Dr. Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, claims that some kids come as sleepers while others simply come as non-sleepers. “You can easily determine which type your child is as soon he’s old enough to try climbing out of the crib.” Dr. Richard says. If you are dealing with a restless kid that does his non-sleeping in hundred different ways as he grows older, and if you have started to look more like a zombie than like a human being, this article is for you.
I come from the land of the sleep deprived zombie parents as well. My 3-year old daughter Holly always has a very good reason for not sleeping – she is hungry, she needs water, there is a strange noise in her room… Her blanket is not soft enough, and her pillow is not comfortable. She saw a monster or a ghost. She wants to sleep with her dog Cody. She doesn’t want to sleep with her dog. The room is too loud. Her throat is dry. She is not tired. After at least 15 reasons that didn’t work, she finally admits that she isn’t tired.
Although you probably think your child is impossible and that there is no hope, there are always ways to put the little devil to bed.
Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., in her study A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood, found out that setting a consistent bedtime routine helps young children sleep better, especially if they have sleep difficulties. Young toddlers (12 to 18 months old) usually don’t have a problem with sleeping, but with frequent waking. During this stage of development, that is completely normal because the circadian rhythm of your child is still forming. If your kid can’t soothe himself in the middle of the night by this age, there is definitely a problem in his bedtime routine.
Since in this stage of development your child is old enough to figure out you will leave as soon as he closes his eyes, you need to create new sleep associations that will help him drift off into blissful slumber on his own. There isn’t a golden bedtime ritual that works like a charm for every child, so you will have to find the ideal one on your own. Sometimes, that can be a song or your kid’s favorite story. Sometimes, you just need to leave the light on. Even if it’s the oddest thing in the world, if it helps your kid to fall asleep, just do it.
The best way to figure out your kid’s perfect pre-bed ritual is to try to see nighttime through his eyes. The bedroom should look the same at bedtime as it will in the middle of the night. Leaving the light in the hallway or putting some of his toys in bed may work.
Optimize the Bedroom
Make sure your kid has a good bed and a quality mattress to sleep on. If you kid complains every night he is not comfortable, maybe he really isn’t. However, if you constantly hear different reasons for not going to bed, you have nothing to worry about.
Your kid shouldn’t have a TV in the bedroom and he shouldn’t use a phone or watch TV at least three hours before bed. Since all these devices stimulate the mind, it may disturb your child’s sleep.
If you kid wakes up at every sound, make sure you play some calming music or mask the unpleasant noise somehow.
As your child grows older (18 months to 3 years old), their imagination will run wild, and they will try to control everything and just do some things to spite you. So, you will start hearing words such as “No, I don’t want to go to bed” and a bunch of crazy reasons for not being able to sleep such as “There’s a ghost in my closet!”.
Start with adding a little tuck-in to your pre-sleep ritual. I try to soothe my daughter rather than encourage her, and I always spray monster poison around the room for protection. Since Holly was afraid of shadows on the wall, whenever she said there is a monster hiding, I said “No, that’s a bunny.” or something else the shadow could look alike.
Stay Firm and Keep Your Promises
If your kid still doesn’t want to listen to you, you have to be firm. So, if your child asks for one more story or something else, you please him once more, and that’s it. When you say goodnight, really mean it.
When it comes to promises, always keep them. If you explain to your children that you’ll be back in five minutes, really go back to their room after five minutes. Coming up with excuses such as “I need to load the dishwasher, and I will come back” your kid will stay in bed and fall asleep waiting for you. Do this every night but always prolong the waiting period a bit. Have in mind that you always have to return. If you ignore your child and don’t come back, he will start losing trust or feel disappointed. If your kid needs extra reassurance that you will come back, leave something you “need” in his room. If your kid is still awake when you come back, kiss him good night and say how great he is for listening to you and staying in his bed.
No matter what your children’s age or sleep troubles, you need to be consistent and persistent to get them into bed during the entire night until your routine kicks in. You mustn’t give up! After you succeed, you won’t be able to resist sneaking into your children’s bedroom just to watch them sleep.