Your preschooler slept through the night after you ‘sleep trained’ her at 6 months, but now she is suddenly refusing to stay in her bed and gets out several times a night. If this sounds familiar, here are some tips that will help your older toddler or preschooler get the sleep she needs.
First, keep your preschooler’s bedtime routine as consistent and predictable as possible. The bedtime routine should last about 30 minutes and include tasks that help your child wind down for the day such as taking a bath and some quiet time with you. If the bedtime routine is consistent and your child still has trouble falling asleep on her own and staying asleep, consult her pediatrician to rule out any possible medical conditions, like sleep apnea or asthma, that may disrupt sleep.
Once the bedtime routine is consistent and any medical issues have been addressed, select an age-appropriate sleep training method to teach your preschooler how to get the sleep she needs.
Keep sleep training positive by using a reward chart. Your child gets stickers for completing the bedtime routine, going to sleep in her bed, falling asleep without having you sit by her bed and staying in her
bed all night.
Try the ‘fading’ method for preschoolers who have decided they want to stay up late and will not fall asleep at the time you have targeted. The first night, push bedtime to around the time your preschooler has been staying up until, and then each night make bedtime 15 minutes earlier until you reach your target bedtime. During the day, ensure your preschooler is not taking extra-long naps and is getting enough exercise.
If your preschooler does not want to stay in her bed, try creating a ‘hall pass’ that allows her one free trip out of bed. Once the pass is used, all other non-emergency requests to leave her bed are rejected. This method gives your preschooler some control over bedtime within clearly set boundaries, making her less likely to test the limits by repeatedly calling for you to seek permission to leave the bed.