Night Sadness

I typed the title of this post, and then I opened up the archives, thinking maybe I had already written on this topic. The first match was another post, with the very same title! …Oh, it’s the draft of this post.

I did mention it in a post called Day Sadness (written about nine years ago when I had an infant and two toddlers and two elementary school kids, hmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with anything, well it’s all a rich tapestry):

Last night I had Night Sadness (lying awake thinking of sad and oppressive things, and all the ways in which I have failed / am failing / will fail), and usually sleep cures that—-but this morning I woke up with Day Sadness. It feels like I do the same thing day in and day out, and like it’s never going to change, and like I’m never going to handle anything right, and like the world is a bad and stupid place. I know that’s not true, but what I know doesn’t have much to do with it.

And I mentioned it in a post called Accommodations, written about six years ago; William was about ten years old then, and I’d forgotten about this:

William gets Night Sadness: feeling in the evening or around bedtime that everything is too awful and sad and hopeless to be dealt with at all.

I think the second excerpt captures the feeling more accurately. The first excerpt’s “Lying awake thinking of every dumb thing I ever said/did” can be PART of Night Sadness, but it’s not the DEFINING part; the defining part is awful/sad/hopeless/despair/everything.

What separates Night Sadness from other moods is: (1) it happens near bedtime, and (2) the only cure is sleep, and (3) the cure works. It can be brought on by over-tiredness, or it can just happen when normal tiredness breaks down the usual coping mechanisms, but the ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH IT is to go to sleep and wake up the next morning. There is no talking it out, there is no reasoning it out, there is no “have a hot bath and a glass of wine and write in a gratitude journal”-ing it out: just get to sleep. If necessary, using benadryl, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, hard liquor NOT IN COMBINATION WITH OTHER THINGS, etc.

ANYWAY. That post that mentions William having Night Sadness is very encouraging to me, because what I came here to write about is Henry having it. And William had it six years ago, when he was Henry’s age, and I didn’t even REMEMBER that. So that gives me hope for the Henry situation.

Henry has it somewhat more severely, however. A few times recently, he’s gotten such a bad case of Night Sadness, he’s actually thrown up. He gets more and more upset and anxious, and nothing seems to help, and then he throws up and feels better. This seems to me to be crossing the line between “I’m sorry, child, but you’ve inherited your mother’s Night Sadness genes; the jury is still out on whether you’ve got her unreliable ankles” and “Let’s call the pediatrician.” But I haven’t called the pediatrician. Because I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very reluctant to get any kid into the system of Mental Issues, and particularly when pre-existing conditions are such a current and applicable topic. But of course I don’t want to put something off that should be dealt with, or let him suffer with something he doesn’t have to suffer with. On the other hand, it’s not happening often. And William outgrew it.

For my own treatment, the essential piece is recognizing the particular mood as Night Sadness. This does not work with most mental issues (like when my therapist thought that if I REALIZED my anxieties were irrational, those anxieties would MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR!) (no, I ALREADY REALIZE they’re irrational, Genius, which is WHY I AM HERE), but it does help me somewhat with night sadness: I think “Nope. I recognize this. This is Night Sadness,” and I can get benadryl or a tranquilizer or a swift double shot of vodka on board and be asleep while still noping. So my natural inclination is to get Henry to be able to use a similar coping mechanism. I am worried that if I instead consult the doctor, Henry will get put on a daily medication that is not as safe as an occasional benadryl. I am worried there will be Referrals, and Diagnoses, and a suggestion that he See Someone once a week, when really what he needs is some occasional help getting to sleep for the next year(s) while he outgrows it as William has, or learns to handle it as I have. But so far, my method is not working on Henry. It is hard to decide how long to wait.

53 thoughts on “Night Sadness

  1. Jean

    My oldest had this, too, at about the same age. We never named it, but Night Sadness is great.

    I told him that he was starting puberty and there were all kinds of grow up hormones going into his system. Sometimes, usually at night or when he was tired and needed to sleep, they sort of ebb away. His body didn’t know what to do without them, so…voila – night sadness.

    He bought it. And we used the sleepy Dramamine.

