I am so tired!!- Dealing with a 3.5 year old sleep problems!

As the title states, I am exhausted lately. Hayley, who will be 4 in October, has been going through a couple of months of really bad sleep, which is causing her to wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 AM most mornings. While this might not sound bad to some of you who have really early risers, I will tell you, that she does not go to bed till around 9 PM most nights.  She is technically only getting 8 hours of sleep! That is not enough for a 3.5 year old!

Hayley was my amazing sleeper as a baby- she slept at 10 weeks old through the night. She never gave me any issues in the sleep department whatsoever. Even when we transitioned her to a crib at 3 years, 2 months- she did a beautiful job transitioning.

However, the last month or so, my husband and I decided we were going to eliminate her naps because she was being put to sleep around 830/9 pm,  but not falling asleep untill after midnight most nights. We were tired of having her fall asleep so late in the evening, that we decided to gradually cut her nap and see if that made a difference. Well, now we have the reverse problem.

She goes to sleep easily at 830/9 but is calling out for us starting at 430 AM. Most times she is calling out because she has to go to the bathroom (which I have no problem taking her) but then she does not fall back asleep! She screams out for us from 4:30 AM on, that she is not tired anymore. I can’t have her scream because Zane’s room is right across the hall and she would readily wake him up. So, every 30 minutes or so, I have to keep going back to her room to try to get her to go back to sleep. It is exhausting being woken at 4:30 AM for the day. It is honestly worse than having a newborn!

I am not sure what to do, so I thought I seek out advise from my readers. I have tried most tactics, including having a monkey alarm clock that is set to shine bright when it is time to get up. However, she just screams, that the monkey needs to get up now! Any ideas? I would love to hear them! Please help this tired mommy out! Thanks!

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. says

    It’s harder to sleep during the summer months. I struggle with it too. I’d probably do some tough love and tell mine that they couldn’t get up until the monkey clock said 6, and that I wasn’t coming in anymore no matter how much they scream about it. She might wake up Zane a couple of nights, but if she works through it as a result and learns to stay in bed until morning, it’d probably be worth it.

  2. says

    lol monkey needs to get up now! she’s fiesty! I have no advice,my boys tend to sleep in and stay up late, but I feel for you, lack of sleep is a horrible horrible thing, the whole day is affected. I wish you luck my dear!

  3. says

    I wish I had an answer for you, my 3 year old daughter if I give her a nap she will not go to bed till like 11:00! If I eliminate her nap she falls asleep sometimes before dinner and gets back up and will not go to bed late again. It’s a constant battle, I do not have that problem with my other 3 kids. I feel for you .

  4. says

    Oh Melissa. I am dealing with sleep stuff here, too. Joseph is FINALLY sleeping and now Stephanie is giving us trouble. She’s only 2.5, but is doing something similar. Not going to bed until 8 or 9 (used to be 7 on the dot) and waking up a lot of mornings between 5 & 6. Joseph still wakes 1 or 2 times in the night and even though I know I shouldn’t, I go in to him and pat him back to sleep. (They’re in the same room so I don’t want him interrupting what little sleep she can get.) So between the two of them, i’m exhausted! I have no advice really, just thought I’d let you know you’re not alone. lol. As one of your readers said, I think it’s summer. So many days the kids don’t get outside as much as I would like since it’s so hot. So they don’t burn energy. And when it’s light later & earlier I think it messes up their internal clock. :(

  5. Kristy M. says

    We have the blackout curtains in our 3 year olds room. To try to eliminate night potty trips, we cut out full cups of milk after dinner and she can have only sips when she gets thirsty. A quiet time midday may help as well. Just a time, instead of naps, where her little body can rest. Stress hormones due to sleepiness can actually cause restlessness in sleep, therefore she may be unable to fall back asleep.

    It is so hard when little ones are not sleeping well…hope she gets a good night’s rest soon.

