Bedtime problems are a common occurrence for parents of children at many ages, but very commonly in the preschool age group. Children may acquire sleep habits very quickly that can impair the ability to fall asleep easily and be most frustrating for parents. Recognizing the importance of good quality sleep and establishing routines that help the child to fall asleep on their own are often an important first step.
Establish a bedtime routine.
Helping establish a consistent bedtime routine is essential. This may take some advance planning and discussion with the child. The bedroom should be quiet and relatively dark, with clear expectations on both a getting ready for bedtime and a lights out time. Children benefit from a bedtime routine that could include putting on pajamas, taking a bath, reading a book, saying a prayer, etc. It is important to avoid any use of screens (TV, video games, DVDs, cell phone games) in the 60 minutes before bedtime as this will make it harder for children to fall asleep, due to the stimulation provided. Children should NOT be allowed to have TVs in their bedrooms.
Don’t allow them to delay bedtime.
Children who resist falling asleep should be reassured briefly, but don’t need to be comforted or soothed after they have been told once that it is time to fall asleep. If children continue to cry out, the parent may return briefly to the room, waiting longer each time if only to let the child know it’s time to go to bed. It may take a few days to change sleep habits that have been established, so persistence pays off.
Pediatric Sleep Resources
Websites such as healthychildren.org (sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics) and Kidshealth.org are helpful sources of information about sleep in children. If you and your child continue to struggle with sleep issues, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your provider. Establishing healthy sleep patterns in childhood increase the chances of your child having healthy, restorative sleep in adulthood.
To learn more about our Sleep Medicine Specialists here at Pediatrics Northwest, visit our Sleep Medicine Center.