Troubleshooting common child bedtime issues with these simple slumber solutions
He's begging for his third glass of water. She's talking a mile a minute and she's nowhere near sleep. They're both up way past bedtime. And you're fed up. Bedtime can be frustrating. But we've got some tips from the experts on how to resolve the most common bedtime woes — so you can all get a good night's sleep.
Problem: He's bouncing off the walls and you're not even sure you can get him into bed, let alone to sleep.
Expert opinion: It could be caffeine or too much stimulation before bed. But "the number one biggest problem is that we're often putting our kids to bed too late," says Kim West, a family therapist who specializes in sleep issues. Children need 9 1/2 to 11 hours of sleep, depending on their age, so most should be asleep between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Miss the window of opportunity and your child will be wired rather than tired.
Problem: You've been bad about enforcing bedtime in the past and you're not sure your child will cooperate.
Don't expect him to adjust to your schedule without some explanation from you, says Jill Spivack, co-creator of the Sleepeasy Solution. She recommends having an age–appropriate family meeting to explain why sleep is important. Be specific. "For the younger child you can say, 'You need to rest your body so you can go to preschool and draw, and run and play with your friends.'" And frame it from a place of love, Spivack says. You might say, "Mommy and daddy love you too much to let you miss out on the sleep you need to be healthy."
Problem: She's begging for one more glass of water. Or another hug. Or just one more book. Pleaaaaaase?
Consistency is key. Make a plan for bedtime and then share it with your child, preferably in written or picture form, says Spivack, who suggests making a small book with stick figures or simple drawings. Be clear on how many times you'll respond to requests for water or hugs or anything else. You can also motivate your child with a sticker chart that outlines good sleep manners. "State the behavior you'd like to see more of, like 'stays in bed all night long,'" says West. Then reward her when she meets the goal.
Problem: She's scared — of the dark, of what's under the bed, of bedtime!
Reassure her that she's safe. You can do this with a simple, "You're always safe in your bedroom," or appeal to her appreciation of the magical by using your "magic flashlight" to scare away the spookies. Then find ways — within your rules — to help her comfort herself.
Problem: You've been consistent with your routine but your child still won't go to bed, or falls asleep but then wakes up repeatedly.
ADHD, sensory processing disorder, trauma or sleep apnea can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. If the problem persists, talk to your child's pediatrician.