  6. says

    Can you put a clock in her room? Tell her that she is not allowed to call out (unless she needs to use the rest room) until the clock is at 7. (cover the minute numbers with a 7 so they match)

    My other advise would be to put on a light for her to go to the bathroom by herself. Maybe giver her a portable DVD player that she can watch in her bed and advise her that she is not allowed to call out until the sun rises.

    Lastly, would she go back to sleep if you went in and slept with her in the mornings? Not the most ideal solution but if she goes back to sleep and you can too, it could be an option.

    Hope she cooperates. Hugs Mama

  7. says

    I have never had to deal with that, but I would use some tough love in this case. I was going to suggest the clock idea, just as Tracy did. I have friends that used that method and it worked. I’ve mostly heard of the clock method, but I know a few that used an alarm clock. The child was not allowed to come out for the day until the alarm went off.
    Does it seem as if she still needs a nap? Maybe she’s over tired and that’s what’s causing her to not get enough sleep. If that’s the case, you could try an earlier nap. If she’s like my son, who gave up the nap early, I would push up bed time. When he was her age and not napping, he would go to bed around 7:30.
    Another idea would be to fill up several baskets with toys. Every night, leave a basket in her room after she falls asleep. If she happens to wake up at an ungodly hour, she will have something new to occupy her everyday.
    If all else fails, let her cry it out! Possibly try a large box fan or a sound machine in Zane’s room to block out the sound!
    Best of luck to you. That’s an awful time to be woken up!

    • Becky says

      Ditto this. I’m dealing with sleep issues with my 9-month-old but my almost 3-year-old sleeps beautifully. With him what worked really well was moving bedtime earlier. If you’re interested in books/”expert” theories, this is what Dr. Weissbluth suggests in “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” It goes against logic but putting them to bed sooner can actually help them sleep later in the morning. It helps with circadian rhythms and whatnot and could help to ensure she’s not going to bed overtired. Good luck, I know how hard this is!!

  8. says

    My kids are younger, so I’m not really an expert here, but I do feel your pain! I would try black-out curtains. Also, maybe put a nap mat down on your floor and she can come in and sleep there in the mornings if she wakes up. Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. Would she read a book to herself or {gasp} watch a movie on a kindle? She might end up falling asleep anyway doing these things! Keep us posted!!!

    Lindsey @ GrowingKidsMinistry.com

  9. says

    I’m sorry about your problem, maybe she is feeling uneasy about something.Has there been any change in your family lately?

  10. says

    I had the opposite, terrible as a baby but better now. Our kids are nearly the same age too. I think the hardest thing in Summer is it being light out earlier. Can you make the room darker or get one of those special clocks from a place like kidssleep to let her know that she needs to stay in bed? Good luck with this!!

  11. Kassie says

    You might just have to get firm with her. Aiden was getting up at 6 and while that is better then 4:30 its still pretty darn early. I would walk him back to his room and told him that he was not allowed to come out until a certain time, i.e. until the stoplight turned green. He didn’t have to sleep, but he was not to come out. We did resort to telling him that we would lose things if he did not listen. He’s sleeping pretty well now. Is just about done with naps, but we bring him up to get ready for bed at 7:30 and then hes in bed by 8pm. He gets up now betwen 6:30 and 7:30.

  12. says

    If you get really desperate, you might contact a sleep consultant. Before having a baby I didn’t even know this was a profession! But here in Chicago we have two sleep consultants who I know do virtual consulting (Skype, etc) with families around the country, too. We’ve used one for some advice about our daughter’s sleep habits and it really helped. They actually have a lot of training (there is a network of accredited sleep trainers, who knew?!) and I’ve been so impressed. Just an idea if you need it! Check out Sleep Tight Consultants or Swellbeing.

  13. says

    Hmm, I have a friend whose child does this. Know what she does? She uses lavender oil on the pillow, to lull the child back to sleep, that, and a fantastic little constellation machine.

  14. says

    I was going to suggest the alarm clock that lights up but you already have that. What about adding “blackout” blinds to her window. Maybe it is too light in her room?

