The problem: Your child won't stay in his or her bed
The scenario: You put your child to bed, only to find him or her trailing you down the hall.
The solution: If your child regularly gets out of bed to ask for water or a stuffed animal, try to manage those needs ahead of time. When your child's bedtime routine is complete, remind your child that there's no reason to get out of bed. When your child gets up, promptly return him or her to bed — repeatedly, if necessary. Try not to stay in the room too long.
The problem: Your child stays up too late
The scenario: Your child's bedtime is 8:30 p.m., but by the time he or she is ready for bed it's usually past your bedtime.
The solution: If your child isn't tired at bedtime, you might be fighting a losing battle. Try scaling back daytime naps or rousing your child earlier in the morning. You can also put your child to bed a few minutes earlier every night until you're back to the original bedtime. Whatever time you put your child to bed, stick to a calming routine. Taking time to wind down might help your child fall asleep.
The problem: Your child wakes up during the night
The scenario: Your child wakes up during the night and won't fall asleep again without your help.
The solution: If your child wakes up and calls out to you during the night, give him or her a few minutes to settle down. If time doesn't do the trick, you might go to your child's room and offer reassurance. Then tell your child that it's time to sleep and leave the room. Wait longer each night to go to your child's side, until eventually your child falls back to sleep without your help.
If your child has a nightmare, however, respond quickly. Reassure him or her, talk about the dream and, when your child is ready, encourage sleep.
The problem: You're frustrated with your child's bedtime problems
The scenario: You're tired of the whining, so you give up and let your child fall asleep in front of the TV — or in your bed.
The solution: Bedtime battles can test a parent's resolve. Still, it's important to hang in there. Be patient and ignore cries and pleas.
It's never too late to teach your child good sleeping habits. If your child is pushing the limits, state your expectations and stick to the routine. Eventually, your consistency will pay off in a good night's sleep for everyone.
Jan. 10, 2015
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- McInerny TK, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:1294.
- Owens JA. Behavioral sleep problems in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 4, 2014.
- Paavonen EJ, et al. Sleep quality, duration and behavioral symptoms among 5-6-year-old children. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2009;18:747.
- Garrison MA, et al. Media use and child sleep: The impact of content, timing, and environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128:29.
- Meltzer LJ, et al. Sleep in the family. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2011;58:765.
- Sleep problems in children. http://patiented.aap.org/content.aspx?aid=5906. American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed Sept. 4, 2014.