Sleep Limit-Setting Problems

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Sleep limit-setting problems usually begin after the age of two. It occurs when your child refuses to go to bed, stalls, or makes it hard for you to leave the bedside. Limit-setting problems can occur at bedtime, nap time, or when your child wakes up during the night.

Parents need to assert that they are the ones who decide when it is time for bed. They should enforce this time even if the child disagrees or seems active and alert. Children can get very creative when they want to stay up later.

They may ask for one more hug, a tissue, a drink of water, another story, to have the light turned off or on, or to “tell you something important.” It can be hard to know what is real and what is simply a delay tactic.

You need to be firm and consistent when you respond to the delays. Giving in to them will only encourage the behavior. Parents need to give their children well-defined limits.

Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Better

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Be sure you are setting the bedtime and wake up times appropriately for your child’s age. See our Sleep Guidelines for Children.
  • Interact with your child at bedtime. Don’t let the TV, computer or video games take your place.
  • Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.
  • Try to avoid allowing your child to use any electronic media for 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.
  • At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.

A child who gets enough sleep and sleeps well is more likely to be cheerful during the day. The better the child sleeps, the happier the entire family will be. Most sleep problems in children are not a result of bad parenting. These problems also do not mean that there is something seriously wrong with your child.

If your child has an ongoing sleep problem, then you should talk to your child’s doctor or give us a call at 847-674-3600 to make an appointment.

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