My 2½ year old son does not want to sleep, regardless how tired he is. He will do anything and everything he can think of, just to avoid falling asleep. It usually takes 1-1½ hours (sometimes even longer) before he gives in to sheer exhaustion.
This has been going on for around two months now and is taking a serious toll on the sanity of his parents. We feel that he is committing psychological terror on us, even though we're just collateral damage and not a deliberate target.
It does not matter at all how well we exhaust him during the day. Since he also acts this way at his noon nap we have skipped it -- he ought to be devastatingly tired in the evening (and he usually is), but even then he musters all his energy at the evening bedtime to stay awake at all costs.
When he eventually does fall asleep, he sleeps just as well as he always has. He does not wake up with nightmares. He never says or otherwise indicates that he does not like the sleep itself. But he fights going to sleep as if he's afraid he would never wake up again -- this sounds like a plausible cause but he has never indicated anything in that direction.
I often joke that he's got a hyperactivity disorder, but I don't actually think he does. ADHD would imply an attention deficit and that isn't the case, but the -HD part seems true enough by itself.
How can I find out why my son does not want to sleep, and how can I help him?
This situation is very nearly literally driving us insane. It is literally preventing us from doing anything at all in the evenings; neither chores nor relaxation.
- We normally put him to bed around 19:00 and he normally wakes at 05:45 regardless how long he slept.
- These days he doesn't fall asleep until 21:30 or 22:00 and wakes at 05:00. Combined with the not wanting to nap during the day, it's clear that he has a massive sleep deficit.
- He no longer uses a pacifier. We are certain that reintroducing a pacifier for sleeping would cure these problems for now but we don't see that as a solution because it would only postpone these problems until later.
- After he's been put to bed, we try to have minimal contact. If he starts fussing or crying, we will wait a while to see if he can handle it himself and if he can't then we will go in and gently soothe him in a way that matches the situation. At the moment, he won't be soothed though; our usual methods are ineffective.
Thank you for all your comments. I've upvoted all that had helpful elements, and I'll accept the one that matches best.
In the end, we sort of gave up because we ran out of things to try -- he got the pacifier back and within a day or two, we're back to having a well-balanced toddler who falls asleep reasonably fast. We don't see this as a defeat, or a victory on his account. Rather, we accept that it was too early to withdraw the pacifier, at least for this little boy. He's only getting it to fall asleep and not for anything else, and that seems to work well. He will give up the pacifier when he's grown some more.