This is going to be long. I apologize in advance!!
My DD, who is almost 4.5, has always slept with either my DH or me--me alone for the first 2 years or so, then we started trading. (I have a 7.5 y.o. with high functioning autism who also needs serious nighttime parenting, so we have to trade off with them or go INSANE). She does not sleep through the night and does not sleep alone. She sleeps really poorly--thrashing, sitting up, clinging, needs to be hugged all night long. She is always tired but has not taken a nap since she was about 18 months old--not even in the car after a long day of playing--never, ever, ever takes a nap. She is really high energy, very alert, talkative, generally an intense, spirited kid. She weaned right before she turned 4--mostly on her own, with quite a bit of "encouragement" from me
We have a very consistent, soothing bedtime routine, an early bedtime. She takes about 2 hours to go to sleep, though we have been giving her melatonin for the last 6 months or so (on advice of her pediatrician). Now with the melatonin she takes 30-45 min to fall asleep in a completely pitch black room with her special music CD on and cuddled. Any light makes it worse. Then she sleeps in her bed in her room until about 10-11pm, at which time she wakes up crying, gets carried to the bathroom, and then one of us sleeps with her. If we try to leave she wakes up instantly and freaks out. She wakes up several times after that and is attached all night long. Since she weaned she has been putting her hands under my shirt all night long, squeezing me. I have to wrench her hand out from under my shirt constantly--she's not awake when she does it. It is making me crazy. Whoever sleeps with her gets no sleep.
DS started sleeping through the night at age 6.5, but he has special needs, and I have no good idea what is "normal," or "normal" for an APed, co-sleeping kid.
She is generally anxious about being by herself in a room--she won't go anywhere without a parent, friend, or her brother. She has nightmares she won't tell me about and I know she is afraid of "night shadows" and various other things. I know that is mostly normal for age 4, but I am pretty worn out by 7 years of intense nighttime parenting of both kids and I do feel like her fear of being alone is excessive. Neither one of them has ever slept. DS only sleeps through the night now because he is on major prescription sleep medications.
If she weren't obviously suffering from not getting enough sleep, I would probably suck it up a few more years. But it is clearly affecting her behavior during the day and I don't know what to do about it. Advice NOT from the "just put her back in her room to cry all night long" crowd & from those who have similar experience appreciated