Ask AF: Night Wakings

Is you child a difficult sleeper? Our expert offers advice on conquering poor sleep patterns.

Q: Our three-year-old has generally adjusted well since we adopted her two years ago, but she sleeps through the night only about 50 percent of the time. (She usually settles back down as soon as I tuck her in again.) Is there any hope of changing this pattern?


A: Sounds like you have a difficult sleeper, but every child can do better than what you’re describing. As long as you feel your daughter is well attached to you (uses you as her secure base in the world, is able to separate from you but is happy to reunite, and so on), you can push her a bit more at bedtime.

Getting her to sleep through the night will not only help you, but will also help her feel competent in her ability to manage “big girl” things.

During the day, bring up bedtime in a positive way. Acknowledge that it’s been hard, but say that you’re going to “start doing it a new, better, big-girl way.” See that your daughter gets some heavy exercise or activity a few hours before bedtime, then wind down with a simple routine (i.e., bath, snack, brush teeth, potty, stories) until lights-out time.

You may need to be the “bed police” at first. Sit outside her door for a little while, and, if you hear her getting up, say, “I’m right here, get back in bed.” Soon she should be able to put herself back to sleep if she wakes up during the night.

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