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Parenting Questions & Answers!


Sleep

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Welcome to our Questions & Answers page on Sleep. If you have a question, You can either submit questions using the form on our Questions and Answers Home page or on our website home page. We love to hear from you! As we receive parenting questions, we will make questions and answers available on our "Questions and Answers" pages for you to read. We can all learn from each other! Click on a question below to see the full question and answer.

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Getting A Child To Sleep In Her Own Bed
Making A Bedtime Routine For A Teen With Autism
Two-Year-Old Will Not Go To Sleep
Five-Year-Old Coming into Bed with Parents/Bedwetting
Three-year-old Changing Out Of Pajamas After Going To Bed

Getting A Child To Sleep In Her Own Bed

How can I get my 3 year old to sleep in her own bed?? She throws a fit every night.-Jason, USA

Jason,
You are not alone! Other parents have asked about getting children to sleep in their own beds. Our response may be a bit repetitive as we just had a similar question. But, to reiterate, you can use a behavior chart to help motivate your daughter to sleep in her own bed. We currently have a behavior chart on our site called "I Slept In My Own Bed". You can check it out here . Let your daughter put a sticker on the chart the morning after she sleeps in her own bed. You may want to have a little treat bag handy that she can pick from the day after she spends a night in her bed. Fill the bag with stickers, crayons, and dollar store items. That way, she will receive an immediate reward for her behavior! You can also get her a special "sleeping buddy". Let her pick out a new stuffed animal or soft doll to bring to bed for a bit of added security. But, let her know that she can only sleep with her buddy in her own bed. The buddy cannot be taken into your bed. Don't get pulled into her fits. Stay calm and consistent. It's easier said than done, but if you stay calm, it will help her to calm down sooner. And, you may also want to look at our articles on sleep. Our article entitled "But Mom I'm Not Tired" may give you some hints about bedtime rituals that may help her calm down before bedtime.

As always, don't forget to praise her when she does a great job. Just remain calm, use your chart consistently, and give positive feedback when your daughter does a good job. If you need some pointers about using behavior charts, read our article entitled, "Using Behavior Charts".

Good luck!!

Making A Bedtime Routine For A Teen With Autism

What steps can a parent take to have a bedtime routine for an autistic teen? -Denise, Columbia, MO

Denise,
First off, we cannot claim to be experts on autism. We hope that you have some local support to assist you with managing your child's behavior. If not, please drop us a line and we can try to help connect you with local resources. Autism is a broad label and children experience many different degrees of autism. We can try to give you some general ideas that may help depending on your child's level of coping skills. But, we strongly suggest that you contact a local professional to get more support and suggestions.

As you know by now, children with autism often thrive on routine. So, establishing a bedtime routine is a great idea. What you incorporate into your routine will depend on your child. Now that your child is a teenager, you might want to check out our article called "Is Your Adolescent Sleeping Enough" as some of your teen's sleep patterns are changing.

Most importantly, stick to your routine. Routines are important to kids in general and even more important to kids with autism. Routines provide a sense of security and predictability. Write your routine out and provide visuals if necessary. Post your bedtime routine in a place your child can see easily. Go over your routine nightly with your child and have your child check off each part of the routine after it is completed.

Here are a few reminders to help your child settle into bedtime a bit easier. First, it can be difficult for kids with autism to settle down after an especially stimulating evening. Give yourself a longer period to unwind and settle in if the evening has been a bit more exciting than usual. Make a set time to go to bed and get up in the morning, and try to stick to it as much as possible. Limit the amount of sensory distractions that may bother your child during the night. Bedroom lighting, sheets and blankets that may sound noisy or feel scratchy, and the sound of clocks ticking are a few examples. Also, avoid sugar/caffeine late in the afternoon or evening.

As mentioned, you will have to design your routine based on your child. Here is an example of what you might do. First, decide on a time that your child will begin to wind down for the evening...9pm for example. Assume that the hour before bed is "unwind time". During this time you can check off certain "unwind activities". These activities may include taking a warm bath, listening to calm music, and reading (your child can read alone or you can read to your child...even teens like to be read to!). Pick activities that your child enjoys and will be engaged in. Also, you might include an evening triptophan snack. Triptophan occurs naturally in certain foods and converts to melatonin in the body (a hormone which tells the body when it's time to go to sleep). Some foods which contain triptophan are yogurt, bananas, eggs, warm milk, nuts and seeds. Have your child check off each "unwind activity" after it is done. After unwinding, have your child prepare for bed by doing things like brushing teeth and getting in pajamas. Then, it's off to bed. We have a bedtime routine chartas an example on our site. This will give you an idea of the type of chart you can develop for your child.

