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Help Your Child Sleep Longer and Better

Help Your Child Sleep Longer and Better

Parents have many ideas about how to help their little ones sleep better, and one of them is to keep their children up late to make them extra tired for bedtime. They hope that if their child is “really tired” he will sleep better. The problem is that this often backfires — because the child becomes over-tired. Keep doing this and he could become chronically sleep deprived.

Pushing a child past his “tired” point and delaying bedtime by even 30 minutes can be destructive to sleep patterns. It can also cause a bedtime battle with a cranky overtired child, and sadly, can cause even more night wakings. So a too-late bedtime is often followed by disruptive sleep.

Most babies and young children have a biological clock that is pre-set for an early bedtime: around 6-8 PM. When parents work with their child’s preferred time, a child falls asleep more easily and stays asleep. It is helpful if you set a bedtime based on your child’s biological clock, and then plan for it by beginning your pre-bed routine an hour beforehand.

Even if bedtime seems to go smoothly, however, some children wake much earlier than their parents would prefer. Very often an early waking child is doing so out of habit, and it may take a few weeks of consistent changes before you see a new wake-up time emerge. But with a persistent new routine you should be able to get your early bird to sleep a little longer. 

Try some of these tips:

  • Re-set your child's biological clock by keeping the house dimly lit in the hour before bedtime, keep sleeping time dark, and have breakfast in a brightly lit room. 
  • Keep your child’s room dark during all the hours you want her to sleep. Use blinds, curtains, or even a blanket or big pieces of cardboard to keep out unwanted light.
  • Schedule playtime in the afternoon or early evening outside when you can. When you can’t get outside keep the play area brightly lit. This mid-afternoon bought of brightly-lit activity time helps set her biological clock.
  • Try treating the early morning awakening as if it’s 2:00 A.M. and respond to your child as you do with a night waking. If the windows are covered and the room is dark your child may accept that it’s the middle of the night and not the morning.
  • Hold off breakfast for thirty minutes to an hour after your child wakes up. She may have set her “hunger alert” to go off at 6:00 A.M. By holding off breakfast in the morning you may be able to re-set the time she gets hungry. If she can’t wait that long, try a small snack, like a few crackers, and delay a full breakfast for a bit.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time seven days a week. Changing the schedule each weekend will likely prevent you from finding success at getting a reasonable wake up time during the week.


Elizabeth Pantley is the author of the bestselling book The No-Cry Sleep Solution and 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution series, which helps moms and dads through all key stages of parenting.


Elizabeth Pantley's picture
No-Cry Solution Series Author

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, as well as six other books in the series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety SolutionThe No-Cry Potty Training SolutionThe No-Cry Discipline Solution, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, plus other successful parenting books. She is known worldwide as the practical, reasonable voice of respectful parenting.