COMMON SLEEP PROBLEMS
My child will not go to bed
- Think about what time you want your child to go to bed.
- Close to the time that your child normally falls asleep, start a 20 minute ‘winding down’ bedtime routine. Bring this forward by five-10 minutes a week (or 15 minutes a week if your child has got into the habit of going to bed very late) until you get to the bedtime you want.
- Try to set a limit on the amount of time you spend with your child when you put them to bed. For example you could read one story only, then tuck your child in and say goodnight.
- Make sure your child has their dummy, if they use one favourite toy or comforter before settling to bed.
- Leave a dim light on if necessary.
- If you keep checking your child you might wake them up, so leave it until you are sure that they are asleep.
- The important thing is to be firm and consistent and not to give in.
My child keeps waking up during the night
Up to half of all children under five go through periods of night waking. Some will just go back to sleep on their own, others will cry or want company. If this happens, try to work out why your child is waking up.
- Are they hungry? A later feed or some cereal and milk last thing at night might help your child to sleep through the night.
- Are they afraid of the dark? You could try using a nightlight or leaving a landing light on.
- Is your child waking because of night fears or bad dreams? If so, try to find out if something is bothering them.
- Is your child too hot or too cold? You could adjust their bedclothes or the heating in the room and see if that helps.
If there is no obvious cause, and your child continues to wake up, cry and/or demand company, then you could try some of the following suggestions:
- Scheduled waking. If your child wakes up at the same time every night, try waking them between 15 minutes and an hour before this time, then settling them back to sleep.
- Let your child sleep in the same room as a brother or sister. If you think your child may be lonely, and their brother or sisters doesn’t object, try putting them in the same room. This can help them both to sleep through the night.
- Nightmares are quite common. They often begin between the ages of 18 months and three years. Nightmares are not usually a sign of emotional disturbance. They may happen if your child is anxious about something or has been frightened by a TV programme or story. After a nightmare, your child will need comfort and reassurance.
- Night terrors. These can start before the age of one, but are most common in three and four year olds. Usually, the child will scream or start thrashing around while they are still asleep. They usually happen after the child has been asleep for a couple of hours. They may sit up and talk or look terrified while they are still asleep. Night terrors are not usually a sign of any serious problems, and your child will eventually grow out of them. You should not wake your child during a night terror, but if they are happening at the same time each night, try breaking the pattern by gently waking your child 15 minutes beforehand. Keep your child awake for a few minutes, then let them go back to sleep. They will not remember anything in the morning. Seeing your child have a night terror can be very upsetting, but they are not dangerous and will not have any lasting effects.
- Tackle it together with your partner. If you have a partner, you should agree between you how to tackle your child’s sleeping problems, as you don’t want to try to decide what to do in the middle of the night! If you both agree what is best for your child, it will be easier to stick to your plan.
It can take patience, consistency and commitment, but most sleep problems can be solved.