Since your child is a teen, you can probably expect the bedtime hours to vary depending on social activities. Again, this will depend on your teen's lifestyle. If your child is out late and arrives home right at bedtime, remember to still give him/her time to transition to bed. As you may know, transitions can be difficult for kids with autism and you still need to provide some time for your child to unwind before bed. In this case, you may want less "unwind activities" but still provide some down time before bed. Again, keep the routine structured, consistent, and clear. Hopefully, your child will be able to continue the routine into adulthood.

Best of luck with your teenager!

Two-year-old Will Not Go to Sleep

We are having the hardest time getting my 2 year old daughter to go to sleep for nap and at night, I don't know what I need to do to get her to go to sleep at a decent time -Jennifer, UT

Jennifer,
At this age, a child's sleep habits may be in flux due to changes during toddler years such as potty training, transition from crib to larger bed, transition out of nap time, and increased language and physical development. Has your daughter experienced any changes in her life? Has she transitioned to a different room or bed? Have you had another child? Is she potty training or is her schedule different for any reason? Even minor life changes can affect a child's sleep and you may be able to pinpoint the change that is affecting her.

A child needs about 10-13 hours of sleep during toddler years. That sleep can be a combination of nap and night or just nighttime sleep. If your daughter is getting that amount of sleep during the night, she may be transitioning out of nap time. You may want to skip nap and help her adjust to nap free days while moving her bedtime a bit earlier. This transition can be difficult at first as kids are often cranky later in the day without a nap. This crankiness should only last a week or two. Don't expect her to adjust overnight. She will eventually get used to a different schedule. You know your daughter best. If she doesn't get enough sleep during the night and seems to have a difficult time getting through the day, then she still needs her nap.

Also remember that at this age, a child is becoming increasingly aware of her environment and may be more easily distracted. It may be more difficult for her to "settle down" and rest. As a result, it's even more important that you establish a consistent nighttime routine. You can also maintain a nap time routine. Create a routine by picking out a few activities that your daughter can do before bed every day. For example, you might read a book together and drink a glass or warm milk before nap every day.

It's best not to let her watch television right before sleep as that will stimulate her and make it more difficult for her to settle down. Keep the television off for a good 30-60 minutes before sleep. For bedtime, you might include brushing teeth and bath in the routine. Keep this routine the same and consistent every single day. You can find a bedtime routine chart on our website here. Have her color a mark or place a sticker on each activity she does before bed. The chart can be a fun way to reinforce consistency in your home! And remember that if the chart doesn't quite work for your situation, we'd be happy to make up another chart that is more suited to your daughter's routine.

You might want to consider getting your child a special stuffed animal or "bed friend" if she doesn't have one already. You can use the stuffed animal in your bedtime routine. The stuffed animal can read with you, brush teeth, get pajamas on, etc. Then, put the stuffed animal in your daughter's bed so it can "go to sleep".

Next, if you have noise issues in your home, you may want to get a white noise machine for your daughter's room. As mentioned before, kids at this age are more easily distracted and tuned in to their environments. A noise machine may block out other sounds that are keeping her too stimulated to sleep.

Most important, remember not to engage in power struggles over sleep. Parents are often exhausted by nap and bedtime and look forward to that break. When a child doesn't go to sleep easily, it can be frustrating. Getting angry won't solve the problem, and if you do, your daughter may get a reward for staying up...your attention, even though it's angry attention! Stay calm and consistent, and once she's in her room, leave her alone. Another consideration is transitioning your daughter out of nap time and into "quiet time" as she may still need down time but doesn't require a nap. You may get some additional pointers from our article "But Mom, I'm Not Tired".

Remember that this stage will pass. At some point, your daughter will have more consistent sleeping behavior. You may just have to ride this out until she settles into a new phase! Best of luck.

Five-year-old Coming Into Bed/Bedwetting

My 5 year old comes to our bed every night from about midnight. Sometimes then also pees in bed, despite me asking several times if he needs to pee. Both of us cannot sleep well and are complete exhausted. He does not seem concerned at all, even when punished or spoken to nicely. -Shelagh, Dubia

Shelagh,
First, it would be helpful to know if this behavior has been going on for years or if it has just begun? If your son has always climbed into your bed, occasionally urinating, then it's habit. But, if this behavior is new, it may be triggered by a bigger problem. If this is new behavior, you need to analyze your son's routine. Has anything changed for him? Is school going well? Has he changed schools? Is there a new sibling in the family? How are his peer relations? Have you moved? Has there been a divorce? Has anyone close to him passed away? These are all important questions to consider when addressing his behavior.

