My son is 4 years old and will not sleep at night. He stopped taking naps during the day at 1 and a half. He has never slept good. He gets up at 6:30am everyday. When we get home I get him to play in the backyard, go swimming and he plays soccer just to try to get him tired. He lays down at 9:00 pm with lights off. Then as soon as we leave the room he is back up playing. If we try to lay with him till he falls asleep he will just lay there and talk all night it is 1:30 to 2:00am every night untill he actually falls asleep! I have tried many things but nothing has worked so I'm lost. Please help!

  • 1
    Do you see any issues from the lack of sleep? Tiredness during the day? Lack of attention? Any other common effects of undersleeping? That may affect the answer. Also, FYI: While only your pediatrician can tell you for sure, some rare individuals DO have good capability to function with significantly less sleep than normal (e.g. 4 hrs a day as an adult vs 7-8). Possibly that applies to kids as well. (not aware of studies to back that up, so a comment instead of an answer)
    – user3143
    Jun 6 '14 at 16:01
  • No when he wakes up in the morning he is not tired and he is full of energy through out the day. He is a very happy kid always in a great mood!
    – Crissy
    Jun 6 '14 at 16:50
  • I can't imagine 4-5 hours of sleep being enough for a child at that age. I have a almost-3 year old who had a lot of trouble going to sleep (and as a kid did also), but I and he still both needed more than 4-5 hours of sleep at night. I would definitely talk to your pediatrician and see if you can get some useful suggestions or even perhaps blood tests; perhaps he's deficient or imbalanced in something like melatonin or serotonin.
    – Joe
    Jun 6 '14 at 19:08
  • When I was growing up, I often had only 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Even now I typically get around 5 hours a night on weeknights. Some people are like that and completely functioning with no issue. That said, if you're having concerns or it's creating issues during the day, talk to your pediatrician, they may be able to tell you what's going on. Alternatively, talk to your son and ask if he's tired, why not, etc.
    – Doc
    Jun 6 '14 at 20:57

It is hard to say what the root cause is (and without an opinion of qualified medical professional, I would NOT recommend that you rely on Internet Random Opinion on how safe it is for your kid to get so little sleep. Personally, I would check with his pediatrician but if it lasted for months/years with no obvious ill effects, that doesn't seem like emergency. I'm not a doctor and don't play one on TV!).

But if you feel (as it seems) that he's too distracted to sleep, perhaps removing the disractions may help a bit:

  • No toys in the room overnight.
  • No light on overnight (except maybe a very weak nightlight for safety if you feel it's needed). Kill the fuse if you need to.
  • No parental presence after a preset small limit (5-30 mins bedtime reading or non-exciting story... although my kids liked Star Wars at the age of 3 so who am I to judge excitingness?)
  • No noise from him (with punishments if you hear any). If he doesn't care about his sleep, explain that it interrupts YOUR sleep. At that age he's old enough to NOT want to hurt parents.
  • If he is concerned to sleep alone, make sure you have baby monitor and make sure he knows (and demonstrate) that you hear him and will come if he REALLY needs you.
  • With our kids, the sleeping toys were a leverage. "Fall asleep in the next 10 mins and you can sleep with $favorite_toy. If not, in 10 mins the toy sleeps with me!"

Also, check if there are specific circumstances where he sleeps better or worse? White noise? absolute silence? soft music? No food 1 hr before sleep? Glass of milk before sleep (that is a popular folk remedy to help sleep, betwetting concerns nonwithstanding).

  • 1
    Not sure why you received a downvote here. I agreed with most all your points (especially seeking advice from a pediatrician). I probably wouldn't do the no noise and punishment rule though, except to prevent loud noises.
    – Doc
    Jun 6 '14 at 21:00
  • @Doc - punishment isn't for not sleeping, it's for violating the agreement about NOT playing with the toy. Taking the toy for that seems VERY appropriate (and moreover, worked for us). Re: noise: Kids are VERY caring about parents. We had multiple cases where they'd not stop doing bad stuff from other arguments, BUT would instantly cease when explained that it would be bad for parents' health.
    – user3143
    Jun 6 '14 at 22:07
  • Oh, no, I just meant I wouldn't punish the kid if they made noise so long as it wasn't too loud. As in, if they talk quietly to themselves or something, I'd let it slide. I completely agree with the removal of toys and explaining they should be quiet (and saying it's for the parent's sake is fine too).
    – Doc
    Jun 6 '14 at 23:33
  • 1
    I snickered at the use of a variable name as a placeholder (totally apropos, ofc.) Jun 7 '14 at 2:17
  • @Doc - that's probly my own fault, but we have EXTREMELY sensitive baby monitors (due to very high sound isolation of the house, we need them). And even a quiet play tends to easily wake us (myself especially - I have very light sleep due to many years of being on-call for system support)
    – user3143
    Jun 7 '14 at 20:44

There's children that do not need more sleep than yours. They aren't many, and they certainly are a minority, but there are a few.

I'd have him checked out by a doctor to find whether there's an issue preventing him from sleeping, but if he is up and about in the morning and doesn't even nap during the day, you might be one of the unlucky parents blessed by such a child.

As for practical advice, I think there might apply what applies to newborns (some of which also sleep very little throughout the nights):

  • consider sleeping in shifts
  • when your child sleeps, you always sleep, too
  • try to recruit help from relatives (granny?)

When it is very hard, try to look forward to when he is older, and the extra hours will be a blessing to him, because he can learn so much more in any given time than his peers. If you help him to become a curious kid interested in learning, he might turn out a genius.

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