{personal} Bed Time Woes

When I was little I distinctly remember be terrified at night. TERRIFIED. Nothing had ever happened to make me this way, I just had a super hyperactive Ā imagination. I vividly remember getting up the courage to get out of my bed and slink down the hall to my parents room. Once there I would stand next to my mom and stare at her, really really hard. I was willing her to wake up. I think about it now and it would be a pretty creep thing to see. A little girl staring at her sleeping mom, creeppppyyy. Every now and then it would work and my mom would gasp because as mentioned this was creepy. If however after a few minutes this did not work I would give up and move to the next tactic, I would sharply poke her shoulder. Nice right? Nothing like being jabbed awake in the middle of the night. I would then plead to climb into bed. Usually I would win and climb in to the warm big bed and this overwhelming feeling of security would wash over me and I would konk out. I remember that warm safe feeling so vividly it is crazy.

Lately we have had a really hard time with Evie and going to bed. She cries that she is terrified and refuses to stay in her bed. At first we thought it was because we were in a new place. But it has now been two months and no change. We have tried leaving the door open, night lights, cool musical night lights, sitting by the door etc. and nothing is working. When we do get her to sleep she rarely stays the whole night in her bed. What is hard is when you are deliriously asleep your will power is at an all time low. That, coupled with my remembering how safe I felt when I crawled into my parents bed, has made it difficult for me to put up a fight.

While I know many families co sleep (and I have no problem what so ever with that) having Evie sleep with us has meant horrible sleep for Chris and I. She is a big time kicker, wiggler, cover stealer etc. We have talked about maybe just sticking to our guns for a week and calmly walking her back to her bed, tucking her in and snuggling for a bit etc.

I was just curious if anyone has some tricks that they would like to share. I want to make sure this little girl learns good sleeping habits as it is linked to so many things.
PS We made felt crowns and tried out sponge curlers for the first time, which also reminded me of sleeping on curlers as a little girl. How totally uncomfortable they are but how much I loved the way they looked the next day ha!


  1. 1

    Nancy says

    I was the same way when I was little, except my Dad absolutely REFUSED to let me sleep in their bed. So, they told me I could sleep on the floor. I probably slept in their room every night from the time I was 3 until I was 8 when we moved and their room didn’t have enough space on the floor by their bed. I would drag my blankie and my pillow to their room and that’s where I slept every night if I woke up. I have had to do the same thing with my oldest. He has a “special” bed and blanket by mom and dad’s room. Best thing is, he doesn’t wake us up, just comes and crashes on the floor. Good luck!

  2. 2

    nette says

    Just read about this in The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and he suggested a sleeping bag kept in the room so she could just snuggle up there if needed without waking you up. Sometimes just knowing there is an option can help. Good luck!

  3. 3

    Rach says

    We had the same thing happen when we moved to a new place. For weeks our 2 year old would cry and then arrive in our bedroom – usually between 2 and 8 times a night. I tried lots of different tactics, but for her, I think in the end, it was the distance between our room and hers.

    We tried night lights, music, leaving the light on outside all night, moving objects in her eye line out of the way that might look like beasties, etc etc. Took her back, stood our ground, we tried laying down in her room, but I think she just wanted to know someone was there.

    We couldn’t do much about the distance between the rooms, but her baby sister now sleeps in with her and that has helped. Hope you find a solution to your sleep wanderer and waker!

  4. 4


    I don’t have any words of wisdom for you on the sleep front. That is such a challenging subject for so many parents and children. However, we just did sponge curlers with my 3.5 year old for Christmas. So fun! I actually just had her wear them for the afternoon rather than overnight as I didn’t want to risk a bad night of sleep. :o)
    Hope you figure something out with the sleep front!

  5. 6

    Mandi A says

    We had this problem with my oldest – lucky for us we have a family friend that is a child psychologist. He suggested that we make it worth her while to stay in bed. She didn’t get punished for getting out of bed, but she got a privilege if she stayed in. This way she was choosing to stay in bed, rather than us forcing it. And then it’s not “us against her”. For us the reward was sugary cereal(since they NEVER get that at home normally) – but it will be different for every kid. On the nights she did get up, she slept on the floor by our bed, not in the bed.

