what did you want to do? what happened next? What do the monsters look like? Are they tall of short? skinny or wide? what color are they? do they have moms and dads? pets? what do they do during the day? where do they sleep at night? what do you think the monsters are scared of? If you can get him talking, you will be astounded at his imagination! And once some of the fear is talked out, he won't be as scared.

I wish you the best of luck with this- I only stumbled on this course of action by accident one night when I was so exhausted, I just could fight my son to sleep alone in his room and I laid down with him and started asking questions. After he described the dragon to me, he calmed down and went right to sleep. I really hope this works for you too, I know how horrible the nights can be when you're getting interrupted by a little guy every night and bedtime is a battle.



answers from Minneapolis on

My 5-year-old is a very sensitive kid and has always gone through phases of coming into our bed for a few nights in a row, then being fine by himself after that. But in the last few weeks, it's been every single night. We have a lot going on (remodeling, planning to move him into an upstairs bedroom he'll share with his brother), so I'm sure there's been some anxiety about that. But that's also meant that in addition to the baby already in our room, his brother is in there because he doesn't have a bedroom until the remodeling is done--and it's too much when the entire family is in one room! Finally the other night we talked about the importance of staying in his own room, and he suggested that he'd really like a night light. He'd never mentioned it before, and I'm sure all the other changes contribute to his anxiety too, but the night light was an easy fix, and it's helped the last few nights.

We also talk a lot before bed about things like what he's going to dream about (planning out the good dreams he's going to have), and my husband tells him if he wants to have a great dream, to put a book under his pillow so he can dream about that book. And when he's scared, we practice naming off all the people who love him, so he knows he's safe because there are so many people in the world who love him.

He's a little older than your son, so I don't know if all these ideas will work, but they've helped us. Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

J. - my son is now 16 years old, drives and is out most nights with friends. I surely miss those days when he was 2, 3 and 4 and he would crawl into bed with us.

Personally, I would say don't fight it. He obviously needs you and something is waking him up. This time passes so quickly. Before you know it he'll be 14 and then 24. Life is short and it goes by quickly. Enjoy every moment that he needs you now.

My only fear would be that he is walking down the stairs in the dark.

BTW - sometimes, my 16 year old son who is now 6 feet tall and weighs 170 lbs, crawls (or should I say jumps!) into bed with us and we all laugh about how he used to do that (virtually every night for a while) and both my husband and I miss it!! Of course he just stays for a minute or two but I love that he stills needs us... Of course, he grew out of it.



answers from Omaha on

It sounds to me like his imagination is escaping him. This can be a problem for very imaginative kids. I'd deal with the dark first, and install a night light. After that, you banish the monsters.

Monster slayers--an imaginative kids' best friends.
--A flashlight will burn up monster flesh. Keep it accessible and instruct him in its use.
--A "guard" of some kind; Captain Fluffy in uniform, or a very large dog (ours is a gigantic stuffed buffalo, whose constant vigilance in the closet keeps monsters at bay).
--Monster notices work too. Big signs that you tape under the bed and inside the closet door which announce in bold letters that monsters are not permitted here.
--Monster spray is my personal favorite: a spray bottle filled with some water and a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil (the oil is important. Studies show that kids' memories of scents are strongest. A familiar smell is just as calming as using the spray. You could even use some of your perfume if you wear it regularly). Spray wherever monsters might reside before bed, and let him keep the spray bottle for sneak attacks.

The most important thing to do is to treat his fears with respect. If you listen gravely to talks of bad dreams and monster sightings, then provide him with some tools to handle his fears, he'll feel reassured. Be sure and mention that monster slayers can lose their effectiveness if they're played with--it'll prevent frequent water and battery refills. =0)



answers from Omaha on

Try the book Macy the sleep Fairy....it helped my son, although it can be a pain, like the tooth fairy- but this is a more regular basis. I agree with you on not wanting him in your room at night. My bedroom is "mom & dad time" No children allowed. And once it got started- we tried the pallet on the floor and everything, and he is now 8 and still wants to share my room- Sorry- but in keeping your marriage alive and healthy- there has to be at least one "adult only" zone...and of course the bedroom is the first place to start.



answers from Minneapolis on

I totally agree with Dianne's post, they are only little once! But if you really don't want him in your bed, what if you set up a special place for him on the floor of your room for when he gets scared? Maybe a sleeping bag with some pillows. Tell him he can come sleep there if he is scared but to not wake mom and dad (unless of course he really needs you).