Both coming into your bed and urinating can be signs of some distress or insecurity. If you think that there is a deeper issue at hand, you may need to find a family support specialist or family counselor who can meet with you and your son to help address his emotional issues. Remember, as your child is only five, he may not open up to you verbally if there is a problem. But, a trained counselor will have techniques that will work with a child his age. Don't assume there are no deeper issues at hand if he does not verbally relate this to you. Addressing the deeper issues may help resolve the behaviors.

If you rule out any emotional difficulties and decide to tackle these behaviors, take one at a time. Initially, you probably want to get your son back in his own bed. A behavior chart might be an option here. We have one specifically designed for sleeping in bed. Let your son put a sticker on the chart the morning after he has slept all night in his bed. Due to his age, you may want another reward to reinforce this positive behavior. You can have a little "treat bag" filled with items that he can pick in the morning. As mentioned in our other question, you can also get him a "sleeping buddy". Get a new stuffed animal for him that he can only use in his own bed. The sleeping buddy can go through the nightly routine with you...brush teeth, read a book, etc. But he needs to know that the sleeping buddy cannot come into your bed.

It's important, also, to maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Set up some activities that you do every single night before bed. This page of our site has some bedtime routine charts if you need some ideas.

Next, once you get your son sleeping in his own bed, you can work on bed wetting. You may want to visit a doctor to rule out any physical problems related to bladder control. Also check out our article on bedwetting here. If you have ruled out any physical problems that may cause bedwetting, you can try a chart to motivate him to stay dry. Use it the same way. Reward him the next morning if his bed stays dry. Check out some of our single behavior charts used to target one behavior at a time. You can reward him for staying dry through the night.

Most of all, try to stay patient. It's difficult to do when you are lacking sleep, too! But don't forget that this behavior will pass. These phases come and go and your child will get over it. This is temporary. If his behavior is due to some life stressors, getting angry at him will only make it worse. In addition, if he is behaving this way to get your attention, then he will feel successful even if you get angry at him. To children, any type of attention is desirable, even negative attention! Try your best to stay patient and supportive. Let him know you love him. And don't forget to give lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement when he is doing a good job. Catch him being good. Even if he is in your bed but stayed dry, notice that and give him positive feedback. Or, if he sleeps in his own bed but wets...focus on the positive behavior which is staying in his bed.

Best of luck and let us know if we can help in any other way. We are also happy to make up charts with his favorite character if that will help!!

Three-year-old Changing Out of His Pajamas After Going to Bed

My 3-year-old grandson keeps changing out his pajamas as soon as he gets into bed and gets dressed back into clean day clothes. We have bought him new pj's but he still is getting changed. When asked why he does it he answers "I just do". Is it something best ignored? -Jenny, UK

Jenny,
You are on the right track. Don't make a power struggle out of this. First, do some detective work. You have to think like a 3-year-old to figure this one out! Could your grandson's pajamas be uncomfortable? Some kids are sensitive to certain materials like polyester. Possibly your grandson has sensitive skin. In that case, you may want to try pajamas with a different material.

Next, if his pajamas are made of an unbreathable material, he may be getting too hot and find himself cooler in day clothes. Perhaps he is excited about his upcoming day and feels like it will come faster if he's dressed. Or, he may want to be a "big boy" and dress himself. Three-year-olds are very independent and like to do things for themselves. If you can figure out the reasons behind his behavior, then you can address the behavior. But, while trying to figure this all out, let him change if he wants to change. It's not hurting anything, and he's practicing dressing himself which is an important skill to learn! If you'd like, you could set up a behavior chart with a sticker reward. Every time he sleeps through the night with his pajamas on, he gets to put a sticker on his chart. Our Step-By-Step Charts would work nicely for this behavior. And if he doesn't keep pajamas on, don't make a big deal out of it. Just say something like, "Well, maybe you can get a sticker tomorrow for keeping your pajamas on!".

Make a special date with him to go to the store and pick out chart stickers. This will motivate him. But remember, his behavior may not change if he is hot or uncomfortable in his pajamas so you may want to make sure you can rule this out before trying a chart. Thanks for your question!