  6. 7

    Georgine says

    I don’t know how big your room is, or how big Evie is, but a toddler bed next to your side where you can hold her hand but she can’t kick you. I coslept with my kids and my first didn’t want to leave (she also was a kicker). I used the bed next to mine as a step. The sleeping bag next to you might work, you can reach down to reassure Evie. Good luck! Sleep is my favorite thing. My 3 year old still wakes at night, usually to be covered up. Arg! Some day I will sleep through the night. By then, I will be old and have to get up and use the bathroom….

  7. 8

    kim says

    I like the comments above- all of them! We have had this problem, too, and we’ve tried periods of all of the above. I totally agree with the other comments, motivation to stay in bed (a sticker chart is what ended up working for us), and sleeping on the floor in your room if that is just not cutting it. It had been about 8 months since we’d had a problem, then recently it started to creep back up on us. It took one night of him scared in our bed to remember that I can’t function the next day without my sleep. Then a couple nights of him on the floor for me to realize it was becoming a problem again, not just an isolated incident. We pulled out the sticker chart again and he’s been in his own bed the entire night for a couple days now. It’s kind of clicking back into place for him again really quickly. I don’t know why it’s all reminding me of potty training again… haha.

  8. 9


    What works for us is to tell our 3 yo that we will be back to check on her in 5 minutes and she should stay in her bed. Make sure you remember to go check and then make the next interval a bit longer and so on. This gets her to relax and she knows we’re checking so she just stays put until she falls asleep. If she’s really having trouble you could start at 1 minute and work from there. I hear you on the co-sleeping. We’ve tried that in a couple extreme circumstances and I don’t get even a minute of sleep while we have someone in the bed.

  9. 10


    Would either of your older boys want to sleep with her? I know that might just make it worse but sometimes kids/sibs can love that connection and create some sibling intimacy. What if she started the night with one of them or knew that she could curl up with them too!?

  10. 11

    Karla says

    We co slept our first daughter because she had a heart condition and if she got worked up would send her heart into a spasm, I couldn’t wake to her even with her crib within arms reach but could semi consiously wake to feed her during the night when she was in our bed, she stayed in our bed until she was 2 and then decided she was a big girl, our second daughter was a little trickier, she co slept a lot, due to my laziness really, I only got to ‘kick her out’ when I was expecting again, she too was/is a kicker and trasher so I couldn’t risk it. She settled nicely into her toddler bed at 2, but now almost 4, is again difficult, I have to lay with her to get her to sleep, which can take an hour, she often still comes in after she wakes at midnight for a toilet run. My twins are now 14 months… My best sleepers yet! My oldest is now 8 and is a great sleeper also until she night terrors when she is coming down with any sickness. Or has to wake for a midnight toilet run. I, like you, am hoping its a season that will pass quickly. We are being careful about what she is viewing on tv and are sure to pray with her every night which does help.

  11. 12

    Allison says

    Our daughter is 3.5 and went through this last winter….lasted about 2 months. If I remember correctly it all started with her being sick and waking up in the night. She wanted me in the room with her and wouldn’t fall asleep without me. We were so exhausted the first month from her coming in and waking us up! We have never been ones to let our kids sleep with us…..so we just stuck to our routines and compromised a bit during this time and she eventually grew out of it. I had to lie in bed with her until she fell asleep–then I went to sitting by the door–then eventually leaving the room. I will say with the last step there was some crying we had to put up with (and that was hard) but eventually she fell back into her normal routine of bath, books, and then bed. Whenever trials like this come up I always think —this too shall pass—and it does (and onto the next issue!) :) -Allison in Cary NC

  12. 13

    Karla says

    And like Kim, we have had a cot mattress on our floor a few times. When we made the point of not allowing tehy in our bed we put a mattress on the floor, it was a spare thin foam one, not exactly very comfortable but that’s the point. She would have a bit of a sook about it and either go back to her big comfy bed or try to sleep on the floor for a while before heading back to bed. You don’t want to make it a haven of comfort, it’s just a runner up thing, it teaches them to weigh it up, and they ultimately make that decision them self. You are just giving the options, 2 options, both of which won’t make you lose sleep!

