Some friends and I were recently discussing older children that take an hour or so to really fall asleep. It reminded me of some of the things I have read regarding normal sleep stages.
Around age three is when many children start to go to bed “well”, but they may wake up in the middle of the night and walk around or play. This night waking often disappears by age four, and it may not disturb anyone in the family, but you may find them asleep in odd places in the morning.
Four through seven year olds typically also go to sleep well, but five year olds often have terrible nightmares and wake up screaming. Five and a half year olds and six year olds may also have nightmares, but are usually more readily quieted and calmed than the early five year old.
Children around the age of eight and nine especially often have a really hard time going to sleep; but eight is a lower point for nightmares. Typically there is a rise in nightmares again around the age of nine, which decreases by age ten.
I have seen many children who had trouble sleeping from infancy on; I have also seen children that had extreme trouble in sleeping in infancy who do quite well falling asleep and sleeping through the night during their preschool years and above. It seems to vary widely from individual to individual. It also has seemed to me, from what I have observed, is that children who were in co-sleeping families often do not seem to go through the “hard to go to sleep phase” of eight and nine. That has just been my experience; please leave yours in the comment box.
One thing The Gesell Institute of Human Development recommends in their writings for children who are having trouble falling asleep is to check for allergies to artificial food dyes, but also the common allergens of dairy, wheat and corn.
Nighttime fears can also play a part in a child having difficulty going to sleep. Children can fear wild animals, robbers, the safety of the home, and many other things before they try to go to sleep. It seems the height of this can be for an eight year old. I don’t know as there is any one set way to respond to these fears; I think much of how one approaches this depends on the individual child. Sometimes I think the easiest thing to do in this situation is to accept that this is only for a season and to let the older child fall asleep in the parent’s bed and then move the child to their own room.
I would love to hear your stories on this subject in the comment box.