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7 Ways to Combat Kids' Sleep Problems

Bedtime tips for getting kids to sleep through the night.

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 03, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Your toddler wakes up several times a night, calling for "Mommy." Your6-year-old simply refuses to go to bed. Catering to both, you and your spouseare in and out of bed all night - and perpetually exhausted.

Not surprisingly, parents are twice as likely to say they sleep less thansix hours a night if they have a child who ranks at the bottom for shuteye. Andthe consequences can be serious. Sleep affects mood, the immune system, and theability to learn new skills. A restless child can also cause stress on amarriage or relationship. Bottom line: Finding a sleep solution is importantfor your family's health and happiness. Here are some tips to make sureeveryone in your household gets a good night's rest:

Start a routine. Initiate a nightly routine that signals that it'salmost time for bed, and follow this ritual at roughly the same time everynight. This may include brushing teeth, taking a warm bath, putting on PJs, andstory time.

Set the scene. Create a quiet, comfortable bedroom withoutdistractions, such as a TV.

Track caffeine. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine in yourchild's diet, such as chocolate, tea, or soda drinks, and coffee-flavoreddesserts. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 26% of children 3 andolder drink at least one caffeinated beverage a day - and consequently lose 30minutes of sleep nightly.

Watch the medications. Ask your doctor or pediatrician about anythingin your child's medications that might encourage alertness, includingover-the-counter drugs for colds and flu.

Put them down drowsy. Leave when your kids are on the cusp of sleepbut haven't yet surrendered to it. If you are there the moment they fallasleep, they will have a difficult time going back to sleep on their own ifthey awaken in the middle of the night.

ID problems. Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common inchildren include multiple nighttime awakenings, snoring, trouble breathing, andloud or heavy breathing while sleeping. These problems can lead to unhealthydaytime behavior, such as being overtired, sleepy, or cranky.

Talk with your doctor. Consult your pediatrician about sleep -- evenif your MD doesn't broach the topic. He or she may have further insight,knowing your child's health history, that could help.