Is It like This for Everyone???

Updated on July 12, 2012
A.S. asks from Houston, TX
31 answers

Hi Mommies! A disclaimer: I am feeling like I must be doing something wrong and am so frustrated I can't stand it. This is probably more of a vent than anything. I've written about my 5 y.o's aversion to sleep in the past. He will not go to sleep at night. He doesn't wake throughout the night. Just won't fall asleep for hours on end. Sometimes he is up and down, other times, he starts playing loudly. Still other times, he just lays there awake... for hours at a time. Last night, not asleep until 11. We put him to bed at 8.

I have literally tried everything short of spanking him, which would seem to be counterproductive anyway. Nightlights and everything under the sun to address any fears that he may have. So we have moved passed that as an issue, it appears (according to him). I have tried, laying with him, meditation, back rubs, staying on a set routine, getting him up at the same time each morning give or take 15 minutes. Countless other things. Something will work for a couple of nights and then we are back to the same ol same ol. Every once in a blue moon, we'll hit on something that works and he will fall asleep at a reasonable time and within a reasonable amount of time for a couple of months. And then the magic just disappears for months on end with no apparent reason.

The one thing he says is that he can't turn his brain off at night. But he whines and complains throughout the day about how tired he is (lately he's been getting about b/t 8 and 10 hours a night). He is yawning constantly by the end of the day and as I snuggle with him at night. When we try new things, we used to try them for a couple of weeks. But now we are at such a loss, it is probably more like a few nights. Most of my friends claim their kiddos this age are going to sleep just fine. Am I the only one having this issue with their child?

What can I do next?

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answers from Chicago on

My daughter fights going to sleep. A few nights ago I told her she was welcome to read books in bed but she isn't allowed to get out of bed. She has stopped calling for us every 20 secs. I just had to go in there once, about 15 minutes later last night, to tuck her in for the last time. Maybe telling him he can play quietly will do the trick?

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answers from Missoula on

He sounds a little like me... I have NEVER been able to quickly fall asleep. Even as a child, it took me 2-3 hours to get to sleep. Heck, even now, when I use all sorts of non-medication sleep aids, I still take over an hour.

My brain just doesn't shut off.

Counting sheep and meditation don't work well for me. I have to concentrate too hard on it, which keeps me awake. My best bet to fall asleep is to start a "guided dream" where I pretty much fantasize about anything I want... When I was a kid, it used to be things like getting a horse, or living in a tree house... things like that. I would lay in bed, in the dark with my eyes closed while I directed what I wanted to happen in my fantasy. Eventually, my fantasy would start taking on it's own aspects without my direction, and I would just drift off into sleep.

I had a sleep study done when I was young, and that is what the doctor suggested before trying me on medication. It worked well for me! (I did try medication for a while when I was in high school, but I don't react well to a lot of medications... so I went back to my dreaming. lol.)

ETA after reading some of the other answers, I wanted to add...
When I was young, we always had a 1hr calm-down period, where we stayed in bed and read with the lights on. (Bedtime at 8:00, lights out at 9:00) Up until I was about 17, I NEEDED some kind of noise, be it TV, radio, or outside noise (like a storm or something...) to fall asleep. After that, to this day I need it to be mostly quiet. I can NOT sleep at ALL if the TV is on, and I have a hard time with the radio. Lol. I would experiment a bit to see what works better for your son in that regard.

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answers from Charlotte on

I'd talk to the doctor if I were you. Perhaps he doesn't have enough seratonin. Perhaps he has ADHD. (Not sleeping well is one of the markers for that.)

I'd put him to bed at 9:00, quite honestly. 8:00 is too early. I would also tell him that if he wakes you up playing, that he is in trouble, and I'd take several toys away. If he wants to look at books, that's okay. Perhaps you could have a low watt TIMED light that he could turn on to look at a book, beside the bed, and then it would turn off by itself.

Spanking him for not sleeping won't help AT ALL. At least he is able to explain to you that he can't turn off his brain. Pretty good for a five year old.

DO talk to the doctor about this.

Good luck,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

(sigh) honestly & seriously, you have tried tooooo many methods. He knows you're inconsistent & he is winning this game. :)

Lots of thoughts: he's 5, he'll be heading to KG....right? That'll whoop his butt, & he'll sleep for you.

Some children do not require more than 8 hours sleep. My dr told me that the brighter the child, the less sleep they need. He told me to be "thankful" for the 9 hours my son was pulling. My son was 2! & took a 45 minute nap.....& that's it. :)

Quit snuggling with him. Yes, I said it! Read a book together, tuck him in, & walk away. Go to bed yourself. Model the behavior you want him to exhibit!