  13. 14

    Kerri says

    When I was a kid my parents asked the pediatrician about this exact thing. He told them to make a palate where I could sleep on the floor. That way I was never turned away from the comfort of being near them, but I was not allowed in the bed either. After a week of sleeping on the floor I realized it was better to stay in my own bed and stopped going in there every night. Might be worth a try!

  14. 15


    Our little Curly Girl had this problem starting around 3.5 yrs and still does once in awhile (she’s only 5). She was terrified of the “fuzzies” (no idea what she meant).

    We took a small bottle of body spray from bath & body works, and each night we would spray a small spray around each side of her bed. This was her “fuzzy spray” and would protect her from them.

    Don’t know why, but it seemed to work.
    And we always let her come into our room and tell her why she’s awake, and what is wrong, but after a few minutes cuddle, she has to go back to her own bed.
    Because, yeah, I can’t sleep with a kid in my bed either!

  15. 16

    Shannon says

    We took the mattress from our crib, when our smallest moved to a bed, and we keep it under our bed with a sheet and small quilt on it. When the kids come in we tell them to pull it out and go back to sleep. It has been great when they have been sick too. You just have to check the floor before get out of bed.

  16. 17


    with my daughters it works to let them come in if they need to but instead of sleeping with us, we go to their room with them. they get the comfort of having mom around and they fall back asleep. then I sneak out and they stay. eventually they stop coming in.

  17. 18


    My sister in law keeps a spare crib mattress on the floor of her bedroom for kids that wander in in the night. My two year old is being a bedtime monster lately but she has never, and I mean NEVER, spent the night in our bed. Not because I have a problem with it, but because she does! She can NOT sleep unless she is by herself. Kick, wiggle, giggle, laugh. I wish I could put her and her sister in a bedroom together (she has totally ruined my fantasy of two little girls giggling together in the dark at night! lol) but she just can’t seem to rest her little ball-of-energy self unless she is in solitary confinement. Sigh! It’s caused some brutal nights when she couldn’t/wouldn’t sleep and we would have just coslept with her big sister (or baby brother) in the same situation.

  18. 19


    We went through the same thing and like others have said we told her it was fine to come in our room and sleep but she couldn’t get in the bed she had to sleep on a pallet on the floor. Worked like a charm….her sleeping on the floor that is:) she felt safe and we got our sleep! Best of luck to you!

  19. 20

    kristen says

    This might he a repeat…my daughter and I both have had and are having this very problem. I read a sleep experts advice from a friend: a sleep ticket is given each night. They can use it if they want to come out of bed (potty trips are free), but if they keep it all night they get to redeem it for a prize in the morning. Gradually increase the number of tickets that must be earned for prize. It has worked well with my daughter. She’s currently saving tickets for a lalaloopsy doll. šŸ˜‰

  20. 21


    Here is what has worked for us… “Ok sweetie, let me hug you.” Pat, pat, hug, hug. “Alright, now do you want me to bring you back to bed, or do you want to go yourself?” Sometimes, when they’re going through an independent stage, they choose to go back themselves! Another thing that works for us is to ask, “Do you want to sleep on the couch (in our room), or sleep in your bed?” Either choice is fine w us! One of our daughters was really persistent, and seemed to sneak in our bed when we were both too sound asleep to notice. She had been talking about a new bed that she wanted a lot. I had many conversations w her about getting a new bed. I asked her why would she need a new bed if she usually sleeps in ours anyway? I asked her if she would sleep in her new bed if we bought the one she wanted. She said yes. We bought her the bed. She stays in bed all night now! Hope you guys find what works for you soon! Interrupted sleep is no fun!

