Just when you think you’ve gotten nighttime sleep and napping under control, even parents of the best sleepers can find themselves dealing with some very common preschool age sleep problems. To help your child, and you, get better rest, read on.
Problem: Those once reliable naps are not so reliable any longer.
Solution: Back when your child was a young toddler, you may remember naptime as being a bit of a reprieve, a time when you could put your child down to sleep and feel confident that he would nap for at least an hour, and often two, or more. But as he grows older, his sleep needs may change, and he may sleep for as long, or go down as easily, as he used to. Try to be consistent with the the nap times at your childcare or daycare center. You may also want to adjust your expectations for the length of his nap as he gets older. And if your child simply won’t sleep during the afternoon at all, give him a “rest period”, during which he can rest in bed with a book or a few toys, giving his body and mind a little break in the middle of the day.
Problem: Your child wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and is ready for a party.
Solution: This incredibly common problem is troubling for your child’s sleep and yours as well! Your young child may decide that waking up at 3am feels natural, and staying awake to play for a few hours, with you of course, is all she wants to do! First, be consistent. Tell your child that nighttime is for sleeping, and don’t allow him to leave his own bed. And try adjusting his daytime sleep schedule. Is he napping for three hours each day? Cut his nap down to two hours, and you may see an improvement in night wakings.
Problem: Your child’s big kid bed is easy to escape.
Solution: Once you transition your child from her crib to a big kid bed, she’ll quickly learn that she can climb out. And what better place to snuggle in for the night but your bed? Be consistent by taking your child back to her room immediately, and let her know that her own bed is for sleeping. Create a rewards system by adding a sticker to a chart for every night she spends in her own bed. And if all else fails, many parents simply put a baby gate in their child’s doorway, leaving the door open slightly so that she feels less alone at night, even in her room.
Problem: Monsters, ghosts, and mystery sounds.
Solution: As your child transitions from toddler to preschool age, her imagination really begins to take flight. But she may begin to imagine scary things in her room at night, like monsters under the bed or ghosts in the closet. Respect her fears by assuring her that you understand why she is afraid. But keep her room well lit during the day, and make it a play space that she begins to feel more comfortable with. Turn a night light on at night to assuage her fears.
Solution: That rapidly growing imagination may be the cause of a new nighttime development: bad dreams. If your child is waking up repeatedly because of bad dreams, talk to him about what he’s dreaming about. During the day, really hash out his fears, whether they’re about monsters or feared real life situations. Talk about his fears, and he may not find those fears cropping up during his slumber.
The Sleep Help Institute has further information about helping both you and your child get a good night’s sleep:
- Healthy Sleep for New and Expecting Parents
- Children’s Sleep Guide
- How To Manage Screen Time and Bedtime
Has your child been experiencing sleep disruptions? Have any tips for your fellow parents? Let us know about them in the comments!