Video: Better Sleep for Your Child

Learn how to avoid the bedtime battle of wills

Children and sleep

If you’re waging bedtime battles with your kids on a nightly basis, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as many as 70 percent of kids under age 10 may experience a sleep problem.

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Jyoti Krishna, MD, a pediatric sleep physician at Cleveland Clinic, says one common problem parents deal with at bedtime is called “limit-setting sleep disorder.”

“Put simplistically, [this] means that little Joey doesn’t want to go to bed when Mom wants him to go to bed,” Dr. Krishna says, “and this could be simply a timing issue — that Joey’s clock is set for a later time than what mom expects”


Dr. Krishna says limit-setting problems are typically solved by behavioral changes, not medications or doctor visits. He says if your child does not want to go to bed at 8 p.m., let him stay up until 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. Dr. Krishna says there will be less resistance because the child will be so sleepy.

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Once the bedtime battles are no longer an issue, start fading the bedtime back 15 minutes every two or three days, and offer rewards or positive reinforcement to make battle lines even fuzzier.

Dr. Krishna says another common problem parents create is “sleep association disorder.”

“In sleep association disorder,” he says, “little Joey learns to sleep with Mom or Dad reading them a story or scratching their back or just laying in bed with them, and when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he wants to seek out his mom and dad again. So what happens is that they will migrate typically from their own bedroom to the master bedroom”

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To break your child of this habit, Dr. Krishna suggests sitting beside the bed, then slowly moving the chair a few feet away until you can distance yourself totally from your child’s bed.

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