  21. 22


    Not to get all religious on you and I don’t know if anyone suggested this, but my husband gave her a blessing before bed for a few nights, we also began helping her with her individual prayers at that point, and in them praying for comfort and safety. I told my daughter that she could always wake us up and we would pray together. For a few nights, she got some blessings in the middle of the night, and had some prayed too in the late hours. This seemed to work the best, but if could have also been in combination of this toddler alarm clock we got from amazon, that does deliver to an APO, we are your neighbors to the east in Wiesbaden Germany right now.

  22. 23

    Laura says

    Wow. I just love all these suggestions. We have struggled with sleep issues with our two year old so much that we have an appointment with a child psychologist later today (I’ll update you if he has anything new to add). For Evie, you could try the toddler alarm clock route, or have you seen the Ladybug star light? It doesn’t work for us (with a 2yo) but might be good for her. Also, I second the recommendation of letting her sleep with one of the boys from time to time if they are willing. They may sleep harder than you, and it can be a special bonding time for the kids.

  23. 24


    I have similar problems with my eldest (3 years). She has an active imagination, and a tendency towards anxiety. I’ve been trying to talk to her about “happy places” and being able to think of fun and happy things to help her go to sleep. I had the same problems with sleep as a kid. I’d lay awake in bed unable to sleep, anxious and scared of the dark/shadowy things I could see in my bedroom. I remember walking halfway down the stairs to tell my mom “I can’t sleep!”.

    She and I were once discussing a fun cabin in the woods (mine) and playground outside (hers) and all the things we would do, and the hot cocoa we would drink when we got inside in front of the fireplace to rest and relax after a day of play. I decided to try using that at night to help her take her mind off the distracting thoughts. It worked for a few nights, so hopefully we can cultivate this skill together to help her do it on her own.

  24. 25


    We have been going through this exact same thing with our Abby. I feel bad she’s scared but somethin’ has got to give. May we both find a solution soon and sleep again. Ha! I looove the pictures. Evie is darling!

  25. 26

    Jesica says

    I was the exact same way as a child, so when we went through this with our two oldest we set up a “tent” with sleeping bags and pillows on our floor. That way, if they felt insecure in the night they could come in and sleep without waking us up. If they made it through the entire night in their own beds they received lots of praise and a small reward after five nights. Eventually they both grew out of it (just in time for the arrival of baby #3, thankfully) and we have had this same policy for the others, though they rarely use it. Good luck! =)

  26. 27

    Catherine says

    When I was little, I was terrified of windows- convinced that a vampire would come thru them and kill me when I fell asleep. I was also equally convinced that two grown men hid in my doll house at night and would chop off all my hair while I slept if I let it fall over the edge of the bed. Wild creative imaginations are so hard to tame at night!! I would bolt for my parents bed constantly. My mom tried making me sleep on the floor as well, but then she couldn’t get up to pee without waking me up and starting the whole night fright again. So…she got me a net canopy for my bed. I could see thru it, to survey for vampires and such, but she had me convinced that she couldn’t see into the canopy- meaning I was invisible if I stayed in my bed with the canopy closed. Brilliant :) good luck with Evie!!

  27. 28

    Lizzie says

    Hi, I’m sixteen years old and I love your blog! I hope something that I say can help you out with your problem. When I was a toddler I had the most active imagination every and would not fall asleep at night. So my parents played tapes for me that were simple, repetetive, and calming, and also gave me a huge stack of books in my bed to look at. As I got older my imagination was still at work and I had anxiety falling asleep in the dark, even in the semi-dark. I had to have the overhead light on. So my coping mechanism with my fear was to read book after book until I fell asleep. Although I kknow your problem with Evie isn’t getting her to fall asleep, but rather to stay in bed, maybe those would work. Give her a bunch of books and tell her, if you get scared, just read books until you can fall back asleep. Let her work out how to deal with her fear and anxiety on her own. Try leaving the brightest light on so she can see that she has nothing to be afraid of. And then slowly wean her back off of the light. My little sister who is ten has a problem similar to Evie’s. She rarely spends the entire night in her bed. She spends almost everynight in a little nest next to my parent’s bed. She wakes up in the middle of the night, crawls into her nest and falls asleep without ever waking up my parents. Hopefully you get Evie sleeping by herself soon! Best of luck!

