My 2-year-old daughter wakes up at night crying and fighting. Sometimes I rock her back to sleep and she falls back into a calm sleep. Other times she pushes herself to get away from me or starts yelling and crying.

Can anybody give me some advice on what I should do?


3 Answers 3


It may be that when she wakes up, she's disoriented and therefore scared. Put a night light in her room so that it's not dark when she wakes up. Then, have an extended story time for a few nights.

Sit in the room with her, lit only by the night light (if you can manage it) and tell her stories. Get her used to the look of the room when it's dark, get her used to the idea that she's safe and protected.

This kind of behaviour isn't unusual and will pass over time. I know it's distressing but don't worry about it too much.

One thing.. our youngest son would wake up, upset and crying in the middle of the night. If I tried to comfort him, it would often just make him worse. It became obvious that even though his eyes were open, he really wasn't awake enough to be coherent.

In the end, I learned to go in, let him know I was there and he was safe, then leave the room. He'd grumble and cry for a minute, then would fall back asleep.


While it could be very bad dreams, in general, waking from dreams can be caused by almost anything that causes you to be more wakeful - any dream can be scary, as others have noted on other questions. Some things to pay attention to:

  • Clothing and bedding. Did anything change with the pajamas? Did you change detergents or get a new kind of pajama that might cause it to be itchy? Are the pajamas or blankets the wrong temperature for the house now?
  • Noises. Is there something that happens at around the same time each night, like a dishwasher going on, or a garbage truck or airplane flying overhead that might wake her? For my son, sometimes the furnace turns on and wakes him up, making him think a helicopter (his fear of choice) is near, for example.
  • Food. Does this happen frequently after certain kinds of food are eaten, and/or food at certain times? It could be acid reflux or gastrointestinal issues, or even just digestion.
  • Bedtime. If she is overtired, she may not sleep as well, and wake up more easily from dreams. Also, if she is not sleeping well over a longer period of time, this can occur (making it somewhat self-sustaining).
  • Screen time. Is she watching TV or an iPad or similar shortly before bed? Screens, particularly close up ones like tablets or phones, put out a lot of light that tells your brain it is daytime (both the kind of light they produce, and the quantity). They also engage the brain heavily, in particular if it is something interactive. Both can cause a child to have difficulty going to sleep, and/or cause issues once asleep.

I have same experience with my 3 year old girl. She woke up at night and cried after i twice left her for business trips over a month in length.

My first thought was if she was sleep walking to check if I am going away again or not.

Since she has been waking at night, after going on business trips, I sleep with her for a week, and when she wakes up at night, i hold her until she falls asleep. After one week, it is back to normal, and she sleeps well until morning.

  • 1
    I fixed the language, but please note that I'm unsure about usage of "walking" vs "waking" - in places it's unclear which was intended, so you may want to clarify. (Walking = getting up and moving around, Waking = opening eyes and becoming awake)
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 18:10

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