5 Tips for a Child Who Refuses to Sleep

I have a child whose body clock is all out of whack.  He is a night owl and it appears that no amount of running him ragged will change that for the long term.  It has taken me a long time to get to the this point and there are still moments when I wish he would just GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW.

sleeping child

  1. Getting angry won’t make a difference.  This was probably the one that has taken me the longest to come to terms with.  It is only through beginning to work on Acceptance Commitment Therapy that I have begun to be more calm about the situation.  Getting angry with Mr 4 won’t make one iota of difference to the situation.  It won’t magically change it.
  2. Have realistic expectations.  I used to chastise Mr 4 for getting out of bed and playing with toys in his room.  Generally speaking he wasn’t coming out of his room, and me going in there to tell him to get into bed was no doubt prolonging his sleep time.  Now, as long as he is in his room, I am happy.
  3. Where they sleep doesn’t matter.  Mr 4 regularly sleeps on his fold out couch on his bed or on his bedroom floor.  Last week he fell asleep in one of his toy boxes (don’t worry I moved him that time!).  After he finally falls asleep, I am not taking the risk of him waking up again because I moved him.  I throw a blanket on him, make sure there are no toys he can hurt himself on and leave him be.
  4. You don’t have to sleep when they do.  This is one of my biggest pet hates, the assumption that I should go to bed early if Mr 4 does.  Sleep isn’t the biggest thing that I miss about having a child who sleeps to a regular schedule.  I miss having me time, watching a scary movie because I don’t have to worry that he will walk out in the middle of it.  Eating the smarties that I had stashed in the pantry.  Sometimes it’s the small pleasures that make all of the difference.
  5. You’re doing a great job.  Having a child who doesn’t sleep can absolutely make you feel like you have failed one of the fundamental *rules* of being a parent.  Don’t listen to the people who tell you that your child just needs discipline and to be told no.  It can feel so isolating when you are sitting up at midnight writing a blog post, wishing that your child will just go to sleep already.  Just know that you aren’t alone.  You are doing the best you absolutely know how and that’s ok.

Do you have a night owl?  Were you a night owl as a child?

Linking up with Jess for IBOT.

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20 thoughts on “5 Tips for a Child Who Refuses to Sleep

  1. Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    Good tips!
    No – my kids are sleepy heads like me. We’re all in bed and asleep by around 9.00pm. It’s my husband who is the night owl … and like you, when I wake up in the night and find him asleep on the couch I just throw a blanket over him. Luckily I haven’t found him in the toy box (yet).
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  2. Lydia C. Lee

    Great advice – there is nothing so stress inducing than a child who is awake when you want to go to sleep…We don’t have a night owl but I am in the midst of nightmares, that require me to bed hop for a bit. That’s making me sleepy (I use that term because it sounds better than grouchy)

  3. EssentiallyJess

    I’ve got one that doesn’t like sleep, but no where near this bad. I have shed A LOT of tears over his lack of sleep, particularly when he was a baby. It was just so exhausting. And yes, most nights you just want some time out for yourself!

  4. Bec @ The Plumbette

    I’ve been having issues with Esther getting out of bed constantly after she’s been out to bed. Magdalene goes down at 7.30pm every night. Thankfully they don’t have sleep problems and I’m praying my next baby will be a good sleeper.

  5. Kathy

    My four year old has been harder to get to sleep lately – I think it is an age thing with him as he’s always been OK and he is having ‘power naps’ during the day. I think the start of school next year may make the difference to getting a solid sleep routine – from our experience with our daughter they are just so tired that they fall asleep without even trying.

  6. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen

    It’s so frustrating when you just want to go to bed, but they’re nowhere near ready!
    I think the most important tip here is number 1 Tegan. Getting angry about it helps neither of you x

  7. Rach

    I was a kid who survived well on 4-6 hours sleep…my mum used to freak out about it but then they found if I had a bedside lamp I would go to sleep when I was ready…..there was rest time where I had to be in bed but I could read……the pics of your little fella asleep on the floor were so adorable xx

  8. SarahD @SnippetsandSpirits

    Oh my goodness Sleep it cause such stress when we cant have it. I totally get how you need that time on your own to be yourself for an hour or so before we have to get up and do it all over again. My boys are night sleepers as am I so I am grateful for this. I cut ot my nearly 2 years olds afternoon nap pretty early at about 2.5 as he was not going to bed at night. He still needed his nap but it was not worth the pain in the evening.

  9. The Thrifty Issue

    My 6 year old has been a wonderful sleeper since she was born really. She slept through the night at 6 weeks, never wet the bed, can fall asleep anywhere etc… Stuff parents dream of.

    Her sister…
    She won’t settle, won’t stay in bed, fights sleep and I was just about at my wits end. I tried wearing her out, reading books etc. Then, last week she asked to sleep in her sisters room. Her sister agreed. Every night now they are sleeping in the same room, fighting less and sleeping better. Shocked me.

    I think you are doing a great job.

  10. Chantel

    Im so lucky I don’t have this problem. My son goes to sleep at 7 and wakes up at 7. I am a night owl though, so it wouldn’t matter much to me if he was awake, it must just be exasperating for you when you know he needs his sleep! Good tips.

    Hello from #teamIBOT

  11. Emma Fahy Davis

    We’ve just resorted to giving Miss 5 melatonin before bed, I was skeptical but it has made a huuuuge difference for her! It used to be that I would put her to bed and she’s still be bouncing around at 11pm, now she’s asleep by 7.15. I’m going to try the old bait and switch with a placebo to see if it’s the actual melatonin that’s working or just her *believing* it’s making her sleepy tho as I am still a skeptic!

  12. Hope

    Oh I so need these tips right now, thanks!! I’m dealing with a sick bub who seems to be able to survive on 20 minute power naps for the last 7 days. It’s taking all my strength to not pack it in!

  13. Bronnie - Maid In Australia

    I so feel your pain in this. My son had a long standing issue with insomnia. Nothing seemed to help. Melatonin did for a short while but not once he hit a certain age. And medication didn’t help. Sleep hygiene, massage, exercise – we tried it all. He seems to have grown out of it finally. I agree that trying to give up some of the worry and emotion is part of it. As a long time insomniac myself I felt guilt as well that maybe I had given him this. And I certainly know that no one, certainly not a kid, really wants to stay awake all night. Hope you all get some sleep soon xx

  14. Kelly

    My son is slowly turning into a night owl. I was one when I was younger too. He is only three, but he is falling asleep later and later these days. You are right, it is very hard not to get angry, but it really doesn’t do anything. Some great points there 🙂


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