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On Call: Up All Night

Q. My 6-year-old has trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m. How can we help her, especially on school nights?

A.
The most common reasons for a child to stay up late are:
  • She's being kept awake  -- usually by a TV, outside noise, fear of the dark, or caffeine.
  • She's gotten on a late-to-bed, late-to-rise schedule (which often happens after summer vacation).
  • She needs less sleep than other kids. The average 6-year-old needs about ten hours a night, but I see kids who get less and aren't tired at all the next day (like my daughter Elsa, 9, who often lies awake long after we've put her to bed).

Removing whatever's overstimulating your child should do the trick. That's easy if it's a TV; outside noise and fear of the dark may take trial and error (quiet background music or a nightlight may help). If her schedule has shifted, try waking her earlier so she'll get sleepy earlier.

For kids who seem to need less sleep, I still recommend putting them to bed at a reasonable hour (around 8 p.m. for a 6-year-old). At least they'll be in the right place to snooze when they're ready. And for all kids, try to keep to calm activities before bed.

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