  2. Monica

    Ughhhh I am not looking forward to my 2yo (almost 3yo!) growing up and experiencing (and putting me through) this crap. I have enough Night Sadness on my own; I REALLY hope she doesn’t inherit it.

    Here’s hoping Henry grows out of it soon so you can stop fretting about it. In the meantime, while you’re “waiting and seeing”, maybe make a note in your phone somewhere of all the dates when it happens, along with the activities/food of the evening to see if there’s some kind of correlation? Then you can also see how often it’s happening and that might help you with your decision on whether to make an appointment. Because, you know, maybe it FEELS like it’s happening a lot but it’s really only a few times a year. Or maybe it FEELS like it’s not happening that often but it’s actually happening a couple times a week.

    My gut problems have frequently manifested as depression, which is why I suggest taking a look at diet whenever a strange mood hits.

  3. Kalendi

    I feel for you! this is tough. I had this (didn’t know what to call it) when I was young (probably between the ages of 10 and 16), sometimes more severe than others. It would manifest itself in stomach aches (vomiting kind). Finally my parents did take me to the doctor as a teenager and they couldn’t find any physical thing. Fortunately they just said, well, this happens but since I didn’t have any other major issues they asked me if I could deal with it. I said yes and that was the end of a doctor being involved. It pretty much went away. However, after reading this post, I realize I still get it once in a great while, and yes, sleep does solve it.
    Long story, but I want to reassure you that it does seem normal, and Henry will probably be just fine!

  4. Suzanne

    Oh, Swistle. Oh, HENRY. As another upon whom Night Sadness occasionally inflicts its hood of despair, I feel so very deeply for both of you.

    And to echo another commenter, parenting is so hard. It is so hard to know what is a survivable Part of Life vs a Problem. It is so hard to watch your child struggle and hope you are handling things in the best way. It is so hard.

    If you are collecting anecdotal data points, I had Night Sadness as a child for a finite period of time. It occured on Sunday nights and was accompanied by existential dread and a feeling that I couldn’t swallow. It was awful, for me and I am sure for my parents. But it passed. Here’s hoping it passes quickly for Henry as well.

    1. M.Amanda

      Gah, yes! The best you can hope for is that your best shot doesn’t do serious damage and they realize eventually that even when you did things they consider Mistakes, you were a fallible human lovingly trying to do right by them.

      When my 9yo daughter gets Night Sadness, I point out to her that she is tired and promise she will feel less despair over it all after some rest. And I’m right most of the time. I pray she doesn’t hit her teens, remember these nights, and decide sharing her struggles with me is a waste of time because I’ll just tell her to go to bed earlier.

  5. Celeste

    Oh, this is very sad. I agree on not going to the doctor over it yet; it doesn’t sound like it’s affecting his ability to cope. But I would not be stingy with the Benadryl, because I couldn’t handle the suffering.

  6. Corinne Brzeski

    I had this! But my parents didn’t deal with it super well (IMHO with the benefit of hindsight). I really like that you are telling him YOU deal with this too, you understand, it happens to lots of people. My parents were more like your former therapist – trying to get me to see the irrationality of evening angst and weepiness and therefore stop having it. But when you’re IN it, you can’t not feel it! So identifying it as what it is, and providing coping skills (rather than telling someone to stiff upper lip their way around it) seems very logical and likely to help. I also agree wholeheartedly that the only cure is to get some sleep. I sure wish my parents had slipped me some Dramamine. Being awake for it helps nothing.

  7. AnnetteK

    My now 14 year old often had something like this when he was younger but I called it Sunday Night Anxiety. Once I finally saw the pattern, I realized it was often Sunday night before the school week, or the night before a big test or some other major thing going on. Usually we’d handle it by talking until we got to what the real underlying worry was. He’d say there was nothing but once he started talking there was always something on his mind that he needed to get out, it just took awhile to get there. Sometimes we’d work on relaxation techniques but really talking was the only thing that helped. He hasn’t 100% grown out of it but now he knows better how to deal with it as soon as it starts instead of letting it spiral. I suspect he’s inherited my tendency to anxiety. :/

  8. Chayary

    Poor guy. I think waiting and seeing, with a side of documentation is an amazing plan. Two other thoughts that I had were 1) it might help to work on plan b, like get some recommendations of good pediatric therapist/psychiatrists, and if where you live is like where I live, maybe even make an appointment for 6 months or whatever out, and then when it gets closer you can decide based on if it is worse / hasn’t improved to keep it or cancel it.
    2) consulting with a professional, especially in this situation doesn’t mean you are obligated to follow their advice. If it feels like they are giving you insight and told that will help, great. If you don’t think they are getting it, you can say thank you and walk away.

