Help needed.. 4 year old waking crying at night

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  1. swapna123 profile image59
    swapna123posted 13 years ago

    My 4 year old daughter sleeps in the same room with me, and from last 3 or 4 nights, she's crying and screaming in her sleep. While crying, she talks about everything bad that happened during the day (mama shouted at her, her friend didn't give her Disney sticker to her,  dad went to work without giving her a kiss.. it can be anything).
    She seems to be having some bad dream and I am not able to wake her up. I even tried splashing little water on her face, that doesn't help. She keeps her eyes shut and continues crying for around 10 minutes and then, falls asleep again. She does this 5-6 times at night and me and my husband have tough time calming her down and catching our sleep. In the morning, she doesn't remember any of this, and seems refreshed and  happy, while her parents suffer from lack of sleep.
    Nothing seems to have changed at home or school in the last week, except that there was some festival where most of the kids in neighborhood wore new clothes, and she didn't have a new pair and was upset. I bought her a new dress next day and that calmed her down.
    Any ideas on what might have caused this ?

    1. lilibees profile image60
      lilibeesposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Wow, finally I am not alone! My four year daughter is the same way, except she sleeps in her own room. For about a month now at least 2 to 3 times a week sometimes more she wakes screaming and crying, with a list of things she has either remembered from her dreams and sometimes things that she thinks she has had happen. For example the other night she woke up terrified that I had been eaten by a tiger! Now what kind of four year old child would have such a dream, do they dream of things like that! She is just a baby should nightmares be a issue so early!

      1. Dawn Conklin profile image73
        Dawn Conklinposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        That is really weird, the dream about the tiger.  I rarely remember dreams that I have now, let alone when I was younger.  One dream that I remember to this day was the dream I had about my Dad being attacked by a lion.  My Dad is still alive and well to this day, 30 years later!  I was about 4 or 5 when I had that dream.  I remember it now like it just happened, details and all-it was creepy.

  2. Lisa HW profile image64
    Lisa HWposted 13 years ago

    What you describe doesn't sound at all like night terrors (which are hard to wake kids from, and which is the only reason a night terror occurred to me at all).  Kids don't remember night terrors either; but, again, it really doesn't sound like a night terror at all.  My eldest son had night terrors, but they'd happen at the same time after he feel asleep, and they'd happen on days when he had been "frazzled".  He was incoherent and difficult to wake.  Once I'd be able to wake him up he'd stare blankly for awhile, seeming confused.  Then he's eventually go "out like a light.  On any night it happened it would only happen once. 

    I learned how to head them off by not letting him go to bed as early as I may otherwise had him go to bed.  I'd keep him up an hour later, and it wouldn't happen.  It was when he'd fall asleep too early and seem to get into a deep sleep earlier that he'd, without fail, have a night terror.  Kids having night terrors open their eyes even during the night terror.  They just look "zombie like".

    This is an absolutely wild guess, but I'm wondering if she's not really sleeping when she cries, but if she's pretending to be sleeping because she's in the room with you, has to do her crying, and maybe feels more comfortable pretending she's asleep.  Another wild (and maybe ignorant) guess is that she may really remember what she was crying about (or dreaming about) but not want to talk about it.

    Sometimes if little kids (especially around her age or five) have to lay awake too long before they can fall asleep they start thinking up stuff that bothers them.  I think it's because they're not happy to have to lay there wide awake, so they're in that unhappy mood anyway.  Then they seem like they kind of think up stuff that "fits the mood".

    If she really is asleep and sleep-talking, it's common for someone not to recall dreams they had the night before; so that's another thing.  To me, it does seem kind of on the odd side that the dreams aren't about "willy nilly" stuff and are, instead, about real-life issues that have gone on.  Maybe that's just her way of dreaming and/or dealing with things that bothered her; but so much of a "real-life" connection does make me wonder if it's really always dreams. 

    Then again, I'm someone who "dreams simple" usually.  I'll get all kinds of things that I encountered (objects, people, things I heard, quick thoughts I had, etc.) showing up in one dream, all mixed up - as if it's the last few days' "goings on" mixed up and dumped out in an odd little "story".  Even with such obvious connections to what I recently encountered in real life, though, those things are still mixed up to "make a new story".  Of course, she's four.  Who am I to guess about whether she relives the day.

