Does this sound familiar?
Your child crawls into your bed every night.
Your child wakes up and calls you to sleep in their tiny bed at 2:00 am.
You can't remember the last time you felt energized and refreshed after sleeping.
You are worried that interrupted sleep is affecting your mental and physical health, and is leaking into all other areas of your life.
For me, it started sometime after daylight savings time. My high energy 3-year-old would start out sleeping in his own bed, but would wake up in the night and come crawl into my husband and I's bed. He would then proceed to roll around awhile, and eventually ask me to go sleep in his bed.
Not wanting to get up and walk around at night, I just started sleeping in my son's room. He would still wake up at night, but at least I didn't have to get out of bed. A slight improvement.
The sleep deprivation was getting to me though. I was staying up late at night working and getting up early in the morning when the kids woke up. I finally decided that IT WAS TIME. Something had to change.
I am guessing that because you are reading this article, you also came to the point where you realized that getting some uninterrupted sleep needs to be a priority...because you can't keep functioning at 20%. Good for you! The next step is figuring out HOW to get that straight sleep.
You have tried the usual:
Strict bedtime routine
Supplements such as melatonin
Increasing outdoor play time
Decreasing electronic time
If you were like me and have tried numerous strategies, but are still struggling, let's keep going. I have come up with a method that I believe will work for most children. Every child is different, which is why no one method is THE answer. You have to try different things and figure out what works for your child. This method was designed for a high-energy, light sleeper/fast waker. If that sounds like your child, read on.
Whatever method you use, keep these three things in mind:
Your method needs to be as interesting and exciting as possible.
You may need to use certain strategies in conjunction with each other.
Consistency is important.
Here is exactly what I did:
Step 1: Pick a reward and reward delivery method that your child would find interesting.
Step 2: Show the item to your child and explain how it works and what it is for.
I told my son that I got him a doggy bank and showed it to him. I let him open it and explained that if he spent the whole night in the bed by himself that I would give him a quarter to put in the bank each morning and there would be a prize inside.
Let me tell you, he was REALLY excited. He wanted to use that doggy bank right away.
Step 3: Remind them of the plan and place the item close to them at bedtime so that they are thinking about it before sleeping.
At bedtime, I set the dog bank next to him and reminded him before he fell asleep that he was going to sleep in his bed all night and wait for me to come to him, to let him know it was morning and to give him a quarter.
Step 4: If they wake up at night, remind them of the plan and why he or she wants to stick to it.
The first night, he came to my room and I reminded him to go back to bed and stay there until I came to get him in the morning so that he could put a quarter in the doggy bank in the morning. He went back to his bed and went back to sleep!
Step 5: Tell your child great job and let them have fun getting their prize.
In the morning I praised him for staying in his bed all night and put a small treat in the bank and gave him a quarter. He put it in and LOVED watching the dog eat it, and then finding the prize inside. I also called his grandparents and made sure he overheard me talking about how he slept all night in his own bed!
*After about a week, he was used to sleeping in his bed and would probably do it without using the doggy bank as a reinforcer. But, since he likes using it, we have continued.
Some children need additional support, such as a visual clue to let them know when it is morning, or a visual sleep chart to show when they can sleep with you and when they need to sleep in their own bed (if that is something you want to do). Some children need the reassurance that at least once a week that they get to sleep with you still, while others need consistency to learn. Do what works best for your child and you!
This requires knowing what would interest your child the most. My child did not care about an offer of candy or small prizes, because he liked sleeping with me more than he liked them (yay! lol)! I realized that I needed to create something exciting for him, something interesting that would garner his attention.
Handing him a prize in the morning was boring, but what if it was a process? With that in mind, I bought the "silliest, most interactive" piggy bank I could find: The doggy piggy bank that eats a quarter when you set it in the dog bowl.
If you would like to use the visual sleep chart that I created, you can find it here. The price is set at $3.99, and has a money back guarantee if you use it and it doesn't work for your child, you can just shoot me a message saying: "Refund" and you will get your money back with no questions asked. Simple! :) Etsy also has tons of other cute sleep charts, so you are bound to find one to suit your needs!
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. The items I linked were ones that I used and liked, but may not be relevant to your child's interests. Pick something for them! :)