  9. Renee

    I have a 6 year old who goes to weekly counseling and it is an amazing resource and I am eternally grateful for his amazing therapist so don’t count that out entirely if the situation eventually warrants it. In the meantime have you considered Melatonin? We give it to our 6 year old on the advice of our pediatrician. He takes 2.5mg a little before bedtime. It is a miracle worker.

    1. Guinevere

      YES to the melatonin. We use 1 to 1.5 mg and only very occasionally (international travel, inability to go to sleep frustrating child), but it’s super helpful and rec’d by the children’s hospital sleep clinic in our area. I would definitely try it before using a medication which has drowsiness as a side effect. Good luck!

      1. Phancymama

        Another yes to the melatonin. Recommended by our doctor, and we have gummies for the kids (from Walmart or Amazon). It is a huge help for the kids, and I have found it useful for myself too.

  10. Carolyn

    If it makes you feel any better, there MIGHT be referrals (and you could certainly argue for one) but I think your pediatrician might be more likely to recommend whatever is a safe OTC sleep aid for a kiddo. There’s a LOT of serious mental illness in my family and for most of us it started at a pretty young age, but psychiatrists and psychologists seem less inclined to make a diagnosis and more likely to treat whatever the symptoms are (my brother is CLEARLY bipolar and on medications for bipolar disorder and we all SAY he has bipolar disorder, but as far as I can tell none of his doctors have ever written in his file, “OFFICIAL: BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS!”). So for my youngest brother that started with melatonin and OTC sleep aids and then they brought out bigger guns and other prescriptions as they became necessary over the years. It’s not like my mom took him in for an appointment and they slapped labels on him and shoved drugs at him ;) (You hear horror stories like that all the time, and I’m sure those doctors exist, but I’m also saying they’re not ALL like that!).

    If you do want to try melatonin (Benedryl never made my kids sleepy, darn it!) we love the liquid form for our kiddo because we have more control over the dosage that way. (The smallest dosage pill I’ve ever seen was 1mg, but he does great with .3mg and I feel better using it long term knowing we’re using the smallest effective dose . . . but that we can easily increase it on the nights that doesn’t cut it!) :) The liquid version isn’t as common, but I buy it at Sprouts (so whatever your local healthy store equivalent is, maybe a Whole Foods or something) and if all else fails there is Amazon or other online stores ;)

  11. Jeannette

    So my 10 year old son has started getting weepy with scary thoughts at bedtime and your post shines a whole new light on it. I will try some Melatonin, extra empathy and, naming it Night Sadness and see if that helps. Thank you!

    1. Matti

      This is exactly, except it’s my 7 year old daughter. I just thought that she was sometimes getting “over-tired” as my mom calls it, but thank you for this post, Swistle. Now I have a whole other way of talking to her about it. And I will get some Melatonin to try on her for the nights when it seems like she could use extra help. I have some liquid vitamin C spray and I told her that this was a sleep medicine. And I give her a spray under her tongue on the nights when she has trouble sleeping. And this works a lot of the time actually. I am NOT claiming that vitamin C has a sleep inducing effect. I’m saying that the placebo effect is real and works on my 7 year old. I was fearing what would happen as she gets older and has more understanding of labels and how science actually works.

      Also, parenting is hard. I think you’ve gotten a lot of good suggestions and I hope that Henry outgrows it soon.

  12. Jamie

    In our family we call it Nine O’Clock Brain, to emphasize the fact that the things one thinks at 9:00pm are the product of a tired and unreliable generator of synaptic firing, and not a characterization of the world as it truly is.