    I think if she's particularly bothered by what goes on during any day, or if she's particularly sensitive; maybe that stuff comes out in dreams.  Maybe, too, she just needs to cry about them.  If she has a lot going on that makes her feel unhappy, it all seem like more than she can deal with.

    Also, little kids can get to an age where they start to worry about their mother or father dying.  (Five is big for that, I think.)  I remember thinking about my mother dying when I was trying to go to sleep, then I'd get myself crying.  Then my parents would come in and ask why, and I couldn't tell them why (because it seemed like such an awful thing to say, "I'm afraid you're going to die").  So, instead, I'd either leave them to guess or say "the next thing".  Maybe your daughter is doing that.

    Maybe (just in case that's what the thing is) you could just kind of mention (during the day and in some way unrelated to her crying bouts) how you and her father are young and healthy.  If you have your own parents maybe you could mention how much you love them but how you love them so much you sometimes get worrying about them "for no reason".  Maybe you could mention that they you "know they're reasonably young and healthy", and there's really no reason right now to worry about them.  (If she is close to grandparents, and they're older, maybe she's thinking about them dying too, or instead.)  Again (and obviously), just more guesses.

    When little kids get to thinking about, and being afraid that, their mother or father will die; they REALLY get upset.  It's a phase I think most go through.  Maybe they're less open about it if they're worried about how their parents will react if they're honest about it.

    Hope some of these guesses/thoughts give you something to start from, as far as identifying what's happening goes.  (I, personally, don't think putting water on her is a great idea.  I wonder if, instead, maybe you could pick her up, get her away from the bedroom, and go sit with her, hold her in a living room chair, and try to calm her.  Maybe say things like, "I don't know what you're dreaming about, but everything is OK.  Let's just sit here until you feel better, and then we go sleep."  If, by any chance, she's really awake and crying and pretending she's asleep so she doesn't have to answer questions about crying; she probably wouldn't want to be honest about that if she thinks you're all frazzled about her crying.  She would need to know you're calm, you're able to sort out any worries/sadness she has for her, and you're able to help her know it's OK to feel sad or worried and cry - that everyone does it once in a while, and that children her age often worry or feel sad and cry.

    Other than any of the above kind of possibilities, it's always worth asking her pediatrician.   People have all kinds of sleep disorders.

    1. swapna123 profile image59
      swapna123posted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks a lot Lisa. That was a wonderful reply. I read about night terrors but it talks about the child having sudden bouts of apparent awakening. However, mine still has her eyes shut. This starts around 1-2 hours after she is asleep. Usually, she sleep-talks sometimes about the stuff that happen during her day time and dozes off, so i never bother much about that. However, now she's crying hard and screaming. She also keeps kicking her legs and rolls in her bed . I asked her if she has stomach ache or something else, but she doesn't reply. I don't know if i should try to wake her up or calm her down. Like I said, she doesn't remember any of this in morning, and seems quite cheerful and normal. I plan to watch this for few more days and if it doesn't get better, i would need to consult her doctor.

      1. charkamman profile image59
        charkammanposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        How is she now? I use EFT (Emotional Freedom techniques) a simple to learn and apply technique on my own daughter and on my little nephew, if I do it before they go to sleep they have much less nightmares and talking during the night. It calms down the nervous system, and it seems to do the trick. If you want help, send me a message!The website for EFT is, you can learn it there for free - will probably take you an hour or so to read through the manual and try it out.

    2. LondonGirl profile image82
      LondonGirlposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I thought what you wrote was very interesting indeed, Lisa - my son is 5, and he's very bothered at the moment that Mummy and Abba might die.

      We thought it was triggered by his asking why Mummy has parents and Abba doesn't have them, and the explanation for that. Didn't realise it was a general thing.

  3. Beth100 profile image69
    Beth100posted 12 years ago

    Young children are susceptible to stress, no matter how insignificant it may appear in our eyes, and express it during the night through dreams or nightmares or semi-conscious conversations.  There are different reasons, which I would hesitate to guess at as I do not know her or you personally.

