My 4-year-old has a consistent bedtime routine that we start at 7:30 pm. The problem is right around midnight—she wakes up and asks for one more glass of water, or says her blankets are on wrong, or she wants one more story. This can drag on for 45 minutes before she's back to sleep. Any ideas?
Every parent has had those nights when the requests seem endless. “I just need a glass of water! I need to go to the bathroom! I heard a noise! My blankets are sideways! My socks came off!”
Reasonable, occasional requests are no big deal, and kids should know that they can count on you during the night. But when kids make these requests a habit, family sleep suffers. Here’s how to minimize these events by attending to nighttime needs without reinforcing negative habits.
If your daughter repeatedly requests a glass of water at night, leave a spill-proof glass on her dresser. Does she get hungry at night? Leave a banana on her nightstand. Does she get too hot at night? Sneak into her room and turn down her blanket before you go to bed.
When you child repeatedly wakes at night and calls for you, her desires are very simple: to get out of the room, and to engage you. By minimizing these rewards, you discourage the nighttime requests from becoming a habit.
When she leaves her room at night, return her to it as quickly and quietly as possible. Don’t engage with your child. Don’t allow her to wander the house. Attend to her valid needs quickly and with minimal interaction (even eye contact). Return her to bed and gently say that it’s time for sleep—every time.
Minimize light exposure
Middle-of-the-night light exposure impacts melatonin production and makes it difficult for your child to fall back to sleep and sleep well for the rest of the night. Keeping your child in the dark during night waking makes it easier for her to fall back to sleep and to sleep well for the rest of the night. Don’t flood your house with nightlights, and don’t expose your child to the refrigerator light at night.