Nightmares

My daughter has nightmares. A lot. Most nights she wakes up at least once. Some nights she wakes up two or three times.

It’s not enough for us to go into her room and assure her everything is alright. She wants someone to climb into bed with her, and preferably stay there until she falls back asleep (which can take up to an hour).

What she really wants is to sleep with us.

I don’t want to sleep alone! You and daddy get to sleep together! Why do I have to sleep by myself?

It’s a fair question.

We have never been a co-sleeping family. I move around a lot in my sleep and was always scared I would hurt my kids (or worse) when they were babies (I almost broke my husband’s nose when we were dating, and I did break my grandmother’s favorite antique lamp when I was in high school). If I did bring them into bed when they were infants, hoping to sleep some more precious shut eye, I would sleep only fitfully, never comfortable enough to fall into a deep sleep with them next to me.

Now we have a queen sized bed and the truth is our daughter wouldn’t fit between us. She’s a tall girl and many mornings I find her sleeping upside down in her own bed. To say she’s a fitful sleeper would be an understatement.

Also, my husband snores. Loudly.

When we do share a bed on trips I sleep horribly. She wakes me up constantly with a hand in the face or a foot in the back. It also takes her hours to fall asleep, which means there is no sneaking away when she finally passes out–by then it’s my bedtime too! Sleeping with her makes me crazy.

And yet, I wonder every day, if I’m doing her some horrible, irreparable damage by forcing her to stay in her own bed.

Two weekends ago, after a particularly rough string of nights, I convinced my husband to sleep in my daughter’s room so that our daughter could sleep with me. She was jubilant. And she slept straight through the night, without one wake up.

It was her suggestion to institute a “week off orange or red earns you a night in mommy’s bed.” Last week wasn’t a great week for her, but so far this week she’s on track. I hope she earns the treat for next week.

I worry a lot about my daughter. Why does she have nightmare’s every night? Are her bad dreams a manifestation of some emotional trauma? Is she just really sensitive and easily scared? Does she just really, really want to sleep with me? Is my refusal to allow her in my bed every night being processed as some kind of inherent rejection?

I’ll never know the answers, at least not until it’s too late.

At the end of the day, I’m just tired. And need a good night’s sleep. Is that too much to ask?

19 Comments

  1. “Does she just really, really want to sleep with me?”. Ha ha! In our house, the answer to this question is a resounding YES. Bryson loves sleeping with us, with anyone really. We started having him sleep in Matthews bed and he didn’t get out even once. But he moves a ton and wakes Matthew up so Matthew asked us to only let him sleep in his room one night a week (fair). When we told Bryson, he cried, “I just want to sweep with someone. Why won’t anyone sweep with me?!?!” My heart broke. He really just loves to snuggle. But I do not, and neither does anyone else when he kicks and hits you all night.

    I feel your pain. And your guilt.

  2. Can you put her mattress on the floor? Or can you sleep in her room and she sleeps with hot husband? I don’t think sharing a bed is a good idea for you because you won’t sleep. As a kid I remember sleeping with my parents very occasionally. I liked it. In general i sleep better alone though (even without my husband)

  3. Stella wakes up crying with nightmares a lot lately – probably 1-2x/night I have to go in there and either rub her back or sleep with her. *sigh* Same as you – if she sleeps in our bed, she’s out like a light and sleeps like a rock all night. I’m not sure what to do. Harvey BEGS to sleep with her, but he flip flops all over and talks constantly and drives Stella nuts, so she usually says no and he cries and cries. I ended up in Stella’s bed from 10-12 last night (cuz I fell asleep) and then at 1:30 Harv was crying for me to come sleep with him (he’s on the top bunk above Stella) and I refused and just tucked him back in and left. It’s so hard to not just say fine, though, and if they come into our room anytime after 4:15ish they honestly just end up in our (king) bed usually. It’s hard to know what’s best to do.

    1. I really appreciate hearing from other people who are having similar issues. Makes our own problems seem a little less dire. Thanks for sharing. I hope we both find a way to get more sleep.

  4. my daughter had a period with a lot of nightmares, we were awake 3 or 4 times a night, at least 3 nights a week… and she usually finished her night with either of us sleeping on the floor in her room (mostly my husband πŸ˜‰ so we move her mattress on the floor of her brother room and she slept without any issues there for something like 3 weeks, then we moved her back to her room with the promise that she could sleep in his room on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, then she just forgot about it and has been sleeping in her room without an issue for months now…

    1. It’s nice to hear that these issues can resolve eventually. We’ve been dealing with this for A LONG TIME (maybe six months? longer?) and I really need something to change. Clearly it’s not going to be my daughter, so I guess it’d better be me…

  5. E doesn’t have nightmares but she wakes a lot and demands to be with us. I share a bed with her about 90% of the time. It’s not ideal, it’s not what I want, but it’s reality for us. She sleeps better with me and she really needs her sleep right now so we just deal.

    1. Does she have a twin bed that you sleep in with her? I have halfheartedly been considering a double for my daughter’s room so I can sleep in there with her more often. Not excited about it, but as you said, maybe I just need to deal.

    1. I have suggested that many times but she is totally uninterested. It seems like it would be an elegant solution, though I do worry they’d wake each other all the damn time.

  6. We have a crib mattress on the floor of our room. My 4.5 yr old son comes in most nights. He is not allowed in our bed for similar reasons as you stated but he is always welcome on the floor.

  7. When I was about your daughter’s age I had nightmares a lot (now I know that I had them for a very good reason, because there WAS a lot of trauma. I was being brutally abused and wouldn’t tell anyone). At any rate, my mom’s solution was I could go sleep on their floor. No mattress or anything but I could take a blanket or sleeping bag and sleep on the floor. That always seemed to work because then I wasn’t alone.

    1. My parents used to lock me out and they’d find me on the floor in front of their bedroom. I think maybe the floor might be the solution for us, but we’ll let my daughter actually come into the room. πŸ˜‰

  8. We have a pile of blankets on the floor by our bed and we just let the girls move in when they wake up and sometimes they get consequences if they wake us up doing it all the time/many days in a row. They may only wake an adult for an emergency (so nightmares count). It goes in phases so far but it is a constant struggle to keep the girls sleeping in their room. They refuse to share a bed but sometimes will sleep near each other on their floor.

  9. Isaac has nightmares after eating dairy, and will wake a lot. He says the same thing – why do I have to be alone? You and Daddy get to sleep together! But he doesn’t really want to sleep in our bed – he wants someone to sleep with him in his room. I’m so happy we put him in a full bed because one of us is in there with him almost every night. My husband can sleep anywhere, so it’s usually him, and Isaac will sleep all night with Daddy in the bed. If I get in bed with him, I’ll wait until he falls back asleep and move back to my bed, but then he’ll be up again a couple hours later. I wish we had bought a king size bed. I regret purchasing our queen size every single day!

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