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Your Child Can’t Sleep?

Put bedtime bugaboos―and your kids―to rest with these expert solutions.

By Teri Cettina
Girl looking under her bedLiz Banfield

Problem: Your child can’t fall asleep, and then it takes a marching band to wake him up in the morning.

Why it happens: Kids can have insomnia for any number of reasons, from drinking caffeinated drinks at night to schoolwork anxiety. But you might also have a night owl in your flock: a child whose internal clock keeps him up.

How to rest easy: Revisit the basics. Make sure your child has a bedtime routine. If you notice that he can’t fall asleep until late (say, after midnight) and sleeps in when allowed to sleep on his own schedule, he may have delayed sleep-phase syndrome, which is more common in teens, notes Judith Owens, M.D., director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, in Providence, and Mindell’s coauthor of Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep. This can be tough on both your child and family members who are on more traditional schedules, so ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. Professionals can help shift your child’s sleep time closer to normal. Other tips:

  • Have your child avoid screen time (like the TV and the computer) for at least half an hour before bed.
  • Turn down the lights to help his body prepare for sleep. Come morning, open the drapes and turn on the lights. (Bright light can help reset the body clock.)
  • Make sure he gets up at a consistent time (although an hour later on weekends is OK) so he’ll be tired at the same time each night.

Problem: Your child crawls into bed with you in the middle of the night.

Why it happens: Maybe you let her sleep in your bed when she was younger or after she had a bad dream.

How to rest easy: “To make a change, have a plan and be consistent about it,” says Mindell. “That typically involves returning your child to her bed every time she gets up.” If you do this, consider hanging a bell from your doorknob so you can hear her if she sneaks back in.

Or, if your little one is afraid of being alone, let her camp on your floor in a sleeping bag for a while (maybe even a few weeks) and switch her back to her bedroom when she adjusts.

Tip: Does warm milk really work? Yes! Milk contains tryptophan, which can help induce sleep, just like Thanksgiving turkey does.

Read More About:Sleep

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