Resource Center Ask Dr. Andy — How Can I Get More Sleep as a Parent?

Question:

I’d love some advice on getting more sleep! For the life of me, I can’t get my child, who is 5 years old, to sleep in in the mornings. She always wakes up with the sun. Then my other child, who is 3 years old, comes into my room in the middle of the night. What can I do to solve these problems and get a little more sleep myself? 

Dr. Andy’s Advice: 

First off, this is a very common problem that faces parents. The most important thing to do is set expectations for yourself. If your child is getting the recommended amount of sleep, but is just getting up earlier than you’d like, it may be a tall order to get them to sleep longer. This is especially frustrating on the weekends, when you finally have the time to grab a few more blissful hours of shuteye.  

As counterintuitive as this sounds, the most common reason why kids wake up so early in the morning is that they’re overtired. In this case, the best thing to do is to examine their napping schedule and bedtime. For example, children between 4 months and 1 year old should have two naps per day for three plus hours each. Once they’re past 1 year, they should be napping once a day (typically in the afternoon) for about 2-3 hours. These naps should drop off between ages 3 and 5. If your child isn’t getting the recommended amount of naps, this could be where the problem is stemming from. 

If they’re waking up early and going to bed after 8 p.m., move up their bedtime in order for them to get more sleep at night. Another solution is to put your child to sleep when you see the first sign that they’re getting tired instead of tucking them in when they’re practically sleeping. When children go to bed too tired, they tend to wake up earlier in the morning. Counterintuitive, but true! 

How to Keep Your Child in Their Bed 

Another common parent complaint is that their child is waking them up in the middle of the night. If this is happening on a consistent basis, your child is most likely overtired. As stated before, evaluate their napping schedule and bedtime routine. Make sure their environment is quiet and conducive to sleeping, too. Remember, noise machines are your friends!  

Other Solutions to Help You Sleep 

These tips not working? Don’t worry. Here are other things you can try with your child:

  • Using positive reinforcement, tell your child you want them to stay in their own room. (Avoid saying, “Don’t come in my room.”) Instead, reward them for staying in their own, like a “big girl/boy.”
  • Devise a plan if they do make their way into your room.
  • Tell them to wait for the wake light.
  • Create a sleeping chart that uses stickers as a reward for staying in their bed the whole night.
  • Take them back to their own bed, and wait until they fall asleep.
  • If you do stay in their room, make sure to move further out every three days. 
  • Make an effort not to give in to stories, singing, etc. in the middle of the night! It’s hard, I know, so make sure to reward yourself for progress, too!

-Dr. Andy

 

About Ask Dr. Andy: Dr. Andy Rink is a physician trained in General Surgery. He’s also the CMO and co-founder of Lully. After growing up watching his sister experience night terrors, he devoted his research to putting a stop to them for other families. In this column, Dr. Andy will share his expert opinion on night terrors, both from a medical standpoint and from an experience standpoint. Got a question? Ask us on Twitter using @lullysleep.

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