Sleep Problems with an 8-Year-old

Updated on June 28, 2009
M.K. asks from Naples, ME
8 answers

Hi ladies. Hoping someone out there has the answer to this problem. My 8-year-old son will not go to sleep without a parent in the room with him. If left by himself,even with a parent in the next in the room, he becomes nearly hysterical. This can go on for hours. Lately he has started waking in the night and needing a parent in the room. My husband and I both work,but opposite shifts,so a parent is always with him. He is only cared for by family,so its not like "something happened" to him. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated!

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answers from Boston on

8 is a bit old to be needing a parent in the room to fall asleep or waking in the middle of the night and needing a parent in the room to fall back to sleep, His anxieties are elevated for some reason.
You don't mention how long this has been going on.
You also say, 'He is only cared for by family, so its not like "something happened" to him.'
You don't say who in the family is caring for him...aunt, uncle, grandparent, older cousin etc. Sad to say but family members are not immune for harming children in ways you'd never dream off. Statistics are higher that a child being abused (and I'm not saying yes your child was) knows his/her perpetrator.

Right now, it sounds like your child could use some counseling in order to learn coping mechanisms in order to self soothe and get himself to sleep.

Good luck to, I wish you all the best.



answers from Boston on


Have you asked him why he feels he needs a parent in the room? He's old enough to explain his feelings.
You can try a monitor and try it out during the day so he knows you can hear him even when he just speaks to you in a normal voice.
Have you tried a teddy bear or other lovey?



answers from Boston on

Hi M.,

Having such serious sleep issues at 8 is unusual. You might want to seek the help of someone more qualified. I'm not sure where you live, but there is a great therapist who specializes in child psychology in southern N.H. named Dawn Huebner. (I think I spelled that right) She has written several books, including "What to Do When You Worry Too Much". Her books are written for children in your son's age. I highly recommend giving that book a try!



answers from Boston on

I went through similar problems with my then 6-year old. She at first said "she didn't feel good" - but I suspected it was something else. She was old enough to sit down and have a talk, and she admitted it wasn't that she was sick, but she was worried about something that she couldn't quite define. Someone suggested to me that she had general anxiety, so I researched - there are lots of great books for parents of kids with anxiety - and it matched her issues. I started empowering her with tools to overcome her anxiety. For example, her anxiety would cause her to think she'd never fall asleep by herself. We started calling that the "worry bug" that was in her brain just telling her crazy thoughts. Everyone gets crazy thoughts - you don't have to believe them. Just like you can't help it when commercials come on t.v. - you don't have to buy what they are selling. Same with the worry bug. Also taught her breathing techniques to relax, gave her a nice sachet to smell, etc., etc.. A lot of these tools I got from the books. Also - I found a couple of kids books about anxiety and having trouble sleeping. They were too old for her at 6 to really read, but just seeing that there were books for kids and that other kids have this problem too really helped her relax a bit about it. The books might be all right for an 8 year-old, although a little bit of it may be too mature and you'd have to help him with it. The main thing is when he gets hysterical that he needs some kind of tools to help him learn to calm himself down. During the day, not at bedtime, talk to him about what is happening and how you want to help him. Also - just a note - my daughter is not completely cured. She has her moments every couple of months, and in general, if we upset the applecart to much and change something in her nighttime routine (such as her sister, who shares her room, maybe being at a party somewhere else) - she starts getting anxiety that she's not going to be able to sleep. But we go back and remind her of all the coping tools, and it's nowhere near as dramatic of an episode as it used to be. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Hi M.,
I guess I'm not the only one with this problem! My daughter who is 12 has had this problem off and on for years and has recently started doing it again. I have found in the past that taking her to a homeopath (wholistic doctor who gives her natural remedies) has helped alot. Apparently there are natural herbs this kind of anxiety. It really helps her although I find it wears off over time and you sometimes have to go back for another dose. Some insurances cover this kind of doctor and others don't, If your's doesn't, you could certainly also go into a healthfood store and see if someone there can recommend a remedy that might work (the actual remedies are not expensive and the wrong one is not harmful). Another thing that has helped is a natural spray (found at health stores or Whole Foods) is called Rescue Remedy Sleep. It is also natural and helps them fall asleep. Other moms and a psychologist have told me that taking melatonin before bed can help too.
Good luck!



answers from Lewiston on

It definitely sounds like something else is going on with your son. He sounds like he has some major anxiety issues that need tending to. My son doesn't fall asleep or stay asleep easily - so he takes melatonin to help but it sounds like that would not be enough for your son. You need to find the root of the problem. I would talk to your pediatrician about it - maybe they could give you a referral for a psych eval?



answers from Bangor on

Is he having bad dreams or night terrors? We got our (now 9y/o) dau a dream catcher,(which we shake out every now and then if it gets 'full' and a bad dream comes back) and I also used to tell her, that she can control her dreams and turn them off if she doesn't like how they're going, but it takes practice to do it, but that she is the boss. (empower your son)Also a night light? or a white noise machine, might help too. Good luck!


answers from Boston on

We just have been working on this with our 6 year old, as I had always laid down with himto read and then woudl be with him to go to sleep. You need to find what is important to him, my son loves Lego's and we offered him a dollar a day for a week and then $10.00 the ifnal night and to keep it up if he went to sleep on his own and it has worked.

But your son sounds like there is more going on, is he mature in other ways or at the normal level of an 8 year old? have you tried to do the big boy, we are proud of you and you can do this talk? or have you even asked why he is so upset? try and talk it out with him to understand and he is old enough to reason your side that he is old enough and needs to do this.

Has he wanted to go on a sleep over with a friend? as he cannot do that if he cannot get to sleep on his own (our son does not have grandparents near by or need babysitters so we have not had that to help either) that could be something to work towards: a sleepover

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