Preschoolers and Sleep: The Masters of Excuses

sleeping preschoolerChildren ages 3 to 5 need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night, and some even need a 1- to 2-hour nap every day. If children do not get enough sleep—quality sleep—their moods, ability to focus, behavior, and eating habits are negatively affected. But just because children need sleep doesn't mean they’ll go down at bedtime willingly and easily. The experts know they need sleep, parents know they need sleep, but children don’t know and they have no trouble coming up with excuses to stay awake a little bit longer.

“I’m not sleepy!”

Your child may come up with many different variations of this excuse to stay up. They may make the excuse because they don’t want to miss anything, they’re overtired, or they really are not sleepy.

Whatever your child’s bedtime excuse, the key is to stay calm without backing down. 

Try scheduling about an hour of downtime before it’s time for bed. If you put your child down, but you and the hubby or any of your older children stay up, your child may worry you’re all going to have fun without him.

He may hear the TV, hear you laughing, and feel left out. Have an hour of quiet time. Turn off the TV, end the games and loud laughter, and encourage a calm, peaceful environment. This is a good time to read to your child. A calm environment may help to make sleep seem more appealing.

Sometimes, according to an article on webmd.com, “a preschooler who refuses to go to bed is a preschooler who is overtired.” Keeping your child awake until he is tired will likely not make this easier. Instead, try setting an earlier bed time or earlier quiet time so that he does not become overtired. Hopefully, this will help your child have an easier time falling asleep.

If your child really is not tired, try cutting back on naps or wake him up earlier in the morning so he is tired by bedtime. Slowly, push bedtime back each night until you and your child are back on schedule.

“I’m thirsty.”

This excuse seems innocent enough (hydration is important), but it may lead to other excuses. Maybe your child suddenly realizes she’s hungry, too. Or, now she needs to use the bathroom. Maybe getting up for that drink of water has given her a sudden burst of energy and she’s not ready to go back to bed yet. Try keeping a cup of water close to her bed so that she can get a drink without getting up. Resist the temptation to let her get up and eat. Using the bathroom is okay, but make sure she gets back in bed right away.

“I’m scared.”

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Monster under the bed? Afraid of the dark? Do you have a child who can’t fall asleep without you by her side? You’re not alone. To help her feel more secure, establish a calm bedtime routine she can count on. Allow her to have some sort of comfort object, like a favorite teddy bear. You can invest in a night light. 

Sit with her for a few minutes and when you leave the room, promise to check on her every ten minutes. Each time you come into the room, let her know how proud you are that she is staying in her bed quietly. As the nights continue, gradually stretch out the time between check-ins, until she learn to soothe herself to sleep.

Whatever your child’s bedtime excuse, the key is to stay calm without backing down. 

 

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Preschoolers and Sleep: The Masters of Excuses

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1 comment

  1. Jenifer says:

    My Pre-Schooler (3.5 years) is just now getting into the area where she realizes that she can delay bedtime. She wants more water or milk, she wants more kisses, she wants more “Stories,” she wants more toys in her bed… My husband and I thought at first, “How can we EVER deny her hugs and kisses?” which is her favorite delay. But after a while we realized it was for the best. So we count now – she can have THREE extra “Hugs/Kisses” and then its bedtime. End of story. She picked up on it quickly. She sleeps an average of 10 hours at night and 2-3 hours in the afternoons.

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