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How you can help your child fall asleep, even if they don’t seem tired? Kids need sleep, even if they don’t show it. They need a consistent bedtime, enough hours of sleep, and a good bedtime routine.

I want to share some of our favorite bedtime routine tips & stories of kids who just won’t wind down.

If you want them to have a great day… it starts with a great night.

sleepy child

Sometimes, kids just fight sleep.  You know that they are tired, you know they are ready for bed, yet they lie there, wide awake.  What can you do about it?

After doing the “bedtime thing” with four children, I can tell you that no two kids are alike.  I have had some children who have gone into bed and fallen asleep in minutes.  I have some who go to bed and lie there thinking for hours.

Even when I would think that they were asleep, I’d check on them only to hear them say, “Hi, Mom” when I walked into the dark bedroom.

Tips to help children fall asleep

Without getting enough sleep, kids are tired. Studies prove that even an hour less sleep than they need can cause them to have a hard time focusing, become irritable and grumpy, and even have their physical health impacted (growth, development, and ability to fight illness).

In other words, it’s important to get enough sleep. There are even stories about how American children sleep an average of two hours less per night than children in other countries.

1- Keeping them up longer WILL NOT help.  

Try as you might, trying to make them more tired by giving them less sleep often backfires, as they become “overly- tired”.  For this reason, our kids all go to bed reasonably early. 

The younger they are, the earlier their bedtime. When our kids were all young, we kept a strict bedtime of 7:00 every night. As they’ve aged, we’ve moved the bedtime back, but we still give all of our kids a bedtime.

2- Find the perfect bedtime.

Finding the perfect time for each child came from trial & error. Yes, children do want to stay up later, but it’s not what is best for them. Just like they don’t want to stop playing, they don’t want to go to sleep. It means that the fun ends for the day. We just have to be consistent.

To find the right bedtime for your child, find out how many hours of sleep they need, and then play around with those times.

When trying out a new bedtime, see how they feel the next day.
Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Did they wake up happy?
  • Did they seem sleepy or grumpy during the day?
  • What about if you keep that bedtime for a few nights… are they still happy, focused, and alert?

If so, it’s probably a good bedtime. Soon, you’ll find the perfect number of sleeping hours for your child.  (Most school-aged children need around 11 hours of sleep.)

3. Eliminate electronics.

If your kids are child is not falling asleep easily, the first thing that I would suggest is eliminating electronics before bed.  Using electronics stimulates their bodies & mind and keeps them up.

I would actually stop all electronics about two to three hours before bed. Replace that time with something soothing and relaxing… like drawing or reading. Our kids love to draw (they keep a sketch pad in their bedrooms) before bed and they all read for at least 30 minutes in bed every night.

4. Read before bed.

Introduce storytime before bed, if you aren’t already doing this.  Our children are allowed thirty minutes of reading in bed every night (example: 8:30-9:00). 

I’ll read to any of them (together or separate), or they can read silently.  Oftentimes, I’ll read a book like “The Boxcar Children” or “Esperanza Rising” to two kids at a time, while the other two read their own books. I love it when I can find a book about bedtime, like Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy.

A woman reading a children\'s book to a little girl.

Reading a book before bed is a great way to help kids relax, take their minds off of other things, and just calm down for the night.

5. Happy thoughts.

The best tip that I heard from a friend was to tell our kids something like, “When you go to bed tonight, don’t dream about puppies.”

What will they do? Think about puppies! 🙂

I try to tell them something happy before bed. We talk about a trip, I make up a story, we talk about their favorite activity. All of these things help to eliminate nighttime separation anxiety and help them feel happy so they can drift off to dreamland…

These Bedtime Questions are the perfect distraction! One card a night will give them great thoughts about as they drift off to sleep.

Conversation cards

6. Music

There is a reason that we sing lullabies to babies.  When our children were having a hard time falling asleep (they all have at one point or another), I just leave my phone in their room with soft music playing.  I take it away once they fall asleep.

Even as they become older, I still sing to them if they’ll let me (although now it’s only our daughter that asks me to sing at night. lol!)

Our older boys, on the other hand, want to talk at night and while I’m always tired, it’s the best thing that we can do. I attribute the relationship that I have with our teens to this nightly chat. They get out all of the things that were on their mind and we grow closer at the same time.

7.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

When our kids truly can’t fall asleep, I’ll snuggle with them for a little bit. If I think it will take longer (or if I think I’ll fall asleep if I lie in there), I work. I’ll get my laptop or my phone, sit on their floor (by the door), and work or read until they fall asleep.  I might read a book, too.

It usually works within minutes. They feel safe because I am there. I can remember the same feeling when I was young… I liked hearing the TV at night because it meant that my mom was still awake, watching TV in the living room.

I just have one rule→ No talking to me while I sit there IF I’m trying to get them to fall asleep. (This is because we have already had our “talking/snuggling” time and now it’s time for sleeping.)  I’m happy to be there for them, but they need to go to sleep.  After our snuggle/talking & reading time is done, it’s time for them to go to sleep.

In the end, just remember that THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS. Your child will start sleeping well soon enough. 🙂

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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