    Perhaps there is a change in her routine -- beginning pre-school, early kindergarten, change of teacher or assistant, different morning routine at home and/or at school, new environment (a recent move to a new home, loss/addition of sibling/pet, climate change) and many other details items that can cause this.  Sometimes, there is nothing to worry about -- it can be a phase that will stop just as suddenly as it began.

    I would advise you to speak with her, read a calming story before bed time, reduce/elimate TV/video shows, play soft/soothing nature sounds in the background, leave a night light on or low watt bulb in a covered lamp on, light the path to the bathroom, teddy/blanket she favors should be available at all times.  These are simple suggestions, but can work wonders. 

    One other suggestion, I have my child lay on the bed and begin to get him to calm, almost into a sleepy state.  I tell a bedtime story that is "happy", filled with animals/people/activities that are safe, fun and familar.  They always sleep better and they also fall into a deep sleep without any fuss.

    A physician is also a good resource to turn to, or a nurse or a midwife.

    1. charkamman profile image59
      charkammanposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I agree with you Beth! The pre-sleep routine is important, and EFT works wonderful in addition to your suggestions - an possibly only works well together with them. Happy that you added your comment!

      1. Beth100 profile image69
        Beth100posted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Thank you.  And I agree with you -- it is the mind that causes the ailments that we see as disease (dis - ease with the body).  I have seen EFT work though I use a different form.  You have also provided a wonderful alternative.

  4. TheRobbin'sNest profile image60
    TheRobbin'sNestposted 12 years ago

    I have a four year old son, just thought I would share he had been doing the same thing, screaming and crying in his sleep.  We had thought it was night terrors as well and when woke up enough he would tell me about the dream or something he was having.  He did this for three months straight until we figured out he was dreaming, but his screams and cries had nothing to do with his dreams.  He was having leg cramps while he slept and only after my husband going in to massage his legs would he calm down.  He was recognizing the pain with the dreams he was having or vice versa...thus being some HORRIBLE dream, but caused by the pain of the leg cramps.

  5. WeNdYpOoPoO profile image59
    WeNdYpOoPoOposted 12 years ago

    it is called night terrors my niece has tham also

  6. WeNdYpOoPoO profile image59
    WeNdYpOoPoOposted 12 years ago

    it is called night terrors my niece has tham also

  7. know one profile image59
    know oneposted 12 years ago

    This sort of thing is a common occurence for a 4 year old - to do with their developmental stage and how they process their world in their subconscious. My son would wake up screaming that the boulder was coming for him ... this was a scene from Thomas The Tank Engine when the boulder was rolling down the track towards Thomas. Just hold them close and gently reassure them that they're having a bad dream until it passes.  My friend tried some sort of Bach Flower remedy for her boy... shrug, I think it helped reassure her more smile

  8. dressline profile image41
    dresslineposted 11 years ago

    if a child waked up and found that his or her parents are not besides ,maybe he or she will cry, i am not a mother or father , just guess it . hehe ...

  9. profile image52
    Namotposted 10 years ago

    I know this is an old thread but I don't want to start a new thread because there is so much good info.

    My daughter is 4 years old and 3 nights in a row she's woken up crying and screaming and grunting. She's awake but cannot be reasoned with its like she's still in a state of sleep.  Everything that you say to comfort her makes her scream. The first night was the worst because we continuously tried to comfort her and every attempt make her more furious.  After an hour she is just so tired she passes out. Wakes up the next morning normal and doesn't remember a thing. Man if only we could do that cus this has been a traumatic experience.

    Well tonight is night 3 of the same thing and I did more observing and almost no talking. I found out that she is extremely frustrated. At first it appears she is crying in her sleep. Then after about 5-10 min of crying she starts to wake up a little. Starts looking around the room. After another 5-10 min she realizes we're there.  After she finishes crying/screaming/grunting she starts muttering stuff about something that frustrated her earlier in the day. I listen to her and nod my head and do my best to make her feel like i understand.  As soon as she feels like i understand she becomes calm and then fully awake. She doesn't remember anything in the morning. 

    My mother in law started taking care of the kids last week and she tends to frustrate our daughter a lot because she doesn't take the time to make our daughter feel understood. So I think a week of built up frustration and anxiety has led to this.

    I pray we can fix this. I've been an absolute zombie at work. Just thought is share. Gl all!

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