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4 yr old waking up several times a night crying
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4 yr old waking up several times a night crying

my four year old son wakes up several times a night crying. hes screaming like he's in pain, but i cant find a single thing wrong with him. he is fine during the day and before he goes to sleep. he has no health issues, so i dont understand whats wrong. he has been doing this for about 6 months and always seems to wake up at the same time during the night. im thinking this is just maybe becoming a habit for him, and i would like to know how to break it. im losing a lot of sleep and so is my 10 yr  daughter who sleeps in the next room. i have tried ignoring him, but he will just continue to scream untill i get in there to comfort him, and even that takes me a while to get him to settle down. i did notice a lot of times he will be scruntched up in a ball, and at first i thought he was having stomach issues, but i dont understand why only at night???
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13167_tn?1327197724
Is this happening shortly after he goes to bed - like,  within an hour and a half?  

Does he appear to completely recognize you and talk to you during this time?  Does he remember it well the next morning?

This sounds like night terrors to me.  I think they should be called "night agitation" or "night tantrums".  They occur in the early part of the night,  and the child isn't actually fully awake - they have to be woken up during the tantrum and then they will usually be able to go to sleep shortly afterwards.

Does this sound like what is happening?
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412969_tn?1224337848
could also be growing pains, seriously my son pulled this on me for 4 months then stopped and still occasionally will do it but its tapered off alot.
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Avatar_n_tn
My 2 year old daughter has started doing the same thing.  For the last several weeks now she wakes up every hour or so crying and throwing a fit, its hard to get her back to sleep.  It feels as though once she is sleeping again it happens all over again.  Last night they started about three hours after she went to bed, so about 11pm then continued until 3 in the morning.  She would cry and whine for about 15 min each time then back to sleep.  I am getting so frustrated and sleep deprived.  I am not sure what to do either.
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Avatar_n_tn
My 2 yr old did the same thing.  He would wake up 5 & 6 times a night. Screaming bloody murder, I was really worried that he was having horrible nightmares. I never was able to get sleep.  So here is my question for you Does your child snore?  I know that is a crazy question, but I took my son to the Dr several times about the fact that he would not sleep through the night and they never did a thing.  As soon as I mentioned the fact that he snored something fierce the sent us to an Ear Nose & Throat Specialist for "Sleep Apnea" imagine that, and a month later his tonsils and adnoids were removed.  It took a good 6 months for him to finally get into a routine, but now he wakes up maybe once a night and that is only to use the potty.  So I am getting a lot more sleep. And you have the added bonus of them not getting sick as often.  Well, just a thought, Good luck, I feel your pain!
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632089_tn?1222435732
I AM NEW AT THIS SO I THINK I JUST POSTED A NOTE.... MY SON DID THE SAME THING...FOR A MONTH WOKE UP EVERYNIGHT SCREAMING AND REALLY MAD..COME TO FIND OUT HE NEEDED HIS ADDNODES AND TONNSLOLES OUT...DONT MIND MY SPELLING PLEASE...BUT THE REASON HE ONLY WOKE UP AT NIGHT WAS HE HAD A HARD TIME BREATHING AT NIGHT AND IT WOULD WAKE HIM UP AND MAKE HIM VERY MAD...NO OTHER SIGNS THAT IT GOING ON ..HE WAS FINE DURING THE DAY ONLY AT NIGHT...MAYBE TRYING CALLING AN EAR NOSE AND THROAT DOCOTOR AND SEE WHAT HE SAYS...
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Avatar_f_tn
My son is almost 4 years old, and he would wake up crying , whining, kicking his feet during the night sleep.  He doesn't do this all the time...maybe 2-3 times a week.  But he used to cry for 30 minutes even when I try to sooth him.  I figured a new way to make him stop crying.  Maybe you can try it.  I'd pick him up and take him to the potty and tell him to try to pee.  After he pees i'd take him back to bed....it would take another 1 minute or so for him to settle back to sleep.  During the day...I tell him many times that I will be waking him up to go pee when he cries.  My son doesn't remember he is crying at night when he wakes up in the morning.  weird.
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Avatar_f_tn
My daughter has recently started doing this ill put her to bed then shortly afterwards she wakes up crying usualy shouting things, When I wake her up an ask what's scaring her she comes up with some strange comments like a min ago I asked what's up she was sobbing because the quilt was a mess but half ago she didn't know what it was this has happened every night for the past few week! Its making her very ratty, groggy and tired in mornings and in school is there anyway to stop this or make them go away please reply
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1517432_tn?1290741188
I too have the same issue with my 4 year old, only it started when he was alittle over a year old.  Not every night though, and when he does have these "tantrums" it takes either myself or my husband a good 10 minutes before my son wakes up.  I am to baffled as to what this is and have taken him to several specialists,(sleep study, ent, and of course his regular doc.) none of which helped even though he had to have tubes and his adnoids removed, he still goes through this at least 3x month. So, if anyone can shed any light on this mystery, that would be great.
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Avatar_m_tn
My first guess would be night terrors. My doctor told us that it is very common for 3-5 year olds to go through a period of time of these.

