Persistent Sleep Problems

Savvy strategies for getting a night-owl to sleep through the night.
Night Moves

Q. My 4-1/2-year-old has yet to sleep through the night. She continues to wake two to four times a night. Even if I go to her room and sleep with her, she tosses and turns and wakes up. We tried a sleep expert about a year ago, but even he was surprised by her lack of progress. I even have a routine I faithfully follow to get her to bed, which still is quite an event. Nothing seems to help.

A. I don't have enough information to give you a thorough answer, but if you've joined her in her bed (or the other way around) any time in the last three months I'm not surprised that things aren't working. You must promise yourself that for the next three weeks you won't allow this to happen. That should be long enough to extinguish her hope that it's a possibility, because as long as that hope exists you're going to have a problem. Make sure that her daytime is relaxed and not exhausting, that her nap (if she has one) doesn't start later that 12:30, and then commit yourselves to having her sleep in her own room. Just hope she doesn't get sick during this "training" period. Limit your bedtime ritual to 15 minutes (make a pictogram contract, if that helps). If she wants the door open or the light on, these are leverage items you can use if she doesn't keep the contract. Obviously, the first time you shut the light out or close the door, you should do it for only a few seconds, so that she understands that you mean what you say. These things do work.

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All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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