    I’ll just throw this out there in case it’s useful: my kids have been open to taking fish oil supplements, which seem to help with emotional equilibrium without requiring much investment of anybody’s time/energy.

  13. Anna

    Oh, this is so hard. I agree with several commenters who have mentioned 1. Sunday Night Sadness is a common sub-sadness, so watch for that, and 2. Naming It can be helpful. You are the best judge of whether that would help Henry. I know for myself, when I feel cranky/hopeless/assorted irritable, and I reference my mental calendar and realize it’s PMS, I feel so much better. It’s not that life is actually terrible, it’s the hormonal glasses making everything LOOK terrible!
    I have always, ALWAYS had trouble getting to sleep, since I was a child. I would lie awake worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep… wtf, brain. My mom did talk to my ped about it, but I don’t remember the conclusion- only that she talked to them about it over the phone, and asked me if I wanted to leave the room, because she was going to talk about me. I was mildly offended, and said no. I hope you can work something out. Is William of a disposition to help? Does HE remember this time in his life? It might be the case that there is no magic solution, only time, but of course that’s impossible to see, now.

  14. liz

    If Fizzy Brain is a part of Night Sadness and therefore sleep is hard to come by, there is a pretty good self-soothing technique I use:

    I imagine myself at the top of a glorious movie-set staircase – the kind that has wide shallow steps that curve off into the distance. They are romantic stairs, the kind you’re suppose to climb to see Peter at the Pearly Gate. There is no possibility of falling, but the bottom is out of view.

    I say to myself, in my head, Ten Thousand, and I take a step downward. Then, slowly, enunciating each syllable in my head, I say to myself, Nine Thousand, Nine hundred, ninety-nine, and take another step downward. And so on.

    Walking downstairs releases tension. Counting backward takes some attention and decreases tension as well. Ten thousand is a big enough number that you don’t get anxious about running out of numbers. If counting backwards by ones doesn’t shut the voices in your head up, try counting backwards by threes instead (it takes more concentration).

  15. Meg

    Oh my goodness yes! this was Sunday night thing here, not every Sunday … but only Sundays… and I can hear the antiques road show theme tune playing in my head as I write this (which will only make sense if you are a brit… anyway!)
    Goodness parenting through these things is sucky, and it sounds like your going about it the right way, your acknowledging the feeling and naming it , but not putting so much weight to it that it becomes a crisis, your aware of it, and can proceed as needed!
    I hope it soon becomes as forgotten about as William’s night sadness x

  16. Felicia

    My son went through a period of having trouble falling asleep. We bought him a CD from Amazon: “Bedtime: Guided Meditations for Children.” He said that it helped. He was younger than Henry at the time though, so I am not sure if that would apply for this age group. There might be ones for older kids… I hope it resolves soon though. Not a fun thing to deal with for sure.

  17. Leafynell

    Just chiming in to say ‘Ah Ha!’ So THIS is what occasionally occurs with my 8 year old son for the past year or so. It’s like a light just went on in my brain. Your posts and others comments are always so dang helpful!

  18. Kay W.

    Oh yes…I used to get a wistful, occasionally stomach-churning version of this in fall and winter, as the days grew dark on my way home from school, and later work. It would usually dissipate when I reached home and other people, but sometimes if the house was empty it would linger. It started around middle school years and pretty much vanished by my mid-20s.

    But then. I recently had a baby—a lovely baby whom I adore, and who came after a very difficult touch-and-go pregnancy—and now the night sadness is back, but it comes between 2 and 5 am when I am up feeding her alone. The dark feels unfriendly, menacing even. I’m very tired and trying to be very quiet and it just feels, well, very lonely. I’ve been trying to think of ways to make it better…sometimes going into the living room and turning on a warm light helps. (The baby sleeps in our bedroom, and I don’t want to turn on a light to wake my husband.)

    I feel for Henry, and I agree with your wariness about entering the system of Child With Issues. My gut feeling is, avoid that, and cope while it passes. I really question how much psychologists and such are able to actually help children like Henry who are a bit anxious but not actually troubled or from dysfunctional homes. Maybe some can…but I haven’t seen it.