  15. says

    Wow. I have a horrible sleeper who is also 3 1/2 but he doesn’t wake up early and stay awake…that sounds just dreadful! He does wake up every night and come to our room. We found this for a long time, but he has a little couch on the floor and sleeps there until 8 or 8:30 (after going to bed at 9:30 or 10…oy) We tried to cut out his nap, too, but it just messed him up and caused him to sleep restlessly at night. I don’t know….if she’s not feeling sleepy, it’s hard! I haven’t read the other comments, but maybe give her a soothing light up toy? We had to give our 3 year old the crib toy he had gotten rid of because it lulls him back to sleep. Sometimes I hear it going in the middle of the night and that’s okay. It’s just lying in his bed. It also helps him to go to sleep at bedtime. Just do whatever works and don’t feel bad about it!

  16. says

    Sleep is non-negotiable in my house. Mommy is not pleasant to be around if she doesn’t have sleep. So, my advice (as a mom of 4 w/the youngest being 3.5 yrs) is to stick to your guns.

    Children go in cycles of testing the boundaries. Sleep is one of those things that is worth fighting for. If she’s waking up at the same time every night it’s become a habit, not need. Let her scream and fuss but explain firmly that it is still sleep time and she must go back to sleep.

    Also, don’t turn any lights on if she gets up for the bathroom. Have a night light in there and take care of business with that. Don’t turn any lights on in her room or let her pick up a toy.

    After a few nights she will relearn the lost art of going back to sleep. :)

  17. says

    We go through phases right now we are sleeping a lot which makes me wonder what we will do after summer. Going to make for some grumpy mornings I am sure.

  18. says

    oh honey i am so sorry! i haven’t had that problem but one of my twins gets up with nightmares all the time so i feel for you… lack of sleep sucks. the alarm clock with the sun on it would be what i would say to try…otherwise stock her room with books and toys and see how that works out. tell her when she’s up thats fine but she needs to stay in her room quietly. if all else fails, here is what i did when my oldest used to get up too early. i set the tv in the livingroom to disney and when he would get up he would go turn it on and sit quietly. i know all that tv isn’t good but it saved my sanity and sometimes i would find him asleep on the couch. xoxo

  19. says

    Sleep issues have been my life the last four years. It wasn’t until just this last week that my own 4 year old started sleeping in her bed in her own room. She was on our floor! I didn’t do anything, but I think the new baby has helped her want to be “big”. I don’t know what to tell you though. It is so hard!

  20. Jamie says

    You know I have many issues with Abby’s sleeping, but Hayley does seem to be more cooperative than Abby so I’ll mention a few things that work for us. With Abby, the better rested she is, the better she sleeps overall (other ppl have said this and it’s so true for us). If she is not napping, she may need an earlier bed time. Try moving it earlier in 15 minute increments. The other night Abby slept 6:30-6:30. That’s the earliest she’s gone to bed and the latest she’s slept. Also, get one of the color changing alarm clocks. Like others have said, be firm. Tell her not to leave the room until it’s green. I love our Okay To Wake Owl. She can sleep or play quietly but not leave. You may find that she’ll fall back to sleep when given choices. Either way, you won’t be disturbed.

  21. maria says

    melissa, i am so sorry to hear that hayley is still having trouble with sleeping. it sounds very exhausting and i’m sorry you’ve been getting such broken sleep. that is so hard on the body! i wish i had advice for you. this zombie isn’t the best sleeper either. ;) i will be thinking about you and keeping you in my prayers for restful nights. <3
    lots of love

  22. says

    I’m very lucky to have been blessed with kids who sleep -just NOT in their own rooms. Are you against bringing her in your room when she wakes up? Maybe she’ll feel more secure and you can both catch some sleep. Yes, that is advice from the Mom who can’t get her 4 year old out of her room! ;)

  23. says

    JDaniel has been fighting sleep at night and waking up at 3 or 5 to tells us there are bugs in his room.

