20 answers

My 3 Year Old Doesn't Sleep

Please help, I'm so frustrated, I just want to cry. My 3 year old doesn't seem to sleep more than 8-9 hours in a 24 hour period. Aren't kids this age supposed to get 11-12 hours of sleep in a day? She's been out of her crib for two months, and she started preschool earlier this week. Our bedtime routine is a nightmare (for me), and it has been for a while, not just recently. I start with the end of her TV show at 8:15, then it's brushing her teeth, which usually takes 15 minutes to half an hour because she doesn't want to cooperate, stories for 15-20 minutes, and then the real frustration begins. She's in and out of her bed and mine, she wants me to rub her back, she wants me to go, if I leave, she won't stay in bed. I usually try to be done with stories no later than 9:15, and I stop talking to her after 9:30. She usually falls asleep at 10:15 pm and sleeps until 6:45 - 7:30 am. Today she was up at 6:45, didn't nap at day care, it's 10:08 pm and she's still up. The two hour nighttime routine is driving me insane. I'm seriously considering putting a lock on her door that locks from the outside just to keep her in her room. I'm worried about emergencies, so I'd unlock it after I go to bed at night. On the weekends, she'll only nap for me if I drive her around in the car at naptime. I'd willingly give up trying to get her to nap if she slept longer at night. Anyone have any suggestions that worked for you? Can I get her to get more sleep without drugging her (kidding)?

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Thank you all very much for the great advice. I should add that I've tried to follow the "no TV until after her bath/shower" rule because I didn't want her sitting there watching TV from the time she gets home until she goes to bed. I wanted her to play. A lot of nights she doesn't want to take her bath or shower, so we told her no TV until after her shower, and then used the TV time to let her hair dry before bed. What I'm going to try is dinner at 6 (our normal time), she can watch 1 cartoon, then shower/bath. No TV after her shower/bath, we'll just read a few books, then bedtime by 7:30 -8 pm. And I'm definitely going to look for that Calms Forte to try.

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Yep, 3 seems to be a tough age for sleep. I going through it the second time now! It seems to be extra challenging because they are not quite ready (typically) to give up the nap, yet taking one seems to make bedtime later and more difficult.
You may be in a cycle of her being over-tired (this happens to us too, no matter how religiously we keep to routine DD just won't fall asleep until later than she needs). I think you already got the key advice (no tv in the evening, aim for earlier bedtime). The other thing that I have noticed is that this age seems to be the start of the worry about darkness and monsters phase. I've found that I've had to regress and stay in her room and/or leave a light on for her be able to settle down. Putting on soft music also helps to motivate her to stay in bed.
Hang in there....someday we will all get some sleep again!

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I can be guilty of the tv thing too but try to exchange it for "tickle time," then have her tell you a story to calm down, then teeth, book, light's out ... but then I still have to use melatonin for my child who has not slept on his own since birth and may be dependent upon it for life. Hope this helps ... Oh and one thing that WILL actually work, if Mom is calm kiddo is much calmer (tall order I know but that I do know works).

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I would... make your ENTIRE routine, at night, MUCH earlier...
She seems real over-tired... over-tired kids actually cannot sleep, have a harder time falling asleep, and wake more... and get more "hyper."

For me, for example: I would, start her whole bedtime routine... 1 hour earlier. Having her show end at 8:15... is late... then everything after that... is later... then it just gets all later like dominoes.
And it is too late... for a 3 year old.

I have 2 kids... 4 and almost 8. I start, WINDING-down my kids, 1 hour... PRIOR to their actual bedtime.
Kids need to wind-down first... not doing it AT bedtime... but prior. It is "prepping" the child for bed... time.

Before bed, I make everything quiet, dark and leave only 1 lamp on... they brush teeth, put on pajamas... they can watch Little Bear or something, or do something quiet.. then it is put away... and go to bed. They do so. Without battle.
For them and me, it is the SAME EXACT routine... every single night. In the same order.. and wind-down, is ALWAYS in the SAME room. So, my kids get into the routine, like auto-pilot.

Again, I really think, your girl is WAY over-tired... thus she can't sleep... thus she does not sleep... thus she gets sleep deprived again... thus she can't sleep and gets more "hyper" the more tired she gets and over-stimulated... thus she can't sleep, and it just all exacerbates itself, like a vicious cycle, and like a bad dream, for you.

There is also something called "Hyland's Calms Forte- for kids." Which, is all natural, not a 'sleep' aide, and not habit forming... but simply helps to calm a child. There is also something called "Animal Parade- Warm Milk" which is also for kids, to help them sleep. It being all natural and like "milk." You can try these... just so that she gets her sleep rhythms, back to normalcy. My friends have used it for when they travel.. and I have used it when my kids are sick and uncomfortable and cannot sleep.
These are NOT 'drugs"... it is homeopathic.
You can find it at Whole Foods or any natural food store, or online like at Amazon and read the reviews there.

I might also wonder... what does she eat at Daycare???? Anything with caffeine? Chocolate? Sugar? junk food??? Some of these things... affects kids a ton... even the littlest amounts....