Another possiblity is the growing pains. We only grow while we sleep so that is why the pains happen during the night. Our two year old is going through that. She will have a couple bad nights then be okay for a few.

Good luck and hang in there!
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Avatar_f_tn
My 4 year old daughter has been doing this also, she wakes up crying , but she wont talk to me or tell me what is wrong, or if she is in pain, nothing. And it takes me almost an hour it seems to calm her down and get back to sleep myself. It is stressful on me, cause I can't help her if she can't tell me. She speaks her mind any other time, but during these episodes she can not talk. Please help me.
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Avatar_m_tn
My son done the same thing.  It was his Singular.  He was having night terrors because of the medication.  It took him around 2 months to work it out of his system once we took him off of the medicne.  
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Avatar_f_tn
I'm so frustrated. My 4 yr old 'wakes up' screaming and yelling several times a night. This has been going on for about 2 months. The dr thinks its behavioral and she'll grow out of it. We have done naps, early bedtimes, etc, but nothing seems to help. Does anybody have any suggestions or been thru this? If she will grow out of it, I hope it happens soon.
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1772987_tn?1330058601
Our son is 3.5 years old and was doing this too. He'd wake up 5-6 times a night crying and screaming and coming into our room each time if we didn't go to him. He was extremely overtired it was a vicious cycle. We finally had to make some major changes. We moved his bedtime an hour and a half earlier, put him down for naps earlier and then we did something that most parents shudder to hear. We turned his doorknob around and locked his bedroom door at nap and bedtime. After he fell asleep we'd unlock it for safety reasons, but he wouldn't know that.

Before we actually went that route we talked to our pediatrician. He also said it was a behavioral thing. He said that he'd had to do the same thing with one of his own kids. He told us to make sure the room was totally child proofed and he suggested using a babygate instead of locking the door. But since our son can open all those, it wasn't an option.

After the first two nights, he was sleeping straight through the night again and taking naps. After the first couple of nights, we didn't need to lock the door anymore. Just the idea it could be locked was enough to keep him in bed. I'm not sure why that made him sleep the whole night, I think maybe he knew he wasn't going to get any attention during the night and it made him stop waking himself up completely.

Over a month we were able to move his bedtime later by 45 minutes so he doesn't wake up super early in the morning. I'm sure I'll hear a lot of criticism for the choice we made, but it worked and he sleeps and acts so much better now, he's like a different child.

I will warn you, we've heard a lot of people, including my mother say that maybe we should have done something more first. But trust me, we tried everything--blackout shades, white noise, night lights, reward charts, incentives, all sorts of bedtime routines, long and short, everything people suggested we tried. It came down to this...Our son just needed to be left alone at night, as hard as that was for everyone at first. It was tough, I won't lie about that. Hearing him ask us to unlock the door was heartbreaking, it made me and my husband cry. But he's learned to go to sleep on his own again, and sleep through the night again. He's taking his naps and not fighting us about going to sleep.  

I kept thinking it was a phase at first and he'd outgrow it. But after 6 months of the "phase", we were desperate for sleep. I think he'd still be doing it if we hadn't intervened.

I hope that helps you a little, whatever you decide to do.
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Avatar_f_tn
We've been having the same issues with our 4 year old for about 6 weeks.  Your advice is spot-on and I appreciate it.  We've been trying the same thing (door closing), but not right at bedtime....only when she comes out of her bedroom, which is sometimes several times a night.  And we'd only close it for a bit.

I'm going to attempt the door closing right at bedtime and hope that it works succcesfully for us too.

So understand how hard it is to do that, but I guess we're teaching them to soothe themselves, and stop manipulating.

Thanks for your post...it's given me the courage to do the same!
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Avatar_f_tn
This could be night terrors, but most likely it is growing pains. My 2 year old does the same thing, and it took me a while to figure out that he was having a hard time explaining why he hurt. If you or your husband are tall this is a real possibility. Try giving him Tylenol before bedtime and see if that doesn't help. Growing pains suck and they really hurt. I suffered from them for years, but i am 6'0'' and my husband is 6'7''
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1772987_tn?1330058601
I'm glad it helped you-it was such a hard experience, but has been a blessing for our family. Good luck! Let me know how it goes :)
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Avatar_f_tn
Just sent you a 'note' too.  Do you remember how long it took for your 3 1/2 year old to adjust to having the door closed and self sooth himself?
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Avatar_m_tn
My 4yr old daughter has eczema and is generally itchy most of the time - we manage it so it doesn't look too bad, but apparently its 'the itch that rashes' so the itch is there pretty much most of the time even though it doesn't look like it.

This wakes her up most nights and I can understand this - what bugs me though is that she just screams and has a tantrum about it instead of getting some help.  She's obviously frustrated and just wants to get to sleep and her raging about is a way of venting some steam.

