Joannie has been a poor sleeper all of her life but when she turned seven last year it got even worse. She goes to sleep late, wakes up a lot, and is always tired. I work two jobs and its exhausting me too. What can I do?
Here are some things you can try that most likely will help to solve the problem.
First, make sure that a regular bed time (and wake time) is adhered to and that any bedtime rituals start thirty minutes before the desired sleep time. Bedtime rituals should include pleasant activities such as reading to your child, rubbing, and soothing. Sleep onset associations like being rocked or fed by you at the time of going to sleep should be minimized. For example, try to put the child in bed before falling asleep when rocking. Make sure that daily schedules are adhered to in all areas of life. Limit napping. Make sure your child has a balanced diet with enough food, gets adequate amounts of exercise, and is protected from excessive chaos in the house such as violence, shouting, emotional upheavals, and quarreling. Bedtime should be three to four hours after eating, and there should be no heavy exercise for at least two hours before going to bed. After dinner the atmosphere should be one of relaxation and quiet activities, and emotional issues should be avoided as should any rough play and caffeine. The room should be a normal temperature, and be dark and quiet without clocks or televisions. If needed, teach your child some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. The major thing to keep in mind is that as sleep time approaches the goal is to induce a relaxed drowsiness, not an emotional or active time.
If a parent abides by these sleep hygiene suggestions the great majority of children will sleep well consistently. Of course from time to time there will be awakenings, especially if a child is sick, disturbed, or scared, but these are episodic and usually respond to gentle and firm reassurances and do not require special interventions. Do remember that not all children sleep exactly the same and there will be variation from child to child, but knowing your child’s natural patterns and adjusting your ways to your child’s rhythms go a long way to pleasant night times.
Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.