Get him more physical thru the day. Eliminate all sugars/carbs past dinner time. & readdress that 8pm's not mandatory for all kids! At age 5, my sons were going to bed at 9pm....& were up at 6-8am. There were quite a few days where it was 10pm & 8am!

I think this is pretty much a case of "leave him alone".....set a later bedtime & walk away. :)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

An aversion is something you typically dislike....

It isn't that he dislikes sleep, but he described it to you perfectly... he can't turn his brain off at night.

Some people are on a different sleep cycle... they are night owls, and their sleep cycles don't kick in until later.... and they are difficult to get up in the morning. With work, a sleep cycle can be reset, but you have to keep with the new schedule...... Your son may just be a night owl, and function better at night.

Have you talked to his doctor about this? I'm not suggesting medicating him, but the doctor may have some suggestions......

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ETA: Diet plays a key role. As well as rules. Set them - stick to them and don't change them.

My 10 year old fights sleep. He can stay up WWWWAAAAAYYY past me.

He's been this way for 9 years. No kidding.

What do we do to help him not stay awake until all hours of the night?

No electronics for 30 to 60 minutes before bed - no TV, XBOX, DS, etc. NONE. He can read a book - but NO electronics.

A warm to hot shower before bed.

Classical music - he NEEDS noise - so we chose classical together instead of the white noise. he enjoys the soothing sound.

What I have found is the MORE YOU FORCE sleep - the harder it is for him.

We have told him that he CANNOT play loudly. He must stay in bed unless he needs to go to the bathroom...we don't bother him. I check on him when I go to bed.

Since we haven't been FORCING sleep - it's been a LOT better. I would stop trying "new' things. Keep it simple.

No electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
No playing in bed
Read a book
Play music or give him 'white noise'
Don't check on him every 15 minutes and tell him to go to sleep - it's counter-productive.

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answers from Dallas on

I would have broughtt his up with the pedi already if it were me. That seems excessive.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Two thoughts for you:

1. Is he overly tired? I know with mine, the more exhausted he was, the longer it took him to fall asleep. IMHO, 8-10 hours with no naps may not be enough for him.

2. Make sure he's getting enough physical exercise during the day, and NO television or video games for a few hours before bed. It super-stimulates their brains.

Also, have you tried a story CD and/or music while he's in bed?

(And is there a chance he is ADHD? O. of my son's friends is like this and he is "on go" as soon as he wakes up and has a terrible time going to sleep at night. )

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answers from Washington DC on

For my daughter, the later she goes to bed, the harder it is to turn her mind off and fall asleep. She will beg for a later bedtime (she is 8 now), and every time she will have a difficult time falling asleep that night and the next night, from being over tired. So she has to go to bed at 730 (she will usually fall asleep at 8). At age 5, we would start the bedtime routine at 7 and she would be asleep at 730. My nephew sounds like your son. My SIL moaned and moaned about how he wouldn't fall asleep until midnight. She continuously ignored my advice about an earlier bedtime. He had lots of behavior problems because he wasn't sleeping properly. Finally she decided to try the early bedtime. What do you know? He fell asleep at 730 every night. Then she got lax and decided to go back to giving him his DS and DVD player at night. He is back up until midnight. Sleep begets sleep. Put him to bed early.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

He sounds over tired. You don't mention what his night routine is, but I would try a solid one and stick to it. You might also think about giving him melatonin to get him back on a good sleep cycle. We did that with our son and it worked great, and we weaned him off of it after a couple months. (Ours doesn't stay in bed though, and that's a whole other thing...)
Sleep issues are tough on everyone~ Good luck!

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answers from New York on

I have a teenager that never wanted to go to sleep at night at this age. She just couldn't turn off her mind. I had to get rid of all beverages that had any kind of caffeine - iced tea, choc milk, etc. Taking a bath helps too - it's calming. Then we'd read some quiet books - for a while if neccessary. Then it was jsut time to lay down in bed. I told her she didn't have to fall asleep - but she had to stay in bed. She could "read" books while laying in bed with a nightlight. The eye strain of trying to read in the darkish room won't dause any permanent damage - some eye strain for that evening - but it may help get sleepy.

Also - it's also a good idea to wear them out during the day (not evening), get them out in the fresh air, pool, sprinkler, etc. Something about the fresh air & exercise earlier in the day makes them ready for bed.

Good luck mama - this will pass I promise.

