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 during the bedtime routine. When your child gets up, promptly return him or her to bed — repeatedly, if necessary. Avoid giving your child attention for this behavior.
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 to sleep 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 on any daytime naps.
You might also consider if the amount of time you're allotting for your child to spend in bed exceeds his or her sleep needs, which are about 10 to 13 hours for a 3- to 5-year-old. Consider delaying your child's bedtime or advancing his or her wake time by 15 minutes every few days until you achieve the target sleep window.
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 regularly wakes up and calls out to you during the night, try using the same techniques you'd use to help a child who won't fall asleep alone.
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 get angry with your child or 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. But giving in to your child's demands or responding negatively won't help solve your bedtime problems.
Try to remember that you're teaching your child an important skill. Be consistent in your approach and consider positive reinforcement strategies, such as a sticker chart. Set an attainable goal and, if he or she meets it, reward your child with a sticker first thing in the morning. Over time, you can set more challenging goals.
It's never too late to teach your child good sleeping habits. Eventually, your consistency will pay off in a good night's sleep for everyone.
Nov. 04, 2017
See more In-depth
- Sleep disturbances. Pediatric Care Online Point-of-Care Quick Reference. https://pediatriccare.solutions.aap.org/QuickReference.aspx. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.
- Owens JA. Behavioral sleep problems in children. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.
- Sleep problems in children. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://patiented.solutions.aap.org/handout.aspx?gbosid=156710. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.
- Wise MS, et al. Assessment of sleep disorders in children. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.