8 Ways To Get Your Kids To Sleep In Their Own Beds

I’ve always marveled at how some parents can get their kids in bed religiously at 7:30pm every night.  They read their kids a book, pat them on the head, kiss them good-night and walk out the door.  I have that intention.  I dream about it actually.  I pray for it.  But it never happens.  There’s just too much to do between the time they get off the bus till bedtime. 

And sometimes there are just times when you are having fun or having a good conversation about God or heaven, and bed time suddenly doesn’t seem as important.  It’s something that we still struggle with but have set up some routines to help make bed time go as smoothly as possible. 

We had problems getting the kids to sleep by themselves and then staying in their beds all night.  They wanted us to lay with them until they fell asleep, sometimes in our bed.  I would carry them to their beds after they fell asleep, but sometimes they’d come back in the middle of the night!  Other of my kids were afraid to sleep in their rooms for whatever reason.  Other times they’d tell me they can’t fall asleep in their rooms, only in our room.  I was beginning to think we only needed a one bedroom house! 

I got the book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weissbluth from the library.  It’s a really good book - more of an encyclopedia actually.  It covers every single sleep habit or problem for every single age.  You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t want to.  You can choose to skip to whatever problem you’re looking to solve for the age of your child.  I got some really good ideas from this book and some of them actually worked!  Below are some things we did to help get our kids to sleep in their own rooms, and stay there. 

1.      Pay them! 

My husband offered my son $1 for every night he slept in his own bed all night.  He also had to go to sleep by himself.  No one laying with him.  He happily agreed.  He added it up and figured out he would earn $365 in one year!  I thought my husband was crazy.  $1 a day?  He told my son it would only be for a year.  I thought 30 days sounded more reasonable.  I told him he had to put the money in his savings account.  Well, guess what?  It worked!  He was happily sleeping in his own room, happy to be earning a dollar a day in his sleep! 

A dollar a day might seem like a lot.  However, I look at this way.  I’m always meaning to set aside a small amount every week for my kids’ future.  This is one way to do that and get something out of it at the same time. 

2.      Send In The Sleep Fairy

We told my littler ones about the Sleep Fairy.  The Sleep Fairy would leave them something under their pillows in the morning if and only if they went to sleep by themselves and stayed in their rooms the whole night.  We explained that Mommy and Daddy were really the Sleep Fairy and no one was going to be coming into their rooms at night.  It was just something we were going to have fun with. 

They would get so excited wondering what the Sleep Fairy might leave them.  Many times it was just a coin.  The first week, we did something a little better.  For little boys, you could leave a Matchbox car.  My kids were in to Go-Go’s and Silly Bands for a while - anything small that can be used as an incentive.  If you don’t want to buy something, leave a note with something they get to do that day like go to the park. 

It might seem like a lot to spend $10 for a week of toys to get your kids to sleep on their own.  But to me it’s worth $10 to get my own sleep back!  I wake up constantly when my kids are in bed with me.  We nicknamed my son “Helicopter.”  He flails his arms and legs all over the place when he’s sleeping.  Some of this we discovered was caused by certain foods.  Another of my children talks in their sleep.

3.      Make a Reward Chart

I told each of my kids to pick out something they wanted to get for sleeping in their own rooms.  My daughter picked a Monster High Doll.  My son picked an Angry Bird Doll.  I made a sheet in Excel with big boxes for each letter.  I left the boxes blank and then printed out sheets with big letters on it that spelled out what each one was trying to earn.  I laminated it just because we have a laminator.  I also put a picture on the chart to remind them what they were going to get for sleeping in the rooms. 

My daughter had 15 letters to earn.  So, after 15 nights of sleeping in her room, she would earn a Monster High Doll.  The first night, she earned the letter “M” and so on until she spelled out Monster High Doll.  Every morning, they’d wake up asking for their letter. Then they would tape it on to their chart in the box.  There were some days where they did not earn a letter because they did not stay in their room or would not go to sleep without me laying with them.  They did not like not earning their letter the next morning.  We only used this method once as it can get costly.  But it helped establish the habit of sleeping on their own.

4.       Set a Time Limit

If your kids are little and still want you to lay with them to fall asleep, set a time limit.  I told my son I would lay with him for 10 minutes, and then I was going to leave.  He was happy with this. I scratch his back, we pray and talk a little and then I will leave.  You can slowly shorten this time.  We eventually ended up sticking with 5 minutes.  Boys tend to need a little extra help to settle down at night.  If they have the choice of sleeping by themselves, or you laying with them for a few minutes and then they sleep by themselves, they’ll usually choose the latter and not fight over having to sleep by themselves. 

5.       Establish a Routine

This is mentioned all the time but we took the Super Nanny approach.  I wrote out a time chart and posted it up.  It let them know what they should be doing at each time of the day so that we could get everything done before bedtime.  I did this in an attempt to get my kids to go to bed earlier but it also helps kids fall asleep better if they go to bed at the same time every night.  This is what our schedule looks like:

Time Chart

6:45am  - Get up.  Get dressed upstairs.  Go potty and brush teeth.  Eat and watch TV.

7:30am  - Take C to school.

3:30pm  - Dinner or snack.   Free time.

4:30pm  - Homework.  No TV until homework is done.

6:00pm  - Snack or dinner.

7:00pm  -  Shower/bath.  Watch TV, finish snack.  Computer and video games off at 7pm.  C - read and get snack. 

8:00pm  - TV off.  Get ready for bed.  Take probiotic, go potty, brush teeth, read Bible, put on PJ’s, lay out clothes for the next day.

8:30pm  - Lights out.

C:  No more snacks after 8:30pm.  No exceptions.  Must be in the shower before 8pm every night.  In bed no later than 9:30pm.  Plan accordingly. 

6.      Turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, more if possible.  Computer, I-Pad, DS’s, video games, etc.  I do let my kids watch TV before bed.  The farther away they are from a light source the better.  Light tells the brain to wake up.  The faster moving the lights are, the more active the brain is going to get.  So, video games before bed are not going to make for an easy transition into sleep. 

7.       Wear Them Out! 

Exercise makes it easier to fall asleep at night.  Make sure your kids are getting enough of it during the day.  It’s harder here in the Midwest.  That’s one reason I would love to live in a warmer climate.  My kids can’t outside in the winter too much.  In the summer, they are outside a lot.  We have a trampoline, basketball hoop, waterslide, play set, bikes, etc.  We take walks often and go to the park or play tennis.  In the winter, I sometimes take my kids to our city’s rec center.  Ours has a climbing wall and a pool.  Malls often have free play centers for little ones. 

8.       Keep it as dark as possible in their rooms.  Some kids like night lights and that’s OK if they want it to fall asleep.  But after they fall asleep, turn it off.  Any light reduces the melatonin their bodies produce, which helps them to sleep better.  We have room darkening shades in all our bedrooms and I cover up any other lights (like from the baby monitor).  I turn the alarm clock away from me.

They say it takes about 21 consecutive days to form a habit.  This is really what your aim is.  Rewards work great to establish habits but you don’t have to continue them forever.  After a while they forget about the reward and continue on with the new habit they’ve learned. 

For younger children and babies, I don’t believe in letting them cry it out.  It just never worked for us.  Some people do it, and can get their babies to sleep on their own easily.  More power to them.  I envy them.  I don’t mind helping my kids get to sleep when they’re little, but there comes a time when they need to go to sleep on their own and in their own rooms so that you can get a good night’s sleep too. 

There are some things you can do supplement and diet wise that will help your kids sleep better too.  I’ll expand on that in another post though. 

Sweet dreams!

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