Nonexistent monsters have mom missing sleep

Annie Lane

Dear Annie. I have a 6-year-old daughter who won’t go to sleep on her own. She has an innate fear of staying alone in her room. We have tried every way we can think to motivate her to feel comfortable. We reassure her that she’s safe, that we’re in the room next door, that every night she sleeps safely, that we preform monster checks. My daughter was a good sleeper until a few months ago, when she started to develop nighttime anxiety. Now she forces one of us to sleep in bed with her.

My other two children are great sleepers. They will close the door and go right to sleep through the night after family reading. Both children have been supportive of our daughter and have encouraged her to sleep on her own. When we have babysitters, she forces the sitter to stay with her and won’t fall asleep until late. Frequently, sitters will text me saying they can’t get her to stay in bed.

Nothing is working. It’s taking a toll on my relationship with my husband, as we no longer get any private time at night. Any tips how we can get her to sleep on her own? — Sleepless in Los Angeles

Dear Sleepless: Enjoy these sleepless nights with your daughter while she wants to cuddle in bed with you. Soon enough, your daughter will want independence, which might give you sleepless nights. Nighttime anxiety is common for children around her age. The key is to build and reinforce her confidence that she is safe while she is alone in her room and that you and your husband are there to protect her. Try to sit in a chair in her room rather than sleep in bed. Let her know your there, but don’t let her rely on you so much. Slowly (and it will take time) see if you can minimize the time spent in the room. Every morning, build up and encourage your daughter that she was able to sleep on her own. If her sleep continues to be disrupted, seek the help of a professional.

If there are any pediatricians or sleep experts that would like to offer an opinion, I would love to hear from you.

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