Bedtime Bliss for Everyone (Pedcast)

Here we go with another portable, practical, episode of, the pediatric blog designed to empower parents. I’m Dr. Paul Smolen, your host. Thank you for tuning in today. Topics around the subject of sleep are always important to parents since many often get so little shut-eye. Long time listeners probably remember my pedcast called “Straight talk about sleep in infancy,” where we discussed sleep training for infants. If you have a infant in your house, you don’t want to miss that one. You may also remember the talk titled “Sleep beyond the crib,” which was designed to help parents with older children who resist sleep. In that episode, I laid out a strategy to gently help children become independent in the going-to-sleep process. Well, today I am going to give you some tips on how to make sleep resistance by older children easier on everyone and at the same time improve your child’s chances of school success. Sounds like a tall order, but actually it’s easy, as you will see in a moment. Let’s get started, shall we?

It seems like all children fight sleep. I know I did. I didn’t want to miss the action, and I always felt like I was being punished by being sent to bed. You may have some children in your family that feel the same way; we certainly did. So, this is how we dealt with their resistance to go to bed. First, you need to establish a bedtime routine for your older children that is fairly consistent.  Try to repeat the exact same steps every night so that your children know exactly what to expect; for instance, it’s dinner and cleanup, then an after-dinner activity like being read to or a game, next it’s bed preparation of pajamas and teeth care, and then time to get into the bed. So far so good, but now comes the trouble… the natural resistance to separation. Here comes the “I have to go to the bathroom,” and the “I need a drink of water,” and of course the “I am scared, you need to stay with me” talk. I recommend that you only put up with this very briefly and then you make it clear to your child that the excuses are over. Nada mas.  No more!

After all this fussing, your child is probably anything but tired and can’t understand why you are making them go to bed… think about it from their perspective: not tired but being forced to go to bed? What’s with this? To help your child and yourself, I recommend, at this point, that you give your child some control of their fate and tell them that they don’t have to go to sleep; you will leave some light on for them, and they can READ in their bed as long as they wish. Call their bluff and tell them they can have what they want, no set bedtime! Make sure to provide them with plenty of reading material they may like.  Weekly trips to the library can really help here. If this strategy works like it did in my family, bedtime arguments will gradually fade away, your children will become addicted to reading, their language skills will go off the scale, and their academic achievement will skyrocket… all because you stopped fighting with them about going to bed. Not bad, huh?! Try it and see for yourself. Your children may end up staying up later than their parents, but over time they will adjust their actual sleep time to get enough sleep to be alert during the day, I promise.

Portable, practical pediatrics is what I promised you and what I try and deliver in each pedcast. I hope I succeeded today. I welcome your stories and comments at or at my site on iTunes. This is DocSmo, recording from studio 1E,  hoping that bedtimes in your house are as quiet as a church mouse. Until next time.