Our 3YO takes about an hour to get to sleep every night. We start the nighttime ritual at around 8pm (brush teeth, kiss goodnight, read story, lights out, go to sleep). She requires us to be in the room (otherwise, she'll get up or call for us). She'll usually fidget with some part of her body until she passes out. She generally falls asleep between 9 and 9:30.

In addition, every night sometime around 2 (give or take) she'll come into our room and crawl into bed with us. This isn't too big of a deal, except that she also starts fidgeting, sometimes as early as 5:30, and gets up sometime between 6:30 and 7. (Although I should note that, for perhaps 90% or more of her first 3 years, her average wake-up time was 6-6:30.)

I remember when she was a baby, often times I remarked that it was difficult to get her to sleep, but if something made her cry for a minute or two, afterwards she'd be out pretty quickly.

I'd like her to fall asleep more quickly, and learn to stay in her own room at night. What can I do?

  • 1
    Does she watch TV within the two hours before she goes down for bed? Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 15:59
  • Nope, no TV, computer, etc. Sometimes (rarely) we'll play music on the computer within a half-hour of bedtime.
    – Kricket
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 9:28
  • I only ask because I know it can effect how long it takes to fall asleep. I'm interested to see the results of your question! Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:29
  • 1
    Update: She's now over 5 and she goes to sleep very quickly every night, and no longer comes into our bed. We didn't really do anything in particular; just waited it out - let her come into our bed (but I'd usually carry her back after a little whille), did what we could to get her to sleep. It probably lasted at least 6 months but eventually she just stopped...
    – Kricket
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 9:19

5 Answers 5


The main thing I would add is lavender oil - on the pillow in the bed. I promise you it works.

You may also try to start your routine an hour earlier too and a give her a hot bath if you can. I also play some soft background music.

  • 1
    I voted this up because I know you are right about Lavender oil and don't think the answer deserves the -1 it had. However, here at SE we encourage that statements like this one be backed up with research or at least experience to back-it up. You might fair better after taking a look at How to Answer and elaborating a little on why lavender oil and background music might help - or not. Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:35
  • Thank you. It was the first thing I have answered so the feedback is welcome
    – user1152
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 1:31
  • My mother made my brother a lavender pillow when he was young: a small pillow, containing a bag filled with dried lavender.
    – SQB
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 9:58

Sounds like you're doing everything. (I know people who'd love to have your problem!)

I'd only wonder if the rest of her day is pretty structured. Does she some days nap, others not, some days nap long and late, others short and early? Meals pretty regular as well?

A pretty strict schedule always worked well for my daughters. The oldest sleeps well and has a regular bedtime at nineteen years old, 1,200 miles away.


sounds like you've got my almost-3yo's long lost twin.

First off: there's no perfect solution. It seems to be common for some kids to have this problem. It's a combination of wanting to make sure parents are there (I bet she often runs a distance away to see if you chase her - that's the same thing), boredom (this at least is what caused my similar issues before I had kids - happily I'm too tired now to have trouble!), and lack of self control.

Time will help to some degree, from what I've been told; how long depends on the child but a few years from now this will not be happening. For now, of course, that doesn't help.

In the short run, you might try not starting the bedtime ritual until she's tired. That's the biggest thing that's helped us. Our son now starts going to bed around 9:30 or 10 many nights, but it leads to having a shorter bedtime routine and less frustration.


First, I don't think fidgeting is a symptom of anything other than being 3. It seems to me like it's her version of self soothing. I agree that it's wicked annoying especially when she's in bed with you, but it is most likely a good thing, because you would have to teach her to do it if she wasn't already doing it.

Second, I think that @Joe may be onto something. Try adjusting her bedtime a little later or, earlier. My boy has a harder time drifting off once he's gone into overdrive from being too tired.

Third, have you tried a bath before bed? (Or a shower if you don't have a tub.) Taking a bath about an hour before bed will cause your child's body temp to rise and then drop quickly which triggers the brain to go into sleep mode. I swear by the bath. My kids go directly from the bath to bed, and are asleep within an hour, usually less. A bath can also be a great way to deliver aromatherapy, which I also highly recommend.

