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Help - My Kid Won't Sleep!

Updated on April 4, 2008
Photo: LisaWasHere,Flickr
Photo: LisaWasHere,Flickr

One of the surest ways to lose your mind is having a child who won't go to bed, or gets up multiple times a night. It's easy to lose your patience and get angry with the child, which only makes the situation worse. Use these tips to establish a bedtime routine, identify typical sleep issues in children, and spot any potentially serious sleep problems.

Get a Routine

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do to ensure a restful night's sleep for the whole family. In my experience the schedule is a lot less important than the routine. It doesn't matter so much what time you send kids to be as much as the ritual you perform on the way.

The usual before bed grooming and tucking in, performed over time, create a powerful psychological state of security and calm. First we brush our teeth, then we read a story, then we turn out the light. Make the things you do personal to the child. Create special customs or inside jokes to share with your child again and again.

Whatever your routine, stick to it. The predictability is in part what lulls your child to sleep. (By the way, the same works for you. If you find yourself suffering insomnia, try working on your before bed routine)

The Bed Makes a Difference

I'm not going to weigh in on whether or not you choose to co-sleep with a baby or child. The important thing is that whatever you decide, the child sleeps in the same bed every night. It's not fair to allow kids to sleep with Mom and Dad sometimes, but not others. In a shared custody situation, it helps to have sleeping arrangements as similar as possible at both of the child's locations.

Tips to Decrease Insomnia in Children

- Keep to a consistent bedtime and waking

- Expose the child to 30 minutes of bright light soon after awaking

- Keep the lights dim the lights 1-2 hours before bedtime

- Avoid naps

- Avoid reading and watching TV in bed

- Restrict stimulants like soda pop and chocolate

- Limit heavy liquids big meal right before bed

- Avoid physical exertion for 2-3 hours before bedtime

Rule Out Something More Serious

If you have tried all of the above tips and your child is still having trouble going to bed, falling asleep, or staying asleep you may need to consult your pediatrician. While some nightmares are common, you'll want to know if your child is suffering night terrors and adjust accordingly.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    oh my gosh, i am so so so incredibly glad that i am not alone on this. I totally feel like the only one. I have been trying to get her to sleep at a decent hour since she was a baby.I did have her going to bed early at one point but of course it all got messed up and ever since i cannot get her back on track.that was about 2 years ago!!

    i do bath>teeth>book>bed and i just can't do it. i feel like a horrible mother like maybe i am not stimulating her enough during the day so i do activity after activity with her, i play with her,bike rides and just nothing seems to work. I put her in skating and library all in one day and nothing will tire her out! It is embaressing.

    No matter what I do my child won't sleep either. I exhaust myself. Tonight she stayed up until 3 am!!Usually it is 11ish but getting worse lately. I can't handle it.

    I recall my parents letting us stay up when my bro n sis's and i were young so i wonder if they did try at one point and this could be genetic thing?

    i am even getting critisized by my childless yet pregnant sister who seems to think kids fall asleep at the snap of the finger, i really hope her child is a huge insomniac and pain in the you know what because she totally deserves it for being so critical all the time.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I have two that wont sleep through the night, i've been keeping them to the same bedtime routine for the last nine months yet they still wake at 3 in the mornin, My 3 yo daughter wakes up at 3 and wont go back to sleep until 5, my 9 month old son wakes up at 3 then every couple of hours until the mornin when we start our daily routine. So all that stuff about sticking to bedtime routine does not work even though your consistent. I'm on my own also and it tires me out so much that i feel i cant do anything through the day. or even take my daughter to nursery because she is ratty and tired as well as me and there's noway we can do that 45 minute walk when we've all been up all night. So I agree with sleepless. my kids do NOT sleep through the night no matter if I stick to the same bedtime routine.So as you say keep to consistent bedtime routine, I'm sorry but think you need to relook at that.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    yeah, whatever. my kid will not sleep at all. nothing works. i am ready to die after two years of hell.

  • cbris52 profile image


    8 years ago

    Really enjoyed reading this hub... thumbs up!

  • knslms profile image


    10 years ago from North Carolina

    great hub! Is benadryl a bad thing? lol

  • christalkalot profile image


    10 years ago

    Very Helpful thanks for all that, the routine is definitely the key for both us and children.

  • Lela Davidson profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela Davidson 

    10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    We try to stick to a routine and when we don't it seems to take forever to get them to sleep - even now and mine are 7 and 9!

  • ilovej profile image


    10 years ago

    I agree that the schedule is a lot less important than a consistent bedtime routine. I have proven it with my youngest kid. Though, I don't have a great voice, it has been a routine to sing him my own version of lullaby and presto, the little guy easily goes to sleep.

  • shailini profile image


    10 years ago from Bangalore, India

    I guess the kid should be trained for a ritual - finish dinner, change to nightclothes, read bed-time stories, go to bed. great hub.

  • amy jane profile image

    amy jane 

    10 years ago from Connecticut

    This is great advice, Lela. I have three young ones, and when we don't stick to the routine, we have CHAOS!

  • donnaleemason profile image


    10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

    great Lela, we try the bedtime routine, but with 6 little ones, I am not always as successful as I would like.


  • Lela Davidson profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela Davidson 

    10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Thanks, Jason. That's a really good strategy - giving kids a lot of choices on things that don't really matter so that when we make the big decisions, they don't feel so controlled.

  • JerseyGirl profile image


    10 years ago from Jersey Shore

    Great Hub, I agree! I believe that being consistent is the key - makes the little ones get into a routine, and makes everyones life easier. They know what is expected of them, and they know what they should be doing next.

    Thanks for publishing such great info for us all!

  • Jason Stanley profile image

    Jason Stanley 

    10 years ago

    Good stuff on an important issue for many parents.

    This is just another take to add to the good stuff you already have.

    Try giving them choices so that they feel that they are involved in the decisions. The choices need to be within your guidelines. Similar to having a young child choose between two dresses you are willing for her to wear to school. You create the limits, she gets to have a say and will more likely to buy into the result.

    Something like: Do you want to go to bed at 8:30 and have me read to you for 15 minutes or go to bed at 8:45 and turn off the light immediately?

    When children are involved in the decision making process they often do much better with just about any behavioral issue.


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