Lots of young children find it difficult to settle down to sleep and will wake up during the night.
For some people, this might not be a problem. But if you or your child are suffering from a lack of sleep, there are some simple things you can try.
Every child is different, so only do what you feel comfortable with and what you think will suit your child.
If your child will not go to bed
- Decide what time you want your child to go to bed.
- Start a "winding down" bedtime routine around 30 minutes before the time that your child usually falls asleep. Bring this forward by 5 to 10 minutes each week – or 15 minutes if your child is in the habit of going to bed very late – until you get to the bedtime you want. Read more about helping babies to sleep.
- Set a limit on how much time you spend with your child when you put them to bed. For example, read only 1 story, then tuck your child in and say goodnight.
- Give your child their favourite toy, dummy (if they use one) or comforter before settling into bed.
- Leave a dim light on if necessary.
- If your child gets up, keep taking them back to bed again with as little fuss as possible.
- Try to be consistent.
- You may have to repeat this routine for several nights.
Sleep tips for under-5s
- Make sure you have a calming, predictable bedtime routine that happens at the same time and includes the same things every night.
- If your child complains that they're hungry at night, try giving them a bowl of cereal and milk before bed (make sure you brush their teeth afterwards).
- If your child is afraid of the dark, consider using a nightlight or leaving a landing light on.
- Do not let your child look at laptops, tablets or phones in the 30 to 60 minutes before bed – the light from screens can interfere with sleep.
- If your child wakes up during the night, be as boring as possible to avoid exciting them and leave lights off.
- Avoid long naps in the afternoon.
Help your disabled child to sleep
Sometimes children with long-term illnesses or disabilities find it more difficult to sleep through the night. This can be challenging both for them and for you.
Further support and advice
Talk to your health visitor if you need further advice. They may have other ideas or suggest you make an appointment at a children's sleep clinic, if there's one in your area.