Fourth, do not let her sleep with you when she comes in (unless you want her to, which I don't think you do since you are asking for help with it here). Bring her back to bed. Keep doing it. Here's the good news about this though: if you can get her to learn to fall asleep with out you being in the room, this will go away on its own. She is coming in at 2 because she can't fall asleep without you being there.

@balanced mama's question about TV brings me to my fifth suggestion, which is to not allow TV/iPad/computer/video games within 2 hours of bed time. In our house, we try to enforce none after dinner. (We got rid of cable to make TV less enticing.)

Sixth, schedule some physical activity right after lunch or early afternoon at the latest. I think swimming works best at wringing every last drop of energy out of kids, but just do what fits in your lifestyle/routine. Obviously, the more tired they are, the easier they fall asleep. Avoid activity late in the day though, since it will most likely wind her up even more.

Lastly, although I said I don't think the fidgeting is something to worry about, it may be restlessness. If so, a little massage can do wonders to help her little muscles relax. There are videos online you can watch to learn how, or you can just ask your daughter what she would like. One of my kids loves to have his calves rubbed. He would be asleep in minutes after I figured out what he liked/needed.

I can get my three yr old and two yr old down simultaneously in about an hour, including a 20 min bath, teethbrushing, and two books. (Most nights- there are evenings here and there that go awry and we've got kids running around still at 10 pm. We aren't perfect!) It took me about 6 months to get it down to a science though. You are right that it's taking too long, and too much effort, but don't give up! You can get your evening back with a few little routine changes. You really are almost there.

  • Just to confirm the fidgeting thing: I had a child in my preschool class that had to rub my thumb and play with my thumbnail in order to fall asleep at nap time and although I wasn't also trying to fall asleep, it was crazy difficult to let her for me. If I did it only took five minutes or so for her to fall asleep, if I didn't it was more like an hour before she did so. At the same time my own daughter fidgeted to try to stay awake and it was when she finally gave in and laid still that she feel asleep. Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:31
  • @balanced mama my youngest loves to pick at my cuticles to soothe himself, and I HATE it!! I can't even stand to dry my fingertips with towels (my own little sensory thing), so I practically jump out of my skin when he does it. I finally found a boy baby doll that has a little satin piping on it that he accepts as alternative to my cuticles. My husband, who doesn't allow him to pick at his fingers, and often "accidentally on purpose" "forgets" to give him his blue baby, can't ever get him to fall asleep.
    – Jax
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 14:02
  • Yep! That was pretty much how I felt about it too! As it was a job and not my own kid, I wasn't free to seek out a nice alternative, so as much as I adored this little girl otherwise - I was really glad when she potty-trained and graduated into the next class! Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 14:04

I found that making our children's bedtime in their room mandatory, the most effective solution.

Not wanting to go to sleep is pretty normal for a 3 year old. While abiding by rigid schedules could certainly help with this problem, it most definitely is not needed. My wife and children have rarely done anything on a schedule. After my children's night routine, I put my kids to sleep, and don't let them out of their room. If they are having a problem, I come to them, comfort them in their room, and then put them back to bed. This has not always been easy to do, but because this has been done consistently, our children know they will be staying in their room until they fall asleep.

As for the problem with waking up early, my wife and I are still working on that. One of my kids gets up at 5 a.m. while the other one wants to get up at noon. Sleep depravation is becoming a way of life for us ;) . So long as they sleep for six hours, we let them stay up. But we don't allow them to come into our bedroom (at least while I am around). That is mom and dad's special place for privacy.

I don't think fidgeting has anything to do with this sleep problem.

  • here here to prohibiting children from mom and dad's room. I think that having 144 sq ft out of 3,000 sq ft dedicated as "kid free" is not too much to ask! And, as to the not letting them out of their room at night...my 3 yr old now seeks permission before he even sets foot on the floor, which is now another problem we have to solve!
    – Jax
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 14:41

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