What To Do When a Child Can’t Fall Asleep

Bedtime can be difficult for everyone, but a parent’s job is really quite simple:  put the child in bed.

The rest of it – the falling asleep part – is all on the child. Although it can be hard when falling asleep is out of your control, there are things you can do to help when your child can't fall asleep.

Routines are critical

We all know routines are important in life. Routines get athletes ready to perform, they get singers ready for the stage, and they can also help anyone from infant age to adulthood get ready for bed. But it’s not just the snack, bath, and story that is part of an important nightly ritual. You must also consider the daily routine that can affect a child’s ability to fall asleep.

Is he getting enough physical activity during the day? Don’t let weather or a busy schedule be an excuse for avoiding exercise. Get your kids moving whether it’s inside or outside in order to keep their bodies active. Remember how fast they crash after a day at the zoo or amusement park? That can happen every single day if you keep them active, even in moderate amounts.

Is your child getting proper nutrition? You are what you eat isn’t just a saying, it’s reality, so the better the fuel you’re putting into your child’s body, the better it will help him sleep. Similarly, caffeine is a stimulant drug, and should always be avoided when it comes to children.

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Start everything earlier

If the nighttime drill lasts long into the evening, there’s no point in ruining your sleep too, so start the process a whole lot earlier. It doesn’t mean you have to publicly announce that everyone’s going to bed earlier, it just means you’re going to get an earlier start on things. If your child doesn’t fall asleep for an hour after leaving the room at 8:00 p.m., maybe you need to leave the room at 7:30 p.m. instead. Find the method that works best for you.

In order to kick all of this off, you may need to shortchange your child some much-needed sleep by waking him earlier in the morning, just until the new system pays off and starts working. It may seem cruel to do so, but getting your child’s body in a better rhythm for a stronger sleep schedule will help everyone in the home. 

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Follow your instincts

I’ve read from experts who warn not to sing, snuggle, or coddle children to sleep. But I also know from experience that children sleep better with an adult next to them, so when all else fails and you’re at the end of your rope, do what you think is best for your child. After all, it’s not like you’ll be caving in and holding their hand until they’re asleep when they’re 16 years old.

Your child wants to be comfortable, and you do, too. So you’ll have to find your own proper balance between being firm, being comforting, and not giving in to every whim. Implementing a rewards system might offer just what you need in helping your child long-term.

Before you know it, you’ll all be sleeping like, well, you know.

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What To Do When a Child Can’t Fall Asleep

Tom Konecny is a dad of four children and husband to wife, Erika. Tom currently serves as a private consultant in writing, communications and marketing. In 2013, Tom founded Dad Marketing, a site dedicated to exploring the world of marketing to dads. He previously worked in sports marketing, served as an associate editor and writer for several publications, and directed an award-winning corporate marketing department. His first book, "DADLY Dollar$" will be published this summer, and he is c ... More

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