Child Sleep Solutions (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. She has always had issues going to sleep at night. She doesn't want to go and then she wakes up crying for me in the middle of the night. Her older sister never did this, I never had a problem. Now that we've tried to move the little one out of the crib, she is always coming into my bed in the night. What do I do?

PANTLEY:
Oh my, that's about 10 questions in one! Let's address several things here for you:

She doesn't want to go to bed. Examine her nap and bedtime schedule and see how it looks. She should be having a nap of about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Plus 11 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep. If she is getting too little or too much sleep it will affect her biological clock and she won't be tired at the right time.

And back to the bedtime routine. The key is a PEACEFUL, HAPPY routine that you both enjoy that ENDS with her in bed. Try telling her a story after the lights are out. A story about her is the best! See, since reading a book involves lights and eyes open it can prevent sleep with a child like your daughter. But listening to a story in the dark can invite tiredness.

You said she always visits your bed in the night -- that's really common! About 40% of young children end up in their parents' bed at some point during the night. If this disturbs your sleep and you want to change it I suggest the "rubber band bounce," which means anytime your child gets out of his bed you gently, quietly and without emotion lead her right back to her own room. It helps to make her room inviting with stuffed animals, soft music or a bedside pet like a goldfish. But you have to be consistent at first for this plan to stick.

Keep in mind that all children are very different. I have four and they all have very different sleep patterns. You can't truly compare one of your children to another.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How can I get my 2-and-a-half-year-old to go to bed at 9 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.?

PANTLEY:
Excellent question! And not an uncommon one!

The best bedtime for most toddlers and preschoolers is between 6:30 and 7:30 PM; it's a biological thing. If we don't listen to the biological call we miss bedtime and then a child gets a second wind and is up until 11 p.m.

First, make sure your child isn't taking a long, late nap. For example, some people let their child take a dinnertime nap, which with a little nudge can become an early bedtime.

And an interesting thing I learned: When I surveyed children about sleep, a surprising 97% of kids gave the same answer to the question, "How do you know its bedtime?" The answer was "Mommy tells me." Or "Daddy tells me." This gives parents more power than they realized. They may have never realized that setting a bedtime is as simple as setting a bedtime!

So create that peaceful bedtime routine I've been talking about and set an earlier bedtime. It really, really helps if that routine takes place for an hour and is quiet, peaceful and dimly lit. Bright lights and noise prevent tiredness.

Also, learn to read your child's tired signs, since tired children don't always yawn and look tired. A sleep-deprived child might be whiny, fussy, hyperactive or stubborn. He might be grumpy and have temper tantrums and frequently fall asleep in the car. A child who is fussy from dinnertime to bedtime is telling you that he needs more sleep.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I don't know if you can help but my son just turned 4 and he still doesn't sleep very well at night. I have an easy time getting him to sleep but he's got asthma which interrupts his sleep sometimes with coughing. Also, in the last month, he's been waking up crying in pain that his legs and sometimes his arms hurt. I've been rubbing them and I give him Tylenol to help, but I'm not sure what to do. Also how much sleep is usually needed for a 4-year-old? He still takes an hour nap in the afternoon.

PANTLEY:
The funny thing about sleep is that even if children sleep well as babies they can come up with a whole new crop of issues when they get older. Very good question! And I do have chapters in my book about asthma, allergies, special needs, medical issues, newly adopted children, twins, etc. Sleep issues cover all kinds of situations!

First, for a 4-year-old, maybe a nap of about an hour, although some children that age have given up naps completely. From age 2 1/2 to 5, children need about 11 hours of nighttime sleep to be well-rested and healthy.

With children who have medical issues like asthma or allergies, it's important to talk to a medical professional since these can certainly get in the way of good sleep. Some things that may help are raising the head part of the bed (try taping the legs to tuna cans) and using an air purifier. A humidifier may help also.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My 3-year-old takes a nap at daycare with no problems. He is the first to go to sleep and the last to wake up. On the weekends we have a battle. He does not want to take a nap. What can I do?

PANTLEY:
Not an uncommon question!

First, I'd find out from daycare exactly what the daily routine is. When does your child eat, play, and lie down for a nap? Ask about the napping room. Is it light, dark, noisy, quiet?

Try to keep the same nap/eat/play schedule (as much as possible) seven days a week. Also, he may be more interested in playing with you, so create a pleasant prenap routine and enjoy the time.

MODERATOR:
How can you tell if your child still needs a nap?

© 2005-2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.



STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!