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Bedtime and Sleep

Sleep is important for your child’s health. Children who do not get enough sleep can have a hard time getting through the day and getting settled at night. On average, young children need at least 10-12 hours of sleep. As children get older, they need less sleep. It’s important to have a bedtime routine. The same bedtime routine every night can make sleeping and bedtime easier for you and your child. 

A bedtime routine might include:

  • Bath
  • Teeth brushing
  • Story time
  • Saying goodnight

A bedtime routine should be relaxing and help a child feel safe.

  • Set a bedtime that is the same time each day
  • Plan a bedtime routine that you and your child can easily follow
  • Let your child know when it is almost bedtime, so that they can finish what they are doing and start to quiet down
  • Once they are in bed and you are ready to leave, say goodnight and leave. Ignore any complaints about going to bed

If your child went to bed well the night before remember to let them know in the morning that they did a good job. Praise your child.

What are common sleep and bedtime problems?

  • Arguing or refusing to go to bed 
  • Refusing to sleep in their own bed
  • Having a hard time settling down
  • Crying after being put to bed
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Getting out of bed

There are different ways to manage bedtime problems. The approach you choose will depend on you and your child.

Some parents choose a direct approach, where they  say goodnight to their child and leave the room. They will then ignore a child calling out or protesting, letting the child settle themself.

With a more gradual approach, parents periodically check on their child. A parent might not return right away when a child protests, but will go to the child a few minutes into the calling out, and then leave again a few minutes later. The parent gradually extends the time between going back in to the room. 

The gentlest approach might be used for young toddlers who are still sleeping in a crib. A parent could quietly sit in a nearby chair until their child falls asleep. The parent would not talk, touch, or go to their child unless the child is sick or in danger. This allows the child to feel safe, knowing a parent is close by, but encourages them to learn to settle on their own. 

If your child gets out of bed:

  • Return your child to bed
  • Close your child’s bedroom door
  • Spend very little time (less than 30 seconds) getting them settled back into bed

These tips do not apply if a child is in pain or sick. When a child is sick, they need to be given attention, and cries should be attended to. Other common sleep concerns might be nightmares or night terrors. 

 
Date of creation: December 3, 2012
Last modified on: December 29, 2014
 

References

1Turner, K., Markie-Dadds, C., Sanders, M. (1996). Bedtime Problems. Brisbane, AU: Triple P Positive Parenting Program.
2Caring for kids. (2012). Healthy sleep for your baby and child. Retrieved from
http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy_sleep_for_your_baby_and_child
3Langlois, C. (1998). Growing with your child: Prebirth to age five. Mississauga:Ballantine Books