By Chris Woolston, M.S.
Why is it important to get my child to bed early?
Kids need a lot of sleep to function at their best. Toddlers and preschoolers may need 11 and a half to 13 and a half hours of sleep every day, and at this age, a later bedtime doesn't usually mean a later rising time. Children who don't get enough sleep tend to be cranky, irritable, and easily frustrated. Some even become overactive in an effort to keep themselves awake. Besides, putting your child to bed early gives you a little time for yourself or your spouse at the end of the day. Keeping to a regular bedtime also teaches your child about limits.
Why does my child have such a hard time going to bed?
Kids don't want to miss out on anything (they think the fun starts after they go to sleep). Your child may also be having trouble separating from you, or he might simply be trying to assert his independence.
How can I put a stop to bedtime struggles?
Follow these tried-and-true strategies:
Don't worry if these strategies don't take hold right away, particularly if you've never set a bedtime routine before. It might take a couple of weeks for your family to settle into the groove. In the meantime, be understanding but firm about sticking to it, even if it's not convenient for you. It might sometimes be easier to let your child fall asleep on the couch while you watch TV or read a book, but you'll be better off in the long run -- and so will your child -- if he's on a regular sleep schedule.
Frances L. Ilg, M.D., Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., and Sidney M. Baker, M.D. Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development. 1992. Harper Paperbacks.
Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D. Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep. 2005. Harper Paperbacks.
Last Updated: March 11, 2013
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