    1. Swistle Post author

      I remember that Unfriendly Darkness feeling. I used to turn on Nick at Nite: all those old-timey cheerful wholesome shows like I Love Lucy, and Bewitched. I also used to turn up the heat a degree or two: the chilliness is part of what makes darkness creepy to me.

    2. The Sojourner

      This might not help, but I thought I’d mention it: When I have a newborn baby and find myself having a wee hours fit of existential despair, the cure is eating a substantial snack. I think all the night nursing makes my blood sugar drop and that manifests as anxiety/sadness.

  19. BKC

    Huh, apparently I experience Night Sadness. A few times a year I fall into a 3-10 day weepy funk where toward the end of it I say and think things like, “This is a terrible, awful life and I can’t see a way to anything better. I wish I wasn’t alive. I don’t want to harm myself but only because that seems like too much work. I just wish I could blink out of existence.” But of course, you don’t. You get up and go to work again.

    On the other side I realize that it’s just complete exhaustion and you’re right, it is cured by good sleep. I never recognize it when I’m slipping down though. Perhaps I will ask someone on Team BKC to keep an eye out for it.

    When my kiddo has that wild-eyed hysterical anxiety, we climb into bed, even if it’s 4 PM. She’s ten, so her problems are still small enough that she can be fortified by a backrub and a nap.

  20. A e

    If Henry’s school has a counselor, that can be a low-stakes way to get a couple of recommendations from someone who is really familiar with the school routine and does no diagnosing. I work at a school where the counselor does 2-3 short visits with lots of kids over the course of the year. Friendship issues and sleep are two of the top reasons why kiddos stop by her office.

  21. Becky

    My son is Henry’s age and he gets this feeling a lot. He tells me he is depressed, but can’t pinpoint why. He actually gets it more in the summer, probably because he has a lot more idle time and doesn’t see his friends as often. He was actually counting down the days until school started because he couldn’t wait to get back. I am home with him in the summer and try to keep him busy, but I am not the same as a group of school friends. I agree with melatonin- the gummy ones from Target are awesome and have eliminated the crying in bed problem when he is feeling down. I do feel better that so many others have children with the same problem!

  22. Jenny

    Poor Henry! Sometimes growing up sucks. It seems as though you are handling this right. I’d just say to make sure that there is nothing going on that is causing this—i.e. no problems in school or anything like that.

    All of that being said, I don’t know that I’ve had Night Sadness exactly. But I do get crippling PMS anxiety. And what helps me is to literally say out loud to myself “There is nothing wrong. I am OK. I will feel better in a couple of days.”

  23. Julia

    I wonder if it would be comforting for Henry to talk to William about it and to hear that it resolves itself and ask how he coped?

  24. Elizabeth

    So grateful for these empathetic, helpful, commiserating comments which feel like a group hug. Parenting IS hard. Hope this phase passes very quickly for Henry. My sister had this Night Sadness – I’d describe it as existential angst which she mostly grew out and also learned to manage with sleep and TLC.

    Thank God for community and kindness.

    (Just came down from tucking in my mildly anxious 10 year old who finds academics a slog. Sigh.)

  25. nic

    Sorry I don’t have time to read all the comments so possibly someone has already said this, but maybe take a look at what is scheduled for the day after the night that this happens? A specific class he has, or a test, or a certain person he encounters… i get night sadness regularly (and have learned that i need to sleep it off, like you have), but on nights when it feels slightly different and more nausea-inducing, it’s usually because there’s something in the near future that i’m anxious about (especially when it’s something that i feel i’m not ‘supposed’ to be anxious about, if that makes sense).

  26. SüßwasserLeah

    This is an amazing description and I totally recognize that feeling from my own experience.

    I don’t have advice though – except to say that my 11yo is on lexapro for anxiety (as am I), so if you DO end up wanting to try that type of option, shout out to me via twitter or email and I’d be happy to talk to you.

  27. Leslie

    My nine year-old is experiencing something similar. I often feel guilty because I’m tired by bedtime, too, and I get impatient and frustrated, which doesn’t help at all. We’ve been doing meditations for sleep at bedtime. I sit with her through one (about 10-15 minutes). They work well enough that if she needs another one, I can leave it play for her and leave the room. She knows I’ll come back to check on her and some of the time, she’s asleep by then. Even if she’s not, that’s better than her coming out into the brightly lit hallway, sobbing and making herself sick.