We've tried to confront it with consequences (just escalates the situation and doesn't offer much in the way of solace), closing her door (which just scares her and escalates the situation), and repeatedly offering her comfort (she just wanted more and more comfort - both frequency and intensity).

Eventually, we figured that we were trying to get her to stop crying there and then which was impossible.  We've now changed our gameplan to one of offering initial comfort to make sure there are no issues that need addressed (such as applying cream or giving an antihistamine for the itch or something more serious like a fever, etc) and then ignoring her until she comes to our room if she wakes up again.  Last night, after settling her when we came to bed (10:30pm), she screamed for around 45 mins the first time (12:09am), 20 mins the second time (1:47am) and every 8 mins for around 2 mins per time for around an hour (3:30-4:30am).  The first and second times she came into our room eventually and was calm and even kinocked on the door and said 'hello'.  The third time, she eventually just went to sleep.  It reminded me on the first few months of sleep training an infant - you know, where the screaming/crying reduces in intensity and you can tell they're giving up on that strategy.

When she comes to our room, we are nice as pie with her and take her back to her room and settle her.  From here, she settles quite easily and, usually, goes back to sleep.  If she wakes again, we ignore her, she comes to our room and we take her back.

The key is to play the long game - focus on stopping her crying in  6 months time rather than now via behavioural methods as above.  Secondly, remember to keep calm and keep talking to a minimum - keep the contact time as boring and quickly over as possible.  Thirdly, keep physical contact to a minimum - no sleeping with your kid in the bed and, if you have to stay a while to settle them, keep progressively moving your 'settling position' further and further away from them in bed.  For example, if you have to be next to the bed for a few occasions to settle them, next time stay a couple of feet away form the bed and gradually move further towards the door next time, etc.  

To know when to move on, you are looking for that feeling where you 'know' that they settle when you are next to the bed - then begin trialing trying to settle them a couple of feet away from the bed.  Also, let them know that you are not staying long - I usually say "now, dady's going to stay for a couple of minutes and then I'm going back to bed - if you need anything, come and get me and I'll help you".  

It's important to say at this point that we ensure that our other daughter's door is closed so she's not disturbed much and we also close our door - closing our door is less confrontational than closing my 4yr olds and helps to reduce the high pitched noises which just stressed me out and really woke me up.  Get some ear plugs as well to reduce the noise further.

The overall aim is to reduce the 'energy' associated with our previous approaches - escalating the situation just provided more energy (my daughter responding to her door being closed/consequences and was almost justified in getting angry), less talk and physical contact makes the whole situation less worthwhile (my 4ry old doen's get much out of it), reducing the ease with which my 4yr old can get attention at night by making her come to us (having to get out of bed and come to us makes it even less worthwhile).

Overall, I think that we previously made the situation conflictual and my daughter just expects that conflict now and is prepared for it by going from 0-100 straight away.  I'm hoping that over time, she will learn that she can get what she wants in a nicer, more low level way - alongside making her current behaviour pointless.  I don't mind being woke up to help with her itching, its just the screaming tantrums I'm avoiding.  I've written off good sleep for the next few months though.

Just a further thought - wouldn't it be good if previous posters let us know how their children are doing now (some of the posts go back 4 yrs so the kids would be 7-8 now).

Stick with it and good luck - the joy of parenting...
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Avatar_f_tn
I also agree, night terrors. And unfortunately you cant do anything but comfort him. He will grow out of it.
Most likely he wont remember it unlike when having a bad dream. But i know how frustrating it can be. My son is 4the and just now finally growing out of them but i have a friend whose daughter had them til she was 7.
GL!
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Avatar_m_tn
what about if they need to pee though... my 3yo is doing exactly what you are saying and i agree its becoming a behaviour and a habit! I'm so fragile and exhausted... but she always needs to pee? what do you do in the night if they need to pee?
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Avatar_m_tn
This is our 4 year old daughter. It is the same thing. About an hour after falling asleep, she starts moaning and then starts crying and shouting 'NO,NO,NO'  The first week of it was rough on my husband and I because you think at this point she should be able to verbalize what is wrong (is it a bad dream? are you sick? does anything hurt?) All questions and attempts at soothing her are met with louder screams and more tears. We ask her the next night at dinner what happened and she has no memory-or she goes off in one of her adorable 4 year old stories of princesses and ponies......As a mother it broke my heart to not be able to make my baby stop crying......I am very pleased to see it is a common issue. Thanks for the posts.
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5957458_tn?1377363285
Our son is almost 4 and a few nights ago started waking up 2 to 3 times a night crying for no real reason and my wife and I try asking him what's the matter and he won't talk to us. Whenever we try to soothe him he just cries harder. It sounds like the problem you were having back in March and I was wondering if you guys are still dealing with it or if it hopefully passed sooner than later. Thanks
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