When children don't want to sleep – tips and tricks

When kids don’t want to sleep: Tips and tricks

07.02.2012, 11:43 a.m. | aj (CF)

Evening rituals help children find the peace they need to fall asleep (Source: Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

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Many parents know the problem: children never seem to show any signs of fatigue and do not want to go to bed. A thousand things seem to be more important: It’s not so late yet and you want to tell so much, you’re thirsty or it’s too warm. But what can you do to make children go to bed and stay there? Read the following helpful tips and tricks.

Why do kids have such a hard time falling asleep?

“For children, going to sleep is usually the end of a lively and exciting day and per se boring. In this respect, it is understandable that children often delay going to bed,” explains psychologist Matthias Müller-Guth from the SOS Family Centre in Berlin. The reasons for sleep disturbances are various: They are thereby dependent on the age, the sleep type and on the psyche of the child.

It’s part of a happy childhood.

Photo series with 7 pictures

Depending on age, a child needs more or less sleep. A baby needs several rest periods a day, whereas an eight-year-old child may not need a midday nap. One child needs ten hours of sleep, another eight hours. The cause of the sleep disorder is rather the child’s expectations of its parents.

Wrong idea of “falling asleep”

The child associates falling asleep with certain actions, persons or objects that are missing while falling asleep. For example, if the child is used to being fed, swayed or otherwise receiving attention after waking up, it is difficult for him or her to fall asleep alone. To solve your child’s sleep problems, you must teach him to associate falling asleep at all times with new, different associations that do not require any reaction from you as parents. With encouragement and reassurance, you teach your child to fall asleep independently.

Tip: Festive evening rituals

Give your child fixed rituals to prepare him or her for bed and let the day end quietly: A warm bath in the evening, a story to be read in bed or a radio cassette are good ways to relax the child and prepare it for sleep. A tender crawl on the back also has a calming effect on the child. Of course, your child will not agree with this right from the start. Give yourself and your child enough time to adjust to the new situation.

A night light can help

A small night light helps to reduce anxiety. Leave the door open a little so that your child does not feel excluded and alone. Avoid it, even if it is difficult to let your child sleep in his or her parents’ bed. This has the opposite effect and means that your child no longer wants to sleep in his or her own bed.

Tips for sleep problems

The developed structures give your child orientation. Make sure to follow the rituals so that your child can get used to the process and learn to follow it on his own. On the one hand, this will enable your child to rest in the evening and, on the other hand, to learn how to cope independently with everyday life.

If, despite all your efforts, the sleep problems persist, you should try to find out the causes. Sometimes the child is depressed by something that prevents him or her from falling asleep. There may be problems in kindergarten or school, or your child may be afraid of the dark. Give your child security by listening or physical proximity. You can also seek the advice of your family doctor to rule out medical causes.

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