Scared of the Dark

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January 11, 2013 by Gina

We’re not getting much sleep at our house these days and it’s not our newborn’s fault (although that doesn’t help much either!).  Our 3.5 year old and 1.5 year old seem to be up at all hours of the night.  They recently (about three months ago) started sharing a room which makes this waking up more complicated.

Our one year old goes to bed great!  We do the same routine every night – bath, books and bed.  But then he wakes up several times a night.  Sometimes he screams hysterically and after about one minute he’s back to sleep.  Other times he screams much longer and we have to rock him or sooth him.  Then he wants to be held all night or sleep close to you and has a hard time settling down.  We’ve ruled out medical reasons for waking up – no fevers or other signs of illness.  Occasionally he’s pooped his pants and that would wake me up too!  He may be having night terrors or getting teeth or working on his language or some other skill. 

Our three year old doesn’t want to go to bed and fights us about half the time.  He says he’s never going to sleep, that he is afraid of the dark or just doesn’t want to sleep in his room.  He is very strong-willed and these outbursts can last for 30-60 minutes before he realizes we aren’t giving in (he HAS to go to bed) and finally goes to bed.  He wants us to lay down with him, sleep with him in his room or sleep in our room – anything but sleeping by himself.  Often, he wakes up in the middle of the night, comes upstairs and wants to sleep in our bed.  Sometimes we let him and other times we get him back into his bed.

I realize that Finn is really afraid of the dark, but he is also using it as a tool to have us sleep with him, stay with him longer or delay going to bed.  I clearly remember doing this to my parents as a child and it’s part of the normal “testing” behavior.  We all have fears and a fear of the dark is very normal.  So, we’ve given him one of those turle night lights that projects stars on the ceiling, a small lantern, left his door open and other tactics to reduce his fear.  None of it seems to be working – he still fights us and comes up in the middle of the night.

I wish these kids would just sleep!  I’m sure I’ll get my wish in about 10 years when the teen years hit and then I’ll want them out of bed.  Many families co-sleep and it works for them.  It just doesn’t work for me.  I’m a horrible sleeper and sharing my bed with my husband, cat, and three year old just keeps me awake.  Someone is snoring or rolling on top of me or meowing or needing something. 

Is anyone else in this same boat?  Does anyone have any suggestions I could try?  It’s 8 pm – I think I’ll go to bed and hope for sleep before anyone crawls into bed with me tonight!

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