    I prayed with him last night about the bugs and he ended up sleeping through the night. It worked last night, but I don’t know what will happen tonight.

  24. says

    My daughter went through many sleepless nights…she is now 6 and still gets up super early but she does better. I recently saw an article on kids and sleep I will see if I can get the link for you

  25. says

    My daughter just started having similar issues, but she snored super loud also. We wwnt to an ear, nose, throat specialist who suggested we remove her tonsils and adenoids in May. My perfect sleeper is back! Thank goodness! She slept through night at 5 weeks and usually slept 12 hrs til around 2 yrs old.

  26. says

    I feel for you. Do you have shades/curtains that keep the room pitch black so she doesn’t get affected by the early morning light? My daughter recently started getting up ridiculously early, and my husband hypothesized that the blinds on her windows were letting too much light in. So, I taped up some black bristol board behind the blinds, and it’s much darker in there now. She’s still getting up before 6 a lot of mornings, but not every morning. Maybe it’s a summer thing because she used to wake up around 7. I have no advice for you though because I don’t know anything about 3 year olds. If it were me, I would probably leave her despite the fact that she is calling out to you. I would probably explain to her ahead of time that I would not be going to her until it’s wake up time so she was prepared for it. My thought is that going to her at 4:30 in the morning is just reinforcing it. As I said, though, I really don’t know what I’m talking about because my daughter is only 9 months old. Just trying to brainstorm! :)

  27. says

    I know your not going to like this…. But, some kids are just uneasy and it’s something you can try to soothe but ultimately she’ll just have to grow out of it. Dare I say, let her wail. I stocked my daughter with her favorites and kissed her good night. I learned that no matter how many times I tried, ultimately it was when she saw I wasn’t running in every time she cried that she learned to self soothe as return to sleep. Hope you can get some sleep hon.

  28. Cassandra Eastman says

    I’m so sorry to hear that… Hope she starts sleeping better soon! I have a 3 year old, and I was so nervous to transition him to his “big boy” bed after having our daughter who is 9 months now (she also sleeps right next to his room) so I was afraid he’d wake her up but so far it’s gone smoothly. We block his door with an ottoman at night so he can see out of his room but he can easily climb over it to use the bathroom. I tell him if he wakes up early stay in his room and play with his toys until we come and get him in the morning and he gets a treat of his choice when he wakes up (a tootsie roll, or something like that) That has worked really well for us! I really hope you figure out what works for you all and she starts sleeping longer for you…

  29. says

    I definitely know about the exhaustion and I hope that you are able to find a creative way to get more rest and hopefully she is not experiencing any stress. Ever considered some comfortable music?

  30. says

    Poor Mama!! I understand exhaustion all too well. Could you try a reward system – like a sticker chart if she doesn’t call out for you in the night? Let her know what her ‘grand prize’ will be so she can earn it? I know it sounds like bribery, but I like to think of it as positive reinforcement. I will also check out my Sleep Easy to see what it says about this situation. At least, maybe you can help her understand that she cannot be loud until a certain time. I would also advise having some special bonding time with her – she could just want attention and at 4 am she’s bound to get it ;) Kids are button pushers and they learn all to quickly. Best wishes hun, hugs to you!!

  31. says

    If you have a tv in your room, have her come in and lay in bed with you and watch tv. You can still sleep and she’s occupied enough so you can catch a little more sleep. We had to do this with our son. For the longest time he would wake between the hours of 4am and 6am (and we are NOT morning people). I would set the tv channel to Disney at night so when he came in in the morning, I just had to click power and he would lay there quietly and watch tv. If he were to get up, I would wake up. Good luck!

  32. Melissa says

    Thank you so much everyone! I have read all your suggestions and greatly appreciate them all! THANK YOU- THANK YOU!

  33. says

    This is such a tough one! I wish I had some wonderful advice for you. It looks like you have already received some great suggestions.