Toddler takes a LONG time to fall asleep - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 06-07-2008, 02:15 AM - Thread Starter
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So a few nights I was thinking how great it was that my husband and I are so up with the nighttime parenting--we are so cool. But tonight it did not seem so cool.

My DS is almost 3 and all his life he has been rocked, nursed and parented to sleep. The bedtime process has always taken at least an hour, maybe two. Many nights he falls asleep around 10 or later because it takes a long time for him to fall asleep. As a result, he falls asleep late and sometimes wakes up earlier than he should. So I have tried to put him to bed earlier, but it always ends up being 10 or later.

How can we help him fall asleep quicker?
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#2 of 13 Old 06-07-2008, 09:19 AM
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In my can't.

If I tried putting my kids to bed earlier than when they are actually sleepy, I'd also be spending an hour or two doing so. Instead, I have found it easier to just wait until they are sleepy. Sometimes it's 8:30pm at our house, sometimes it's 9:30pm and other times it's been 10pm. Though most days it's usually by 9pm. Keep in mind though, that if you start to do this, it could take a couple of weeks for the child to adjust before they start sleeping in later in the morning.

We've had very early wake-ups and very late wake-ups, but the kids just seem to adjust. On a very early wake-up, we have resting time for my oldest when she seems tired, but not tired enough for napping. And my youngest still naps, so he just sleeps again whenever he's tired. He takes naps on me, so we can still go about our day and he naps in a sling.

Hope that helps!

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#3 of 13 Old 06-07-2008, 09:31 AM
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DS is 2 and we've come to realize that our presence is no longer relaxing- it's stimulating. So we now lie with him until he's relaxed and then we get up. We tell him we'll be back in a bit and usually he'll call for us after 10 minutes or so. so we go back in.. repeat.

Overall he's going to sleep more quickly but more importantly we don't have to lie there for an hour anymore!

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#4 of 13 Old 06-07-2008, 01:31 PM
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I feel like all I do around here lately is second D_McG!

Also, try Sleepless in America. She has some great plans for getting yourself out of the child's nighttime routine, so you are not held captive there for hours.
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#5 of 13 Old 06-07-2008, 01:50 PM
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Talk to him about the bedtime routine and how it is going to change. Tell him in advance, "we are going to do xyz, and then you are going to lie down and go to sleep." Talk up how important good sleep is so he can have a fabulous day when he wakes up, how it helps him grow. Tell him that mommy and daddy are right outside his door, it's okay, he can lie in bed until he falls asleep.

I have had great success talking to my ds, who just turned 2, about how things are going to go to prepare him. He can't say much, but he understands sooooo much.

Try it. What I described above is pretty much how I helped ds learn to fall asleep, pretty quickly, on his own.

Caution: once you say something is going to happen, it needs to happen, even if you have to work through a little protest.

Good luck and hth!
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#6 of 13 Old 06-08-2008, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by D_McG View Post
DS is 2 and we've come to realize that our presence is no longer relaxing- it's stimulating. So we now lie with him until he's relaxed and then we get up. We tell him we'll be back in a bit and usually he'll call for us after 10 minutes or so. so we go back in.. repeat.

Overall he's going to sleep more quickly but more importantly we don't have to lie there for an hour anymore!
Okay, I was just going to post something about this exact issue. We are having this issue in the house and it is very frusterating! My instincts tell me that what you are describing may be a good plan for our family too. Thanks for posting!

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#7 of 13 Old 06-08-2008, 11:54 PM
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maybe just try starting the process closer to the time he actually falls asleep. he might just not be tired enough. my DD is 3 and she has always been "parented" to sleep as well, but normally, falls asleep within 5-10 minutes. I just wait until I know she's tired enough, which isn't the same every night, but is usually around 9:30 or 10. she's just a night owl.

DD1 7/13/05 DD2 9/20/10
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#8 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 01:21 AM
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I came to post the same thing. My DS is 21 months, and the last month or so has been resisting bedtime like crazy.

In trying to figure out what to do, I think the first step is to decide as best you can which of these is the problem:
  1. LO is simply not tired yet and needs to either drop a nap or have a later bedtime. Look up the sleep chart on babycenter to see the "typical" sleep recommendation by age (for 2 years it is 11 hours at night and 1 2 hour nap in the day) to help figure out if this is really the category you are in. But really, it's not up to babycenter, it's up to you.
  2. LO is actually too tired and is harder to put down due to overtiredness. I've read a lot that says that kids who are going to bed too late often wake up too early, too. Is LO really cranky at bedtime? Probably is in this category, then. I think that if you look at your kiddo and you are mystified as to why they aren't going to sleep because they seem so tired... this is the category you are in.
  3. LO is perfectly ready for bedtime but is using delaying tactics because he/she has just learned that he/she CAN. He/she rubs his/her eyes, yawns, but asks for more water, more potty time, or more snuggling.

I think it has to be one of these three things-- would you all agree?

So... what to do about each one of these? (And help me out here- we can be the blind leading the blind, right?)
  1. Not tired yet: Try dropping a nap, moving nap up, or simply making bedtime later. Whatever you do, do it for as many days as you can to let LO get used to it and to see if you can discern any changes.
  2. LO is TOO tired: Try moving bedtime up incrementally each night by 15 minutes and see if you note any changes. Alternately, put to bed as soon as you suspect LO is tired after 6:30, and stick with it for at least a week.
  3. Delaying tactics... sigh. This is where we are, and I'm looking for ideas.

