Alex is a good sleeper - off and on. At 3, to our chagrin, she still has some intermittent nighttime sleep issues, which translates to interrupted sleep for us (usually me, as Bryan sleeps through noise better than I do). I've been up briefly with her 3 of the last 4 nights. Last night she woke me up twice, at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. She will occasionally cry and then stop on her own, but more often now she will cry until someone comes to her. I have tried letting her cry for up to 15 minutes, but that means I lie awake the entire time and Sam wakes up too, so lately I've just been giving in.
Sometimes she loses her da-dosh (special washcloth she sleeps and cuddles with), and can't seem to even attempt to look for it on her own. Last night (the 5 a.m. awakening) she fell out of bed. She is fully capable of getting back in, but she cried until I came and put her back in. Other times she has some somatic complaint: her tummy hurts, or she says, "I can't breathe." Gotta love that one - I've never seen a hint of asthma or breathing difficulties, and she says this frequently, not just if she has congestion or a cold. Very often she can't describe any reason for her crying, but just says "Hold me." After a minute or so of holding and rocking, she's happy enough to be put back in her bed and goes back to sleep without protest.
She's also quite resistant to settling down to go to sleep in the evenings, especially if she's had a good afternoon nap. If we stay up talking in the kitchen or our bedroom after putting her to bed, she will get out of bed to come and tell us we're being "too loud." Or she will say she heard "a noise." The other day we asked if it could be her heater vent and she went back into her room, stuck her finger into the vent and said, "It was my heater! No wonder I couldn't sleep!" (The low-level blowing noise has never been noticed/commented on by her before.) :-) We've found her awake at midnight in the recent past, and it's not uncommon for her to play in her room until 10:30 at night. Bryan says this (difficulty getting to sleep/staying asleep) predicts anxiety in later life, and I wonder what we're in for. I don't see her sleep issues as being severe, at this point, but I do worry a little.
So...how can we as parents best respond to these sleep issues? Ignore her at night? Refuse to let her nap (and deal with the crankiness around 5 pm)? Reward her the next morning if she stays quiet all night? My instinct is to check initially when she cries, make sure there is truly nothing wrong, and then get out quickly to minimize the "reward" of having mom's company. I debate whether to hold her when she asks, especially when she seems to have no apparent reason for getting me out of bed. If these behaviors continue, I may tell her that holding and rocking can happen any time of day and always at bedtime, but nighttime is for sleeping. Wish me luck.