When you have a newborn baby, you expect not to sleep. You know it comes with the territory, right? You are so in love that you take it all in stride. You are SUPER MOM after all! What no one tells you: You may NEVER sleep soundly again. Well, maybe one day, but there are so many stages of worry and sleepless nights in between. We just have to take one day at a time, one stage at a time, and remember this too shall pass.
Sleep regression is a real thing. It can be maddening, and you may feel like you are never going to get through it. But take a deep breath. It’s normal for your child to have some trouble sleeping through the night as they transition from two naps to one.
However, if your four year old has been sleeping through the night and suddenly starts waking up again you may start to panic! But don’t fret, I have a plan for you. It works!
Kristen is our beautiful four and a half year old. She recently started creeping back into our bed at 2 a.m. This sound familiar to anyone:
I roll over to find Kristen two centimeters from my face, staring right at me, scaring me half to death. Now I am wide awake. She snuggles in, looking so angelic.
Then all of a sudden, she unleashes a beast. She turns, tosses and kicks us, and there goes our sleep for the night.
How did Kristen end up in our bed? Jesse and I were pretty firm with the everyone else in our household. My stepsons didn’t sleep in his bed. Gianna didn’t sleep in my bed.
We were not a co-sleeping family. If you are, no judgment here. We all have to do what works. I get it; that was just never us. I have too much anxiety to co-sleep. I was always afraid I would suffocate the baby. I have always felt strongly the kids should sleep in their own beds. But somehow, the littlest one in the family is breaking all the rules.
Why are we struggling with Kristen in our bed? Maybe because she is the youngest and we are older parents. Or I am fairly certain, it is because we broke the routine. We were too tired to carry her back to her bed. We let her snuggle in and then started the day like zombies. We HAD to do something to BREAK the madness.
Routine is EVERYTHING.
Kids are constantly testing boundaries and want to explore the world around them. As a parent, it is important to set rules and limits for your child so that they know what is expected of them. In this blog post, I will discuss some tips that we have found helpful in keeping our preschooler to STAY in her bed through the night.
1.) Reset the Bed Time Routine
Revisit your routine. Have a discussion with your child at dinner and review your nightly schedule. Our bedtime routine looks like this:
- Tubby time
- Brush Teeth
- Bedtime story or
- Brain Quest Cards
- Turn on Light Projector
- This Star Gazer is great for older kids. (Gianna (10) has one)
Kristen LOVES Brain Quest cards before bed. These are an excellent way to review preschool concepts quickly before bed. Offer your child praise as he/she answers correctly building their confidence and mood before bed.
2.) Sit With Your Child For a Few Minutes
Kids love to open up and talk when it is time to go to bed. Enjoy it! One day they will give you one word answers. As much as we all have work to do and lunches to make and toys to clean, we all know time is fleeting.
They are on the verge of going from preschooler to kindergartner. Give them a warning: one more story or five more minutes. Explain that Mommy has to leave your room.
Our little ones thrive on routine. If your child is used to you sitting with them until they fall asleep, start by sitting on the floor or near the door. This will help them to feel comfortable and ease any fears that they may have about being in bed alone. After a few nights, you can start to gradually reduce the amount of time that you sit with them.
3.) Before You Leave, Ask All the Questions
- Do you need water?
- Do you need to go potty again?
- Do you want an extra snuggle or hug?
- Make sure you’ve asked all the questions before you leave the room so your child doesn’t have an excuse to get out of bed.
- Remind your child to stay in their bed and call you if they need you.
- Remind your child of the incentive chart plan
4.) Use an Incentive Chart
Most kids respond well to positive reinforcement. We use an incentive chart with our daughter. I made this adorable incentive chart you can print and use! When we reintroduced the sticker chart, Kristen responded, “Oh, I remember this! I can get prizes!” She gets a sticker for every night that she stays in her bed and doesn’t crash into our bed. Start small.
Something like this: After three nights in a row, you get a special after dinner treat. After 7 nights in a row, you get to choose a BIG reward for your child. We do something little from Walmart. The big reward was the one that really motivated Kristen, a Barbie. She will do ANYTHING for a Barbie.
What motivates your child? It is not bribery. It is sleep training. Kristen can get a Barbie and we can get SLEEP. It seemed like a fair trade off. The incentive chart works like a charm. Use it for two weeks. When you break the bad habit, you won’t need the chart anymore.
5.) Leave the Door Open
This may not work for everyone, but we found that leaving the door open a crack allowed Kristen to feel like we were close by if she needed us. It also allowed her to see the light from the hallway which made her feel more comfortable. Be patient. I know sometimes it is so hard, but I always remind myself: “This too shall pass.”
6.) Preschoolers Need Sleep
Sleep is essential for a well rested preschooler. The Sleepfoundation.org recommends that “Preschool-aged children who are 3-5 years old should get around 10-13 total hours of sleep per day according to NSF and AASM guidelines.”
Therefore, I couldn’t have Kristen up in my bed tossing and turning trying to get comfy. She needs sound sleep in her bed, so she can be well rested for the day. Your child needs a good night’s rest and so do Mommy and Daddy.
7.) Rinse and repeat
Consistency is key. Stick to your routine and they will sleep through the night again. Praise your child in the morning when they have had a successful night.
Be mindful if your child is sick, they may break the routine. If you need to break the routine or allow them back in your bed, you can always restart the next day. Be consistent and you will get results.
It may take some time for your child to adjust, but stay the course. I hope you enjoyed these tips and they help you to get a few extra zzz’s! Please comment with any other tips that have worked for you!
Happy sleeping! 🙂
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