We have begun lying in bed with him for an hour until he falls asleep. It makes me crazy, and a couple of times I end up undermining my whole patient hour by yelling at him at the end of it to JUST GO TO SLEEP, which he does directly, but scared by the appearance of Mean Mommy. So obviously, this is not working for us-- everything in my parenting style tries to keep there from being a Mean Mommy, ever.

But it does make me crazy. What can I do? If I let him stay up until he falls asleep, he ends up cranky and I end up with no evening to myself, which I need to keep Mean Mommy away. I really just don't think this is an option for us.

So what else? Here are the three options I am debating between:
  1. Keep bedtime the same as usual, but when he won't fall asleep after 15 minutes of snuggling, get up. Make sure all toys have been put away before bedtime. Continue on with evening mommy activities; don't give him any special attention when he comes out to the living room. Don't force him to go to sleep, but don't make staying up fun. Bore him to tears, maybe even literally, and then offer to take him to bed and snuggle for another 15 minutes. PROBLEM: Toys in his room, if put away, are still accessible. Do I just let him play by himself if he so chooses? I think so.
  2. Change bedtime routine. He used to nurse to sleep, but doesn't anymore. This is ok since we have a new baby coming, and I'd kind of like to not have to nurse him down when baby 2 gets here anyway. But right now I'm still doing the same routine I did when he would nurse down in 10 easy, god-sent minutes. So maybe I need to move nursing way up in the routine and have daddy put him to bed. Maybe shaking things up a bit would cause him to reconsider. PROBLEM: I can't do this right now, as daddy is working late nights. We'd need at least a week of doing this consistently to see if he would catch on. I don't have that week.
  3. Keep bedtime the same as usual, but snuggle for the duration of 1 "sleep song" on his CD, and then tell him I'm leaving and he is going to sleep. I'd need to read more about this. I'm afraid of doing it.

Sigh. I'm really thinking out loud here. I'm going to try number 1, I think. We can even incorporate a new step into the bedtime routine-- saying "goodnight" to all of his toys before bathtime- putting everything away and trying to signal that playtime is over.

Oh, and I'm going to get some heavier drapes for his south and west facing windows as the days get longer. I think that may have something to do with it!

Distraction is not the same thing as play.
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#9 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 02:11 PM
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Does he still nap? We've found that on days when ds (2.5) doesn't get his afternoon nap, he's asleep INSTANTLY at night. Totally makes up for the pre-bedtime hour of insanity with a grumpy toddler...

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#10 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 02:42 PM
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I agree with the op. Once we eliminated the nap (she was still napping for 2 hours, but not falling asleep in the evening till 9:30 or 10), dd started falling asleep much faster and earlier. She still gets her 12 hours, it's just all in one shot now. I really miss the naps in the afternoon though.

Diane, SAHM to DD (June 05) and DS (April 07).
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#11 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 08:57 PM
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Thanks for this thread. :

My DD 15months old and has resisted sleep most of her life. The quickest way for us to get her to sleep is to wear her on the front and bounce on a ball (this is after a normal bedtime routine). But it seems ridiculous to still be bouncing a 15month old to sleep! And the last few nights it hasn't worked. Tonight the plan is to wait until she is good and tired, though that probably won't be until after 10.

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#12 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 09:20 PM
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So it's not just us huh?

So, I'm not ready for her to cut out her nap. And I don't think she is ready to cut down her nap either. She falls asleep SO FAST for nap. Total combined sleep she gets about 12 hours, which is on target. Also, the later she goes to bed, the earlier she wakes up. UGH!! She can't really go to bed earlier if she wants to see dadda in the evening, won't sleep later in the AM because we usually wake her up when we get up. I actually think she is overtired by bed time, and keeps herself up in a half dream sort of state driving us CRAZY.

Our solution: moving nap a littler earlier and bedtime a littler earlier. Also, adding some rough play between nap and bedtime.

I've also noticed that we never really gave her tools to fall asleep on her own. Like learning to relax and just let go. So, the past few nights I've laid down with her and let her kick around and play until she reaches that "critical" point, and have then helped her relax her body. Sometimes I even have to hold her, swaddle like, to calm her down. Then I've started counting forwards and backwards from 100. I've only got to do this about 4 times, getting quieter and quieter. It's been getting shorter to put her down, and tonight is the first night we've moved bedtime up. If it works out I'll let you know

Next step: getting us out of the process. Sleepless in America you say?
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#13 of 13 Old 06-10-2008, 10:22 PM
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Ah, a god-sent thread! DD just turned three and has never had an easy time falling asleep. We've always parented her to sleep, laying with her these days. These days she resists sleep - whether she's not tired yet, good and tired or overtired, it's always the same. She asks for things (though she doesn't get them), she blabbers, sits up, wants the other parent, pokes her brother, gets out of bed, pokes my face . . .

The thing is, she falls asleep pretty well at nap time these days, and on her own. We just call it quiet time now and she can play in her room. Most days, she will eventually recognize she is tired and snuggle into bed, or fall asleep in the middle of the floor. But, I've tried this at bedtime and it hasn't worked. Maybe I need to give her longer???

I appreciate you thinking out loud aletheia - I guess I will try your num. 1 plan too. I feel like I've done something very similar and feel crazy after a while because I keep having to repeat the process all evening! Maybe we will rework the bedtime routine and write it out with pictures so there are no questions about how things transpire. One thing we do indulge her on is who she wants to sleep with. I guess I figure that it will help her to sleep. But, maybe I should stop letting her switch parents, esp with ds here now as of one month. Maybe stand firm on the first parent she chose. It would be a fight at first, but maybe it would pay off??

OK, thanks mamas for your company on this parenting adventure!
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