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Pediatrics/Preschooler sleep issues


Hello, Dr., I am an expert volunteer on the site, too. My 5 yr. old daughter has always had occasionalsleep issues. She still sleeps w/her mother. About 7 or 8 nights/month, she only sleeps 4 hours/night. In daycare, we'd assumed if she hadn't had a nap, her body recognized her bedtime sleep as nap time. She's in kindergarten now, no naps. If we put her down any earlier than 9, shes up by 2 or 3 & cannot sleep. Again, USUALLY, this is maybe 20% of the time, she does have plenty of normal nights. However, the last 2 weeks have been bad.

Getting 4 hrs of sleep, we've been allowing her to nap an hour after school, enough to help her stay away til 9ish but not longer as we fear she'll fall asleep TOO late @ night. She gets up @ 7, comatose & almost falls asleep standing. As a result of laying her back down for an hour or 2, she's been late to school 4 times w/2 absences in 2 weeks. The craziest example was 2 nights ago. She fell asleep @ 9:30 & was up by 2. We COULD NOT get her back down. Doctor, this girl stayed up all night, through her entire school day & after school & was still going strong,  happy & energetic until 10:00, that's 20 hours straight. THAT isn't normal. When we asked if she was tired in school, she said, "Daddy, I was just dying to go to sleep on the floor". We realize it's not her fault but we feel terrible & do not know what to do.

Footnotes: at the fault of her sweet, caring, but non-disciplining mother, the poor kid has never been taught what 'lights off, time for sleep' means. Her & her mother basically fall asleep each night to the TV. So, our daughter only knows to fall asleep whenever she can no longer keep her eyes open. It's an argument we've been having since she was born. But, as the expression goes, if it's not broken, don't fix it. In the last 6 mts, her mother's 'system' has worked; she's got her asleep by 10-10:30 & up for school w/no problems by 7. Mom also won't let me break the habit of a cuppy of chocolate milk to bed (stems from bottle habit). The chocolate powder is very low in sugar.

I'm sorry for writing so much, but there's a lot involved. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Hi, Patrick,

Good intentions from sweet caring parents often create sleep monsters.

She doesn't know how to fall asleep on her own.  Her last waking memory (LWM) is you guys, not her bed.  Everytime she wakes up at night for the countless and normal reasons everyone does, she needs one of you to fall back to sleep.  

Try this.  Explain that she is a big girl and needs to stay in her own bed.  But you, being the wonderful parents you are, will cut her a break.  Create a card that she can give you one time only at night.  This allows her to get up once, get out of bed and see you.  She gives you the card, she goes back to her bed and is not allowed to do this again.  This approach gives her some control, but not all of it.  

Nothing wrong with chocolate milk except it contains theobromine, a caffeine-like stimulant that could goof up sleep in some people.

Good luck, Dr. Olson


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David Olson, MD


I would be happy to attempt to answer any questions about general pediatric topics, either medical issues or behavioral issues. This would include all the various questions one receives in a busy pediatric practice. I`m a board certified pediatrician in northern Michigan and have been in practice for over 15 years. I enjoy the teaching role I have in our practice and would enjoy the opportunity to help others with their pediatric problems.

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