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answers from Dallas on

My son went through a phase like this and our pediatrician suggested melatonin. She said a lot of kids need less than the recommended dose and I found with him, it was incredible how little I could give him and he would be out in like 5 minutes, literally. They sell liquid melatonin with a dropper - some have alcohol in them, so just be careful to buy one without alcohol. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring chemical that our brains produce in response to darkness, and he may just not be producing enough of it (can happen when overtired or for other reasons related to brain chemistry - if you see other indications of attentional issues, difficulty regulating his behavior and movement, might want to explore that). With my son, I ended up guessing that he'd gotten a little chronically overtired and so giving him Melatonin for about 3-4 nights did the trick to reset him. I'll do it again if he goes through that again. My son has always had a tendency to get overtired very easily, from the day he was born, so I think this is how it shows at this age (he's 4). Good luck. Nothing more frustrating than sleep issues with your kids - believe me I know!!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My initial reaction is to wonder whether he is getting enough mental and physical activity during the daytime. Is he getting playtime outside? Good mental engagement?

He reminds me of myself, so I have a real soft spot here. I'd limit screen time during the day (none at all after dinner), make sure his mind gets a good work out in the daytime (there is a lot of reasoning and learning that can happen at 5!). Make sure he gets lots of physical activity during the daytime. Then a good wind down bedtime routine from dinnertime on. Ritual and routine will make a big difference. Bath, one on one (parent/child) story time, prayer time, then a kiss good night.

Also, a visit to the doctor to rule out any allergies and other conditions is in order. If he has sinus problems that might be causing ringing in the ears (which he wouldn't even recognize as odd since he's so little) that could be keeping him from falling asleep. When I was 4 or 5 we learned that I had some truly odd food allergies that caused all kinds of reactions...behavioral and physical. Changing my diet saved my sanity.

Last but not least, he needs to know that if you say to stay in bed after you tuck him in, you mean it. Just because he feels like getting up doesn't mean he can. Knowing that a parent is in charge gives a child security.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My son has also had trouble turning off his brain. Here are strategies that have worked for us:

Move bedtime forward (earlier) in 15 minute intervals to see if a particular time works better than another.

Pressure. A weighted blanket can help...either make your own (lots of instructions online) or buy one (expensive). Another pressure option we used (recommended by his OT) is to apply pressure across different points of his body with our hands. Goes like this...child lays on their back in bed, arms by their side, place the flat of your hand on his forehead and apply steady pressure to a count of 10 (pushing the head into the bed), let up and move a hand to each shoulder and apply pressure again, repeat as you move to the elbow area, then hands, hips, thighs just above the knees, ankles, feet. Then start going back up. Do this through 3 cycles. No talking. Steady even pressure, never sudden or jerky, transition calmly.

Melatonin. One third of a tablet works. It is especially helpful for kids who take a long time falling asleep and/or have erratic sleep cycles.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Have you asked your pedi? Maybe it's a medical issue an not behavioral.

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answers from Boston on

I would address it as a medical issue and not a behavioral issue. If he weren't tired during the day, I would actually recommend letting him go to bed when he's ready to sleep. My kids have never, ever gone to bed before 9 PM. My oldest used to go to bed at 10 or 11 until he was about 4 or 5 and then 9 PM by the time he was in Kindergarten. He still only sleeps until 7 or 8, even on weekends and he's a teenager - his teenage sister and most of his friends will sleep until noon if allowed to, but he just never needed that much sleep. My two little guys go to bed at 9 but are often awake until 10, even on a school night. They get up on their own at 7 AM and are not tired during the day.

Anyway, it doesn't sound to me at all that he's defiant. It does sound like he can't transition his little brain to the state it needs to be in to get to sleep. Your pediatrician should be able to offer some info for you - perhaps something like melatonin would help him to be able to cycle into sleep more easily. If you pedi has no ideas, try a naturopath. Sometimes things like magnesium deficiency can cause wakefulness.

What would happen if you were to let him sleep when he's tired and wake up on his own, with no attention paid to the clock? Maybe give that a try just to assess where his body and mind are and find out how big a problem that would be. If he would nod off at 10 PM, wake at 7 or 8 and take a nap during the day, that's not all that bad. If it's something crazy, then it's worth pursuing a more manageable schedule. Some people are just wired to be night owls - I can be tired all day and by 10 PM, I'm wide awake. If I didn't have other obligations, I would sleep from 1 AM to 9 AM every day.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Sounds ADHD to me but I am not a professional in any way. My daughter used to say stuff like this and I argued with the doc who wanted to put her on meds for it.

I thing this child is doing everything in his power to be obedient. This is not a choice he is making so stop making this about him choosing to not go to bed.

It seems to me this is a job for a psychiatrist to address not a pediatrician. They treat kids illnesses like strep throat and a cold, they are NOT mental health professionals.

