I have a four year old little girl who is always very busy doing something. She loves to read, play pretend games, run around outside, etc. This is great other then at night. She seems to stay awake after we put her down for the night and wakes during the night many times. My hisband and I thought that she was playing in her room but we have both slept in her room at night and realized that, that is not the case. The issue seems to be that her mind is just racing around, thinking about all the things she wants to do the next day. She loves talking about what we are going to be doing the next day and then I think she thinks about that all night. During the night she is lying still in her bed, but she is awake. We know this because we have gone in there on occasion and she will pop right out of her bed and ask what's going on and we have also slept in there and can tell she is awake at many points during the night. I am frightened to think about what time she gets up in the morning. Sometimes we have heard her at 5:30 (she goes to bed around 8:30). She does not come get my husband or I she is just awake in her room. Once 7:00 rolls around she will come out of her room exhausted, as if she has been up for hours. This happens every day and is getting so frustrating! We have talked to her Doctor and he suggested doing a sleep study at Children's.
What do you think?
From: Sleepless 4 yr old in Concord, MA
Like adults, some kids simply need less sleep than others, sometimes including less even than the adults in the family. But that she's exhausted the next morning is a sign that that may not be the issue. (The typical 4-year-old needs 10 to 11 hours sleep.)
I'm guessing I'm not the first to tell you to be grateful that she isn't coming in to your room all night long. And I'm guessing I'm not the first to suggest that you try relaxing routines before bed, or tweaking her bedtime by 10 minutes, later and later, to see if that enables her to sleep. Other possibilities include that she's going through a grown or developmental spurt and that this will pass, or that there is a medical issue of some kind which interferes with her ability to stay asleep. Sometimes, when a child is too wound up to sleep, a white noise machine can help, but that's a tough call: Starting with sleep aids for a 4-year-old could create a life-long habit.
I've just consulted a number of books, and the authors (Ferber, Brazelton, Borba) all offer a similar range of solutions. They also suggest consulting a doctor if nothing helps. Since you've done that, I would definitely go to the sleep clinic at Children's Hospital.
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