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. I hadn’t thought of trying to give her something to help her sleep.

  28. Jill

    I didn’t even know I needed this advice, but THANK YOU!! I get the night sadness as does my 10yr old boy and we just…endure, which is not always ideal. Off to buy melatonin! Thanks, Swistle and everyone else. It never occurred to me that this was an actual thing I could fix!

  29. Jen

    Gah being responsible for tiny humans is hard. I think you are approaching it in the right way and I love all of the other comments here with suggestions. Also I would not be discouraged by the idea of seeing a counselor or using school resources. My oldest was a deal when I had his little brother and we took him in for a few sessions of more like family counseling and it was fine and they definitely didn’t diagnose him as having a behavioral disorder or anything. Good luck!

  30. N

    I occasionally get night sadness too and never even put a name to it!!! I will keep my husband up weeping about how awful everything is, and freak him out and then in yhthe morning I feel fine.

    My 10 year old just had it for the first time in June, and I totally didn’t recognize it for what it was!! Thank you for this post!!

    But now I’m totally freaked out because that same 10 year old had an extremely rough year last year, which resulted in me calling a therapist over the summer and he’s been seeing him on a weekly basis since to improve his confidence and stuff like that. Do you think that was bad? Is that the type of pre-existing thing that could cause him trouble in the future? Now I’m fretting!!!

    1. RACHEL

      Oh no, N! I am quite sure Swistle was not suggesting you made the wrong choice for your child. Helping our kids through hard things is a constant balancing act and I’m sure you made the best possible decision for your kid. Don’t fret.

    2. Swistle Post author

      No, of course not: if Henry needs therapy I will absolutely get it for him. My anxiety is about getting him therapy when he DOESN’T need it.

  31. Melody

    You have perfectly named this, as I get it too. I started getting it as a teenager and it has never really gone away for me. I take melatonin every night, and I also love the podcast Sleep With Me, which is specifically designed to put you to sleep. It is distracting enough so I don’t focus in the sadness, but also soothing and boring in a way that has really helped me. Good luck–I hope he is able to grow out of it.

  32. Allison McCaskill

    I wish I could Like all these comments. I got Night Sadness horribly as a child. Also Sunday Sadness, not usually confined to Sunday nights. My daughter has used melatonin occasionally for a couple of years as a result of her Night Sadness/Sleeplessness, which often was especially bad on Sundays. I also love that you found something sort of reassuring in your blog background. Hopefully this too shall pass.

  33. jill

    My youngest had this, along with hysterical crying. It was so hard to talk him down, but my goal was to get him to sleep, because sleep made it better. Hope Henry gets past is soon.

  34. Kelly

    If you do decide to ask the doctor about it, ask about hydroxizine. It’s primarily a dry your sinuses kind of medicine that has the side affect of making you slightly drowsy AND reducing anxiety with no real issues. It has a short half life so it doesn’t linger and unlike other mood altering things doesnt have to be tapered on or off of. And it’s not classified as a “mental issues” kind of drug so there’s no pre existing condition/stigma attached to it. It works for my sons nighttime anxiety. He’s 11 and takes 20 mg if it a night via some small pills, but it comes in liquid too.

  35. Lisa

    Oh, poor dear. I have this, too….and unfortunately it looks like my eldest son has inherited my version of Night. Sadness. Only we call it The Unnamed Dread. Because that’s what it feels like. It’s awful. Just a nagging sadness. I have it less than I used to, but I fear my kid is in for it for awhile. It truly stinks.

  36. Rah

    What a sensible approach, Swistle. I’m really sorry you’re ALL having to deal with this, but you are approaching it with reason and care, and without being alarmist. I do like Monica’s idea about keeping a journal, too. You could also note any occurrences that might be related [watched a sad movie before bedtime, had an argument with sister in the afternoon, etc., or even eustresses or possibilities like “maybe got overstimulated at a birthday party??”] Hang in.

