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My child has trouble going to sleep

- Tips for tackling issues around sleep and bedtime

Illustration of a child in bed crying

Things you can try

  1. Present a calm and confident approach to bedtime

    It’s really common for bedtime to be a challenge – and calm is probably the last thing any of us feel!

    But you do need to find a way to seem calm and confident, even if you’re stressed underneath. That way, your child is more likely to be calm.

    One way to reduce your stress levels is to remember that lots of children find sleep difficult, and that’s very natural.

  2. Check you’ve taken all the practical steps you can

    When your child is having trouble sleeping you need to pay extra attention to a few things.

    Make sure they:

    • get fresh air and exercise in the daytime
    • get to spend a little time with you after school each day that is not eating or doing homework. They need a chance to reconnect with you and feel that you are focused on them
    • are tired enough at their bedtime (you might have to adjust the time they go to bed as they grow)
    • have a night light on or a door left open if they are scared of the dark or anxious about being alone.

    Make sure they don't:

    • eat sugary foods and drinks or drinks with caffeine in.
    • use laptops, tablets and phones close to bedtime.
    • watch scary books, films and TV before bedtime.
  3. Think about emotional reasons that could be making it harder for your child to sleep.

    Children take different amounts of time to learn to go to sleep on their own. For many this is just a natural process. But sometimes there are other things going on, that makes it even harder for them.

    Take a bit of time to think about it – you know your child best!

  4. Set up a bedtime routine

    It doesn’t matter what bedtime routine you choose - you can include bath-time, a story, a song, hair-brushing, teeth-cleaning– any little soothing rituals that work for you.

    Make sure the routine is:

    • The same every night
    • At the same time every night – try and choose a time that fits with when your child is naturally sleepy.

    When your child doesn’t fall asleep easily, and is distressed when you leave them repeat the following steps.

    • Kiss them goodnight and promise to come back. Come back almost immediately and give them another kiss goodnight. Repeat this all the time they stay in bed and with longer gaps as they settle more easily.
    • Whenever your child gets up, try to avoid engaging in conversation and simply take them back to bed. You may need to do this several nights before they learn not to get up.

    If you’ve tried anything like this, you’ll know it can be really emotional for the caregiver and hard to get through. But stick with it! Calm persistence really does pay off.

  5. Keep going!

    Remember there is often no quick fix to bedtime difficulties so be kind to yourself.

    Every time I think I’m ready to give up, I remind myself why it’s worth the effort.

  6. Your child is unique and we hope there are some takeaways here that work for you. If you’re looking for help parenting children with additional needs, you can get specific advice from specialist organisations. Check out our list of support that we can recommend.

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