Lately, our 3 year old daughter, Anto, has been getting out of bed at night. She'd always been a great sleeper but, for some reason, she's been coming to our room at night for the past two weeks. The first night, we ended up staying with her until she fell asleep, after having spent two hours trying to get her to stay in her bed. We were exhausted that night and it's been so hard to get a good night's sleep since.
We knew that we needed a plan, so this is what we did. If you're going through something similar, I'm here to help! The first thing to know is that this problem will not fix overnight. But it WILL improve since day 1 if you follow these recommendations.
1. Set realistic boundaries:
As I mentioned, you can't expect this situation to change overnight. Instead, you need to set realistic expectations and work around that. Set a rule about the amount of times they are allowed to get out of bed at night. For us it's 1, because we don't want her to feel restricted in case she needs to go to the bathroom, for example. But you can start with a higher number if you think your child will need you more during the night. You can reinforce this rule with a sticker chart to reward them in the morning.
2. Choose a phrase and repeat it every time:
Every time your child gets out of bed, say a phrase that contains a connection-based structure:
This is what we say: "It's so nice to see you here! (Connection). It's time to sleep now(boundary). Can't wait to see you in the morning. (Connection)"
3. Walk your child back to bed:
It's important to have neutral energy. Too much interaction can cause your child to get excited or wired and this will make it hard for them to fall back asleep.
4. Prevent the wake-up in the first place:
This one is pretty obvious, but frequently overlooked. To help your child sleep through the night:
- Make sure they have an adequate bedtime and soothing bedtime routine that is the same every night.
- During the day, provide plenty of exercise and stimulation, to get them physically tired.
- Stop liquids at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make sure they have a healthy and fulfilling dinner.
5. Find any underlying issues:
The reasons for their getting out of bed are not always superficial. We have to dig deeper to find out what's going on. Think about what changes are going on around the house. Are there changes in their schedule? Perhaps changes in mom or dad's schedule? Could they be having nightmares? Have they started preschool recently? Is there any change coming? A move? A new baby?
It is also important to understand your child's needs. Are they getting enough attention/encouragement/ connection throughout the day?
Finally, your child's pediatrician is a great resource for any issues that concerns their health. They might help you uncover medical issues that would be hard for your to discover on your own.
Thanks for reading! Let me know how these tips are working for you in the comment section below.