When Kids Can’t Sleep: Strategies to Help Everyone Get a Good Night’s Rest

With the school year beginning and family life becoming more hectic, sleep is crucial for your child’s success and your family’s happiness. If you are dealing with a sleep-resistant child, you can make a few easy adjustments in their routines and expectations.   

From Day to Night: Six Strategies for Helping Children Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep

1. When possible, monitor your young child’s TV and movie watching.

This especially applies to young children: Be aware of images that may frighten them. Scary TV shows or movies can make it difficult for kids to sleep once lights are turned off.

2. Don’t let daytime comfort measures lead to long periods of sleep.

Sometimes toddlers need to be held, rocked, given a cup of warm milk. As parents, we relish these snuggly times with our children.  Be careful, however, that these measures do not lead to your child falling asleep for hours during the day. A refreshing nap can mean an up-and-at ‘em child come bedtime.

3. Keep kids away from stimulating food, drink and medications during the evening hours.

Want to reward your child with some chocolate or a small glass of soda? Fine during the day but resist the temptation to do so at night. Caffeine can keep all ages awake no matter how hard we may try to sleep. Likewise, refrain from giving children medications containing stimulants.

4. Create a calm and relaxing setting in your child’s bedroom.

Consider what brings your child comfort: a favorite soft toy or pillow. Dim lights which helps in the transition from wakefulness to sleep.  Turn off the stimulating noise and glare of TVs, videos and computers.

5. Create a sleep schedule and pre-sleep ritual, enforcing time limits for this nightly routine.

Adhere to a strict schedule for sleep and waking up. At night, set aside time to read a book, sing songs or play a quiet game with your child. Keep a reasonable limit to this special interaction, being consistent about timing for tucking-in and lights out.

6. Gradually increase wait time for children dependent on parents to comfort them back to sleep during the night.

Easier said than done, this will require listening to your crying child without racing to comfort her/him. Begin with a short two-minute interval and gradually, over five nights, increase this to 30 minutes. This plan is key to teaching children a healthy sleep routine and how to fall asleep on their own.

A good night’s sleep is necessary to the health of everyone in a family. When a child is able to sleep through the night, it is more likely parents will rest well too… a scenario that leads to a happy next day for all!