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My daughter has slept through the night since she was 6 months old but suddenly, at age 5, she started waking up in the middle of the night and seems a bit scared (she started turning the lights on). Is there any suggestions recommendations how to deal with this and/or figure out what is causing this?

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It's not uncommon at all, something scared her and she's now afraid of being alone in the dark. My son was a great sleeper and then one morning he came into our room screaming that something had got him, eventually he told his grandmother that it was shadows dancing, probably a moth in front of his nightlight or something like that. There's no "solution" to it, she's going to have to deal with the fear of being alone in her room. You can help though:

  • It's ok to have some light on in the room, if your child can see a bit it's not so scary. Get a dim, colorful bedside lamp, or put up a small string of christmas tree lights. Give your child a flashlight, it's something she can control and it is all about control. Making your child feel in control will give confidence
  • Encourage your child to take some soft toys into bed, my son started to sleep with his big stuffed dog which we called his guard dog
  • Leave the door cracked open, it often gives children more confidence. My son told me that keeping the door open meant that the ghosts could get out
  • Scary TV and movies need to stop for awhile. Give ghosts and creepy crawlies a break
  • Be patient and non-judgemental. It is not easy at all, however if you get upset it doesn't help. Your child wants to sleep but she's going through a tough time, try to be understanding
  • Get some anti-monster spray, which is a spray bottle filled with water. You call it monster spray and it becomes monster spray, and it works wonders. Give it to your child and tell her to spray it all over. Remember, it's all about control
  • Above all ask your child what will help. Talk about it with her, and then act on it. If she says the monsters don't like red pajamas take her to the store and let her pick some out. Make her feel in control

Some things not to do:

  • I made the mistake of staying in my son's room until he went to sleep, which meant he wouldn't go to sleep without me or my wife in the room. Me being in his room was a distraction and actually kept him awake longer. It also didn't help him build confidence in going to sleep on his own
  • Don't let your child sleep in your bed if she gets scared. If you have always let her into your bed then fine, but if you haven't before don't start now or she'll be getting into bed with you ever single night
  • Don't have extended conversations when she wakes up in the middle of the night or she may grow to like the attention. Don't talk much, just say back to bed, sleep tight, then get out of her room
  • After a few days of being woken up every night you will certainly be angry, and want to pressure your child to sleep, or just have a good yell to tell her how bad she is. It's only natural but it really doesn't help
  • Avoid making it a battle of wills. Your child wants to sleep, she's probably desperate for it, but she's afraid. She doesn't want a fight, she wants to not be scared. If she wants her door open but you want it closed give keeping the door open a try. If she wants all her lights on and you want them all off compromise and try a bit of light

It can take some time but she will sleep through the night again, just hang on and try to be patient.

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