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What to Do With a Kid Who Won't Sleep

Updated on March 6, 2017
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Arthur is a blogger,writer, and author who also happens to be a work at home dad to two beautiful girls. He loves sharing his opinions!

I know first hand what it is like to live with a kid who won't sleep. My daughter is 4-years-old, and we still fight to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep through the night. I understand how frustrating it can be, and I have lost nights of sleep over it—so I wanted to create a resource for parents who are going through the same thing as I am going through and share what has and hasn't worked for me so far.

7 Tips to Help Your Child Get a Good Night's Rest

1. Keep Them Up During Nap Time

One of the many hard things to do as the parent of a toddler is to transition out of daily nap time. Sometimes parents think that the kids aren't ready for it and other times parents just aren't willing to give up their mid-day break. The problem is that an afternoon nap can give kids all the energy they need to party to the wee hours of the morning. One of the first steps to getting your kids to sleep at night is to skip (or sacrifice) the daily nap. It may get hairy toward the end of the day, but there is a stronger possibility that they will pass out as soon as you get them into bed.

2. Set a Routine and Stick to It

With our busy 21st century lives, this one can be difficult. I know it is hard, but any modicum of regularity helps to prevent your child's senses from going into overdrive which wreaks havoc on bedtime. Having at least a semi-strict routine including a concrete bedtime allows your child to know that the time for sleep is coming and they need to start winding down for the inevitable. This method secretly helps you too because you are aware that you only have to make it a little further before some me time. Habits happen in the morning too, make sure to set a standard wake time for your little one.

3. Cut Out Screen Time

Multiple studies have shown that screen time before bed can be overstimulating, even for adults. We live in a world now where kids have TVs, Tablets, and phones and they know how to work them all. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, except when it comes to sleep. Cut out all screen time at least an hour before bed to allow your child's brain to calm down.

4. Set the Mood

Setting the mood is harder than it sounds even for adults. Try to make sure that the room is optimal for sleeping by being cool and quiet. A nightlight is ok, preferably at its lowest setting, and if necessary it is not terrible to play some soothing soft music or white noise. Give them any security items that they may need like a blanket or stuffed animal and tuck them in wishing them good night. All of these seemingly small tasks combine to set the perfect mood for sleeping. It doesn't hurt to spray a little lavender in the room either for some extra calming.

5. Dietary Considerations

They say that there is no scientific link between giving kids sugar before bed and them staying up late, but anecdotal evidence proves otherwise. There is a lot of science and pseudoscience telling us what we should and shouldn't eat, and it is hard to keep up with it all, but I would suggest whole, natural foods, especially before bed. A few suggestions including apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, avocados, pineapple, peaches which are all fruits which contain tryptophan. If nothing else, keep a log of what your kid eats before their sleepless nights and make sure that there are no correlations between the two.

6. Talk About Sleep

Talking about the importance of sleep may help your child understand why they need to calm their body down and get some rest. Talk about how it gives us energy, helps us heal, and lets our brains take a break. Other things you could talk about are what dreams are and what your child likes to see in their dreams. Understanding more about sleep will put an anxious child at ease and give an something to focus on before bedtime.

7. Talk to Your Doctor

Don't be afraid to talk to your pediatrician, in person, or even over the phone. They will probably echo many of the same sentiments as this post. However, they will do it with more than anecdotal knowledge. One more thing they may suggest you try is melatonin, a naturally occurring substance in our bodies that aids in sleep. You can buy melatonin over-the-counter at most drug stores and some even come in chewable gummy form.

It is important to talk to your doctor about using melatonin or anything else on this list for that matter to ensure the optimal health and safety of your child. I hope that this article helps and if you are living this struggle right now know that you are not alone and I hope that you can resolve the issue promptly.

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