All the best,

3 moms found this helpful

She is going to bed too late. My 4 year old goes to bed at 630-7pm and has had this schedule for at least a year. When she gets out of bed you walk her back every.single.time. with no emotion, no back rubs and no lock on her door. We also found that if our daughter took a nap during the day(at day care or where ever) her bedtime routine would be out of whack, so we said good bye to naps.
It may take a couple of nights for her to get it. The first night we transitioned our daughter into a big girl bed she was up 30 times-no joke! By the third night she wasn't getting up anymore. Check out the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth. It has amazing strategies and great tips!

Good Luck!

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Try starting the wind-down routine earlier, like at 7pm. If she has a difficult time with transition, the routine is going to be on the "long" side no matter what.

True, 11-12 hours is the ideal, but some people are just not "good" sleepers. I am not - never have been, my daughter is not. It's hard, but usually it is just a phase, at least in my experience.

You can also try a homeopathic remedy called Calms Forte, which seems to help us out a bit when getting ready for sleep.

2 moms found this helpful

DO NOT LOCK THAT DOOR! Not only is it a safety issue, it's a serious emotionally-crippling issue too!

My gut feeling on this is that you are starting the bedtime routine too late. I also believe that the TV show needs to be eliminated. No child really "needs" to watch TV. !!

A lot of sleep issues begin & end with the parent NOT being in control of the child. I know this sounds harsh, but if you have to resort to driving her around in the car.....then she's in charge & you're not!

At age 3, your child is old enough to understand a "family conference". This is a phrase I use a lot when responding to Mama's Questions. You simply sit down with your child, you explain what you want, what is going to change, & how she has to comply. At this point, you also clearly explain what the consequences are if she does not comply.

A good way to start with the consequences would be to "lose" her TV time. I would truly reserve that priviledge for on the weekends...& it has to be earned as a reward for going to bed "like a big girl". Using a chart system & stickers may help your child adjust her bedtime rituals!

Somehow, some way, you need to gain control & maintain it. The "1-2-3" discipline method is very effective & is used consistently in my daycare. I also used it with my own children....& it worked! Good Luck!

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how about letting her konk out on the couch next to you? i don't have a routine for my son anymore..he's 4..sometimes i let him fall asleep next to me on the couch..other times in his bed..or in another bed in the house..sometimes i let him watch a movie on his mini dvd player in bed til he konks out...i remember 3 was a tough age for sleep..he would only nap in the car..and he would wake so early...
i put a lock on his door for a week..and i sleep trained him to sleep in later..now he sleep in til 9:30am..i also co slept with my son sometimes when he was 3..so i didn't have any pressure one way or the other..we stuck to a routine the first 3 years and then at 3 we just lightened up a bit..and its paid off b/c he sleeps well through the night and sleeps in :)


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Your bedtime routine is starting too late and she shouldn't be watching a TV show prior to starting bedtime which ends too late. What time does she take her bath? That also helps with making them more comfortable prior to bedtime. Bed time routines are always changing and she probably lost her naptime so needs to go down earlier and will get up earlier but if you can handle that, it works better. If you have a set schedule she will be more confident. Wake up time, breakfast time, snack time, lunch time, pick up time, dinner time, play time, bedtime. If you are consistant and keep the TV shows limited and not at bedtime you will be more successfull. It's ok she wants you in her room because she's scared, she just watched tv and didn't have a bath, her minds wide a wake! Rule should be at such a young age, no tv shows before 7 p.m. and after dinner! The driving and naping is common even in old children, they are relaxed. She has given up naptime at home but will fall asleep in the car, that's natural. No locks on her door, what if something was to happen to you, she's locked inside and well, it's just not right, put a gate on her bedroom door but not shut the door and lock it, that's even more scarier for her. AS they get old the monsters are more vivid especially watching allot of tv shows.

2 moms found this helpful

With my daughter, I tell her that she has to go to bed and stay in bed, because mommy is tired. She doesn't have to sleep, but she can only come out to go potty. We try to start about 5:30 with dinner, then some running around, or a bath or both, then stories and rocking and bed. I try to have her in bed by 7, but recently it has been closer to 8... my fault. I still have a moniter in her room and can hear her reading to herself for about an hour. She has a night light and is not allowed to turn on the main light. It works out ok...
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I STRUGGLED with the bedtime routine for more than 6 months... before I figured out a trick!! For more than 2 months now, he's only gotten out of bed again 2 times...

I put something in his bed that he likes... for him it is his Cars little cars. Before I leave, I ask him "Do you want me to take your cars?"... "No" is always his reply... "Then you need to stay in bed, or I am going to take your cars!" He has only lost the cars 2 times in over 2 months!! He gets them back in the morning. Just the threat of losing something he loves, has really worked for us! No yelling required.... like I tell him, it's his choice to make. If he chooses to get up, he chooses to lose these beloved toys until morning.

I know how frustrating it is!! Hang in there!! :)

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