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Dealing with kids who aren't tired at night

I have a 2yo boy and 4yo girl and some nights (most nights for 4yo) we have to fight to get them to sleep as they say they just aren't tired. They have a bedtime of 7pm after dinner, bath, book then get into bed. It has been this way since they were babies. Sometimes I'm up with my 4 year old till 10 at night with her screaming and crying, getting out of bed. I've asked her to lay quietly in bed, or look at a book but she's still getting up and down etc. how do other people go about this ? Or what systems are in place for your children when it's bedtime when they're not tired ?


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Answers (5)

There are many other factors that need to be considered. Are they day sleeping. If so how long for? What are their days like? Active or settled? Are they eating well as it can impact on sleep? Do you do a bed time routine?

It really depends on a lot. My 2 and 4 year old go to bed with no arguments. We decreased their nap at daycare, read 2 books for bed (1 new and 1 that is always read to que bedtime- where is the green sheep).

Another thing that really helped was putting their beds in the same room. They felt much safer and more settled having someone in the room with them.
We also shut tv off and turn lights put when we start the routine so they think everyone is going to bed (they don't like to miss out). Then when they are in bed we have a cup of tea and turn the tv on low.

Have a think about a few of these things and if there is anything you can trial or change. Best of luck.

I think your 4 year old is playing you. The best advice I can give is ignore any carrying on from her (do not respond!), and if she gets out of bed, without saying a single word to her, take her gently by the hand, lead her back to bed, point at the bed, or pat the pillow or mattress so she knows to get in, wait until she is in, pull the covers up, kiss her, then walk out without looking back. She might holler, she might scream, just ignore it. If she gets up again, repeat by not responding to her and put her back to bed. She will get very bored very quickly of the whole situation, and after a couple of nights, she will probably stop the whole process of attention seeking. Don't feel bad about any of it, you need downtime too.

As a "sleepless elite," I only need 4 or 5 hours. I physically can't make myself sleep more than 6 unless I'm sick or heavily medicated. Even as an infant, I slept about half as much as the average. My parents and I battled over sleep my entire life. My doctor told them to have me rest. Low but adequate light and read or watch a movie until I was ready to sleep. My son has not inherited my insomnia or low need for sleep. Bedtime is a real thing in my house. If he's not lights out by 9 (age 10), heaven help us all tomorrow! He naturally wakes at 6. Since he was born, he's always needed the highest of recommended range for sleep, sometimes more when he's growing. What I'm saying is, every kid is different. Try letting 4 look at a book or listen to music and rest for a bit if he won't settle right down. The tension of trying to force it will have the opposite effect. This way he may just relax on his schedule and nod off in an hour.

Like above poster, I'm a short sleeper. I remember bedtime being absolute hell on earth. Being forced to lie in the dark for hours, getting books taken away from me if I tried to read by a tiny bit of light coming in the window. It was torture. And you think there's something wrong with you, that you're being bad, when really your body just doesn't need the extra sleep. When I was older and was allowed to be in charge of my own lamp (like 16), I would happily read myself to sleep every night till 1am and be up at 5, totally refreshed like a normal person having 8-10 hours.
If this is the case with your four year old, it's possible that if you stop trying to make her sleep, she won't have such an issue with staying in bed. Borrow or buy classic books, The Faraway Tree would probably be age appropriate. Have a dim lamp, and pop in at midnight to turn it off and take the book off her face. I wouldn't recommend movies, I think it's a bad sleep time habit and won't give good quality sleep. And music playing softly just irritates me, but great if it works for her. (Audio books might be a good option though, can you get them for young children?)

If however she's not a short sleeper (after less than six hours sleep she's a wreck), go to sleep school. There are publicly funded ones, with a waiting list of about six weeks. I had a fantastic experience at one with my second child (baby though).

There is no magic formulae. Maybe take them for a long walk/run in the afternoon and check they are getting enough fruit n veg in diet and no artificial sugars or caffeine drinks. Reduce ipads/phone screens as it can affect sleep in sensitive kids. My son was hyper on any sugar. Previous suggestion of maybe music or auditory storybooks with low lighting sounds worth trying. If you're at witsend then maybe talk to Tressilian, they might have some helful advice?