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Sleep Disorders

Daughter Sleeps Sitting Up

08/07/2009

Question:

My 2 year old daughter was a wonderful sleeper up until a few weeks ago. I just changed her bedtime routine. I use to lay with her until she would fall asleep and then move and lay her in her bed. When doing it that way she would stay lying down. Our new routine is she get her bath and ready for bed, we read a book and I will turn off the lights and leave the room. She seems like she has adjusted well to this except she will not lay down. She will sit with her back against the railings of her crib. Every night I try my hardest to get her to lay down, I tryed putting a small pillow in her crip for her to use and she still will not lay down. I even tryed waiting her to fall asleep and move her to lay down and she would just sit right back up and go back to sleep. Sometimes she will be completely folded over with her head in her lap sound a sleep. This really conserns me because I`m afraid she is, in long term going to end up damaging her back. Any suggestions on why she is doing this or different approches I could try to get her to lay down?

Answer:

This is not a question that I have heard often. Thank you for asking. By your description it appears that your daughter is fine physically with no snoring at night or day time issues. I’ll assume that this is the case for the purposes of answering your question. If, however, she does have other medical issues, then the sleep problem will have to be placed in the context of these and will require further evaluation by a physician.

To help answer your question, I spoke with the Pediatric Psychologist who works with me in our Sleep Medicine Clinic. He replied that the American Academy of Pediatrics has addressed this issue in infants, and they do not recommend forcing the baby to lie down, but to let it happen naturally during the night. It is not uncommon during important behavioral transitions (such as learning to fall asleep on her own) that other, possibly comforting behaviors may arise. It may be that she initially sits up during story time so that she can see mother more easily.

One idea would be to have her lie down during story time, but have mom stand at the crib where the child can still see her. If she has a transitional object (such as a stuffed animal), she could have the child "model" the toy's behavior (for example. have the teddy bear lie down and she does the same next to it).

Hopefully, the behavior should go away with time. However, if you find that it does not, then I would recommend you speak with your Pediatrician. Referral to a Pediatric Sleep Specialist may be helpful if the behavior continues.

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Response by:

Mark   Splaingard, MD Mark Splaingard, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University