  28. 29

    J Whitaker says

    I have to admit my boy is generally a good sleeper, and this may not be helpful, but on occasion he has to be convinced to stay in bed at night and I’ve found that giving him a warm rice bag to hold (along with several bears) has been a big help. Somehow his warm thing is comforting and helps him fall asleep without further complaints. Hope you figure out something that works for her!

  29. 30


    We have had the same problem with our oldest. And like some many others have said, we made him a place to sleep on our floor. He would come in and curl up in his spot on the floor and we would never even know he was there. He is almost 7 and still comes in every once in a while because for whatever reason he is having trouble sleeping in his room and just needs to comfort of being close to us. Our 3 year old daughter also comes in once a week. She is a lot smaller and can fit quite nicely in the middle but then that makes horrible sleep for us. I make her a small space at the bottom of the bed with her own pillow and blanket and after an hour or too, I often wake up and put her back in her own bed.

  30. 31

    Joan says

    During the many years of raising 5 children, we often (almost every night?) had “someone” who wandered into our room during the night. I finally put pillows and quilts or sleeping bags on our carpeted floor right next to my side of the bed. When they woke up and came in crying or just woke me up, I would tell them gently that ” daddy was sleeping and we wouldn’t want to wake him up” so they could lie right next to me on the soft floor. I would many times hold the child’s hand until he/she or I fell back to sleep. Often, there would be 2 or 3 of the kids on the floor next to my side of the bed when I woke up in the morning. My husband and I quietly went about getting ready for the day as the kids slept and they were happy as clams to be there. We ALL got a good night’s sleep and they felt secure and and loved.

    EVENTUALLY they all slept in their own beds ALL night long. We do cherish those memories, though, and talk about them, as a family, with fondness.
    They are all grown now and we miss those days!! :-) Remember–it really DOESN’T last forever.

  31. 32

    Cindy says

    We got smart and put our non-sleeper in bed with her brother. She just needed someone, anyone, to curl up to. Eventually she went back to her own bed when she was ready. Hope you find what works for your family. This too shall pass.

  32. 33

    Leslie says

    Hi, my youngest of three has just turned 5 and I remember those dreadful, crowded nights and the compromised sleep BUT it doesn’t last that long and she will grow out of it. My feeling is you need to decide which battles in parenting to fight- and whether this is the one- and whether focusing on it will make it more of an issue. I guess you’ve tried the usual- one of you goes to her bed for the night, taking her back after a while, etc. My feeling is you don’t want your little girl to be scared and alone and letting her in is not the end of the world. It’s always a judgment call on whether or not your child is playing you or really upset. The best “practical” thing we did was use a sticker chart for night stayed in bed and a reward for a given number. Good luck.

  33. 34

    Crystal says

    We have a “nest” of blankets on the floor next to the bed :) If the kids are scared they can come in silently but if they wake us up back to bed they go.

  34. 35

    Jocelyn says

    We are just winding down from out 3 year old (who has never been the best sleeper) getting out of bed at least once every night. What got him down to once a night was a gentle bed time with lots of hugs and assurances that it’s ok to stay in bed. What got him to sleep the whole night with no interruptions on our part was a promise of a “special thing” in the morning when he didn’t get up in the night. He gets to choose from a special toy (we have a reserve just for that), a little bit of a movie (we don’t really watch any tv), or one of his treats. So far it’s working quite well. He’s gotten up twice since we started this system 2 weeks ago. Good luck!

  35. 36

    whit says

    it helps if for every hour they sleep you leve one small treat. Like a hersheys kiss. and then eventually make it so they only get 1 treat every night for staying in bed. it also helps if you make them think they are staying up late. if you tell them a bed time and remind them constantly about it they will be more willing. like if they go to bed at seven thirty you say they need to go to bed at seven. so they will think they are more tired.

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