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Nightowl at 5 years old. Any way of dealing with it?

Our 3 and 5 year-olds won't sleep before 10 pm and won't wake up before about 9 am. They share the same bedroom. How can we shift their sleep time?

  • Thanks for the suggestions. They run around, delay, play, do arts and crafts and bargain to stay up later. – Two Bit Gangster Mar 14 '12 at 18:39

I agree with Rory, but would expand on the answer some.

My wife and I came up with the following practices to deal with this issue over the years.

1/ Make a standard night routine.

2/ Wake up time is what really matters. If the kid wakes up grumpy, the kid goes to bed earlier that evening.

3/ Worry less about whether the kids are sleeping and more about whether they are in their room quiet. Who cares if they stay awake for a couple of hours after bedtime, as long as they are quiet, let you alone, and wake up in a good mood.

4/ Avoid long naps, but an afternoon quiet time is very appropriate.

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  • I agree, especially on the wake up time. If you want them to sleep early, you have to wake them early. That may sound harsh, but if you use a gradual shift (10 minutes per day for example), they will barely notice it. – Treb Mar 14 '12 at 12:22

You haven't explained what they are doing instead (fighting, running around, watching TV??) so there may be many options, but try the following to get them in a bedtime mood earlier:

  • try having bathtime and teeth cleaning at 7pm
  • allow them a little time in pyjamas to read or other restful activity
  • warm milk helps calm alert children
  • read them a story in bed if they are behaving and settled early
  • lights out by 8

Definitely don't let them watch TV - it doesn't help small children get a restful sleep.

Also, if they still have a nap time during the day, make sure it's not too late in the day. If the nap from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, they're not likely to be sleepy at 7. Shorter, earlier naps, or possibly none at all.

In the mornings, get them up at the time you require. They may be tired and grumpy until they have sorted out the schedule change, but that is normal.

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