  37. British American

    Going through something similar with my 12 year old daughter right now. She can’t fall asleep and then gets worried and stomach aches and anxiety – but she won’t just lie there and read a book and relax. Trying to avoid melatonin with her because then she worries that it’s not working.

    Next plan for us is to make her a weighted blanket, like I already made for her 9 year old brother.

    I thought I was past the “my kids won’t sleep” stage, but apparently not.

  38. vanessa

    my advice, for what it’s worth, is not to wait. my parents waited to find me help when i was a child and it ruined my life. i was significantly more troubled than Henry so it’s not a totally fair comparison, but I don’t think waiting is a good idea in general if your child is suffering. also, they won’t (and can’t) just put him on medication; you would have to agree to it, etc. maybe you could frame it as “my son is experiencing this thing that my older son also experienced and grew out of; i’m assuming Henry will ALSO grow out of it, but in the meantime i’d like to help him through it. do you have suggestions?” that indicates that you aren’t worried about your child’s long term mental health nor do you think there is something really Wrong. you can also mention that you are interested in trying melatonin (or you could try that first, i suppose). does sleeping work for him?

    also, i would not worry about therapy if he doesn’t need it. what’s the worst that happens if he goes to therapy without strictly needing it? he’ll get to talk to an adult who is interested only in him, he’ll get some insight into how to cope with shit that can be hard for kids to handle (ALL kids) and then you’ll all realize it’s not necessary and he won’t see the person anymore.

    good luck. Night Sadness sucks. i combat it with some extra xanax, my weighted blanket and comforting TV.

  39. Scriptor

    My oldest (also 10) has been having sleep anxiety of a sort as well. He’s worried but he doesn’t know about what. He’s scary but he can’t pinpoint it. I have been combatting it by putting lavender on him and that does seem to help. Though he often wakes in the middle of the night and can’t figure out why. He always used to sleep on through! Maybe it is 10.

  40. Heather

    My son, currently 11 and a half, also experiences Night Sadness and has for the past couple of years. His words for it are “the sad feeling is back,” and it only happens at night after he’s crawled into bed. We’ve always gotten through it with cuddling and asking a few questions to see if there is something specific he is worried about and saying “Lots of people feel sad sometimes even when they don’t have a specific reason” and “It seems like you feel sad sometimes when you’re tired, so let’s see if we can get some sleep and maybe that will help.”

    Now that I’m thinking about it, it has been a couple months since he has expressed that feeling so maybe he is starting to grow out of it?

  41. dayman

    This is a real thing. I got it at dusk as a kid. I still hate dusk and especially dusk in the fall which lasts for approximately seventeen hours of the day and everything green is dying and the weather is getting cold and the world keeps turning in spite of us and UGH.

    This is extremely biological. Some older adults develop what’s called “sundowning”, where they are relatively lucid in the day and when the sun goes down, because disoriented, frightened, and combative. I will never forget when I worked as an adult CNA, helping a retired priest back to bed after taking a walk, whereupon he saw restraints on the floor, shook his head, and sadly said, “apparently I raised quite a fuss last night.”

    My point, I guess, is that it’s real and it’s common and I think it MIGHT help to tell him he’s not the only one who feels that way and blame the feelings on the night. it’s the night’s fault! these feelings don’t come from you or from real emergencies or bad things, the sun goes down and your lizard brain activates. How can we quiet the lizard brain?

  42. Emily

    Late to comment, but this is fascinating. I suffered from major Sunday Night Sadness for many, many years. Honestly, until I was done with college. I would encourage you to look into counseling if it doesn’t resolve; I wish my parents had done that for me. I was so functional, did so well in school, was relatively happy most of the time, and my parents were really reluctant to pursue therapy and a but unfortunately my Sunday sadness (it actually would start late afternoon) manifested in binge eating to deal with the anxiety and depression. I literally binged every Sunday for probably a decade, which resulted in a lot of self-loathing. I finally got counseling in grad school and it helped immensely…cognitive behavioral therapy really works for this type of issue. Like someone else pointed out, therapy isn’t going to hurt, and will probably give some coping skills for these type of feelings. What an interesting phenomenon!!

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