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My 3-year-old boy is having sleeping problems. He was always a late sleeper falling asleep around 9:00, but for the last couple of months he has so much energy at bedtime, running around, shouting and constantly doing something late at night. He's attached to watching cartoons. We have tried to switch the tV off and put him to bed but that doesn't work.

We are getting really frustrated now as he's usual sleeping time now is around 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.

We have tried everything we can, and it just makes it worse as when he's crying for longer he tends to throw up. So before we try doctors or some medicine and oil I would like some advice on what's better for him when it comes to oils or tablets or some tricks on what to try.

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    Hi Boris, have you read the other questions on this topic here, especially those in the Related sidebar to the right? They should cover off your problem. – Rory Alsop Dec 18 '15 at 7:44
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    Also, if Rory Alsop's suggestions are not sufficient, please explain your situation in more detail. What is your son doing during the day (wakeup time, activity, playing, naps), and how is the evening structured? – sleske Dec 18 '15 at 10:39
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    This comic might help you understand what's going on.... no in all seriousness, he is probably very, very overtired. fowllanguagecomics.com/comic/overtired-children – Brusselssprout Dec 18 '15 at 14:58
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Getting into a good sleeping routine is very difficult for some kids. For the longest time my daughter would be up untill midnight every night and it was exhausting for us and for her. She was just full of energy. We had a hard time committing to a consistent routine because we were so tired, but eventually we found one that worked for us over time, very slowly.

  • Having your child take a bath is very relaxing and you could try using the Johnson and Johnson Night time washing products because I hear they are good (they smell nice anyway). I can't recall if we used them - but I feel like we did. So a nice warm bath is very soothing.
  • And then we would let her pick about 5 books, which was very exciting for her. I made sure to make the last book something like Goodnight Moon because I always found that soothing as a child.
  • Then I would sing her several songs. Sometimes she would make me sing a song over and over, which was so exhausting, but it helped and eventually I was able to reduce the amount of songs to a reasonable amount. A sound machine helped as well.
  • Also, you might want to try some warm milk before bed (you should brush teeth after the milk so it is not on his teeth overnight).
  • A back rub might make him feel relaxed as well, if he can relax enough to allow it.

It is very hard and I totally understand. He is likely going through a growth spurt and this should subside sooner rather than later. I've found that almost always whatever is most challenging at the time will change and I just have to tell myself that over and over.

Routines are extremely important for children and they really thrive from them. They cannot communicate it, but they do want the routines and boundaries you provide because it creates structure for them. Good luck and I hope this struggle is over soon!

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He's attached to watching cartoons.

Step 1, stop that at night. No cartoons after dinner. Lights from the TV makes people more wakeful. You have to be firm on that. Tell him no more TV at night; he'll likely cry, so tell him you understand he is disappointed, that's how it has to be.

Do your bedtime routine (5 books and several songs is way too much, you are supposed to be winding down, not stretching out fun playtime) Put him his room, kiss him good night, turn out the lights, and leave him in there. If he's loud and disruptive, tell him you can't leave the door open unless he's quiet. You can't make him sleep, but you make the room suitable for sleep and make him stay, and that's all you have to do.

You might want to retreat to your room, and leave the rest of the house dark for a few nights, so he doesn't think he is missing out on anything fun.

Wake your kid up about 12 hours after their bed time. See if he needs an afternoon nap, then repeat.

There are no tricks, there certainly are no magic tablets or magic smelly oils that will fix this. You are the parent, in this instance, you have to be the parent and enforce bedtime. Or at least, enforce him being in his room, lights out at the right time.

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Kids will eventually do whatever you make them do (within reason obviously). My daughter was difficult to put to sleep, not late nights as such but just hard. I tried everything, baths songs, in the end I held her in my arms and jogged on the spot for ten minutes. It worked every time. Got to a stage I was doing a 15 minute soft workout everyday to put her to sleep. You never know you can find the strangest of solutions. I’d say try to cut out the daytime nap and be up early and expend a little more energy throughout the day (if that’s even possible).

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Does he take a nap? If he takes a daytime nap, I would start by eliminating it so all his sleep is ay night. If not, how many hours is he sleeping total? Is it reasonable for his age? If it is enough sleep, try waking him earlier in the morning so he's more tired at bedtime. Be prepared for possibly having a cranky day or two during the transition.

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This is my trick for every problem with parenting: I think about myself in this situation.

What prevents YOU falling asleep? What helps YOU to be in the mood of going to bed? What about exciting movies? What about arguments with colleagues/family members? How are YOUR emotions and thoughts when you cannot sleep?

Normally you need to feel save, secure and relaxed to sleep. So, what helps your child feel save, secure and relaxed?

Sometimes crying helps to relax, because they cannot verbalize experiences and emotions very good at this age. Bickering and cuddling (for boys specially with a relaxed father) could be a good idea (laughter also relaxes).

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I sympathize with this, we've been there.

Some suggestions

  • Young boys need loads of activity to avoid them getting frustrated generally and so they don't have loads of pent up energy and the urge to run round left over at bed time. I find my son's behaviour is generally much more manageable if he gets to the park or playground at some point before supper and bedtime or at least has some chance to run around having fun. After all they're learning to run and climb and it takes a lot of practice to hone their physical skills and balance.
  • Call a halt to screen time before bath and bed time if you can
  • Bath. Even if quick it's brilliant for soothing and calming down children before bed time.
  • Milk before bed time. Really helps to make this a regular feature of bed time and something to look forward to. Sometimes I make some steamed milk or warmed milk if requested.
  • Keep the lights and noise subdued and curtains blocking out all the daylight. Progressively lower the light levels as they get closer to sleep time.
  • Stories. Fortunately this is what gets my son to sleep. He loves them. Even if he's not sleepy to start with I can read him into sleepy 'submission'. Get them to choose several stories in advance rather than getting up every time for another story. Use a book light or phone torch to read by in bed and create a cosy bubble of light rather than leaving the bright room lights on. Cuddle up with them under the covers. Start the stories engagingly to get their attention and gradually lower the volume and excitement level as they get more sleepy until you're almost whispering.
  • Stay with them while they fall asleep if you need to. Hold their hand, sing, rub their back gently, whatever it takes. Many parenting orthodoxies say this is bad and children have to learn to get to sleep by themselves but I find it works and is great for bonding. The reassurance gets them to sleep more quickly.
  • Routine. It can be tough to achieve but these things work better the more consistently they're done.

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