Child sleep: Put preschool bedtime problems to rest

Consider common preschool bedtime problems — and what to do about them. The result could be a good night's sleep for the entire family.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're past middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes, but a good night's sleep is still elusive. Maybe bedtime has turned into a battle of wills, or you're struggling to get your preschooler to stay in bed all night.

Consider these simple strategies to put the most common bedtime problems to rest — starting tonight!

The problem: Bedtime is chaotic

The scenario: You feel rushed or stressed when you put your child to bed.

The solution: Make bedtime a priority. A predictable, calming bedtime routine is key to a good night's sleep.

Avoid active play and electronic devices, which are stimulating. You might give your child a bath and read stories. Talk about the day. Play soothing bedtime music. Then tuck your child into bed drowsy but awake and say good night.

Experiment to find what works best for you — but once you settle on a routine, follow it every night. This will help your child know what to expect and establish healthy sleep patterns.

The problem: Your child doesn't want to go to bed

The scenario: It's bedtime, but your child wants to stay up.

The solution: If your child can hear talking, laughing or sounds from electronics, it's easy to see how he or she would want to stay up. To ease the transition to bedtime, turn off or put away electronics and keep things quiet around bedtime. Sleep might be more appealing if everyone slows down before bedtime.

The problem: Your child won't fall asleep alone

The scenario: Your child needs you to stay in the room until he or she falls asleep.

The solution: To encourage your child to fall asleep alone, help him or her feel secure. Start with a calming bedtime routine. Then offer a comfort object, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Turn on a night light or leave the bedroom door open if it will help your child feel better. Make sure your child is safe and well and leave the room.

Avoid returning to your child's room if he or she calls out to you. Try to allow your child to sort out how to get to sleep. Remember that you're helping your child learn to fall asleep alone. If you give in and continue appearing at his or her bedside or climb into bed with your child, that's what your child will remember — and probably expect the next night.

Alternatively, you can try to wean your child off of your support by waiting progressively longer periods before checking on him or her. When checking, keep the visit to a minute or two. Offer your child reassurance and a light pat — no cuddling.

Nov. 04, 2017 See more In-depth