Dear Dr. Sleep,

I am writing about our daughter Jane. She will be ten in October. It might be hard for you to imagine what she is like at home. When she is around people during the day, they see a sweet, adorable child. At night, she transforms into a little monster and the continuous stress is almost impossible to live with.

We have ongoing problems with her sleep. For hours, she can’t fall asleep alone and bangs on our door to come in or asks me or my husband to stay with her while she holds our hands tightly. When she finally falls asleep and we attempt to leave the room, she immediately wakes up and starts to scream, awakening the whole house.

If she does fall asleep, she wakes up every hour, upset and scared. She says she hears noises outside and inside the house and she is so afraid that she can’t stay in her bed. Talking to her is no help. I just want someone to tell me why she can’t sleep through the night. Any advice will be highly appreciated.

Needless to say, this torture has affected our lives tremendously. I just don’t know what to do anymore. There doesn’t seem to be any end to the problem. It destroys our night’s sleep and we do not know how much longer we can take it. We have almost resigned ourselves to letting this child run our lives.

I have never heard of anything like this before. Please help.

Bob and Susan Thomas

Dear Bob and Susan,

You are the real victims of your child’s sleep disorder. If someone says that he sleeps like a baby, he doesn’t have one. I fully agree with you that when the sweet and adorable child screams all night it is torture, destroying your life. This particular sleep disorder is called parasomnia nightmares. Although it is related to a presleep condition, nightmares are terrible dreams with very vivid images. These images are so intense that, for the child, they are real and a child can’t understand why adults do not share their fears. You are also right that talking to the child, attempting to rationally prove that there are no monsters, does not help and makes the situation worse. Children feel more insecure and left alone with those monsters.

What to do? First, tell the child that you believe her, do your best to get rid of the monsters and tell her you’re always there for her. Second, organize a presleep ritual, such as reading to the child after a shower or play with security toys (dogs, teddy bears, etc.) in bed. Third, give natural or light tranquilizers such as Valerian capsules or mild antihistamines. If this is not helpful,
contact your doctor or a sleep specialist. If you have difficulty finding one, write to us and we will help you to find a sleep specialist in your area.

The good news is that these problems usually disappear sooner or later and treatment is available. Good luck!

Dr. Sleep


Dear Dr.

My problem is funny, but it makes my life miserable. When I wake up I have big bags under my eyes. They are very visible and people ask me what is wrong with me. I am 27 y/o and very healthy. My new manager, in an architecture company, demanded a drug test because he believes that I am using drugs or alcohol. I never took drugs and do not drink or smoke. Nobody believes me when I tell them I am sick with something. Doctors didn’t find any problems. What’s wrong with me? Help.

Jonathan M., Wisconsin

Dear Jonathan,

You deserve sympathy for your trouble and respect for your courage. Bags under the eyes are a serious pathophysiological issue that is not completely clear. What we do know is that this phenomena is related to the facial veins. As you know blood or the circulatory system have arteries and veins. Body veins have valves that prevent blood from going to the feet. Our face veins do not have valves and when we sleep blood stays more on the side we sleep on. Under the eyes there are natural spaces for storage.

Another mechanism is related to too much blood retention in these vessels during slow wave sleep. This causes the blood not move much from the eyes and increases blood production in morning REM sleep.

The following might help.
1) Try not to sleep with your face (nose) in the pillow for too long;
2) Do not drink too much water before sleep;
3) In the morning place small ice cubes under the eyes and lay down for five minutes;
4) Massage under the eyes and
5) Contact an ENT doctor to check if you have sinusitis or nasal blockage.

Dr. Sleep