Since he is 5 you'll need to have him evaluated by a psychologist who is professionally trained to do this type of eval. They will need to send home questionnaires for each person he is in contact with. We had the preschool teachers and both my hubby and myself all filled them out. The psychologist told us that it was uncanny. We answered almost every question identically. It was like we sat together and filled them out.

The Psychologist will send a report to the Psychiatrist that has agreed to take your child as a patient pending a diagnosis from the Psychologist. Once that diagnosis is made the Psychiatrist can prescribe something to help your young man.

This is an ongoing issue. Please take care of him. He is obviously tired and needs you to help him.

He has a biological problem that the right kind of doc needs to treat him for. He is not able in any way to control his brain. It would be like a diabetic telling his body to start working the right way and then getting in trouble when that doesn't work. He has something biological going on in his body, he is not at fault in any way.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest you try choosing a night time routine and stick with it for a couple of weeks. Once the routine is over, you leave the room, he stays in the room and there is no fuss about whether or not he sleeps.

I suggest that the inability to sleep has become the routine. I suggest that there is too much focus on getting to sleep which has created stress.

If you're concerned about ADHD then take him to the pediatrician for an evaluation. Not just because of the sleep issue but because he is unable to focus and function at other times.

Also ask the pediatrician about giving him an herbal supplement. There are several that help with sleep. I've heard of a mixture that comes in a small dropper bottle. You just add drops to water/drink.

Both of my grandchildren have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. The older, 12, with ADD has never had difficulty getting to sleep. The youngest, 9. ADHD, does have difficulty getting to sleep tho he has been sleeping better since he's been on risperdal. He's very sensitive to noise. He has sensory issues as well and sees a developmental pediatrician.

In response to the suggestion that you have him evaluated by a mental health professional the pediatrician is where you start. If an exam and questionnaires indicate a possibility of ADD, ADHD, or sensory issues the pediatrician will then refer him to a developmental pediatrician who is trained for such things.

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answers from Chicago on

Try using melatonin, we had to do this for a while, but my son does have adhd.

ETA: You can use liquid form - better for small kids I found putting it in a 3oz dixie cup with some watered down juice helped - a total of 1.5 oz before bed will not hurt, even when potty training.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I can't turn my mind off to go to sleep either, but I can turn my mind off when the tv is on. If I put on the right show I can fall asleep in 15 minutes watching tv. Not a great habit, but it has always worked for me. Maybe you are putting your son to bed too early. What time does he get up? At the age of five 10 hours is enough, and he might have an easier time going to sleep if he is not put to bed too early. I know I wouldn't be able to go to sleep if I went to bed at 8:00pm, and if I had to lay there for two hours I would probably be too restless to go to sleep at 10:00pm as well. My boys sleep from 10:00pm to 8:00am, and have done so since they were little.

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answers from New York on

No it is not like this for everyone. My kids are all great sleepers. Not trying to be obnoxious, just letting you know I don't think it is supposed to be that way.

I think you got great advice from others. I second the melatonin advice and also a good bedtime routine and making sure he is well exercised and tired!

Also I would not punish. It is not him being bad. It is a problem to deal with together.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My husband has a over active brain and so does one of my stepsons...what has worked for us and for husband when he was little was LOTS of exercise! LOTS and LOTS of exercise early in the day and then a later bedtime, like 9p with at least an hour of 'down time' before lights out.

When SS was this age his schedule in the summer time was like this:
Wake up (most often needs to be woken up) and eat.
Sport of some kind. (lots of running in soccer & tennis)
LOTS of swimming.
Good healthy food.
Limited caffeine.
8pm electronics off.
Bath time.
Dim lights and I would read him a couple chapters of a book.
All lights out by 9pm.
*When he got older, If needed, soft music on to occupy the brain so he could fall asleep.

Good Luck!

~ Sadly, this might be a life long struggle for your lil' man. It has been for my husband...he is UBER intelligent (knows every answer on Jeopardy, is a computer programmer, might actually be ADHD of some kind but never diagnosed) and has a hard time turning his brain off too. As an adult, he is a night owl for sure! I modeled my SS's schedule from my MIL...she gave me advice about how she used to handle my husband when he was little...she used to make him run laps around the house when in between sports, Ha!

SS's Mother just used to give him a combination of sleeping pills, benedryl and melatonin (sp?) but we did not want to go the medication we didn't.

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answers from Phoenix on

I have great sleepers. I'm not a big fan of giving any kinds of meds or suppliments, but maybe melatonin might work for him. My kids are older, 16, 12 and 9. We have the exact same schedule every single day. They start showers at 7:15 and all of them are in their rooms at 8pm. They don't have to sleep, but they stay in there reading, listening to music, playing, drawing, etc. We also don't give them any kind of caffeine at all after 2pm and cut back on sugar also. He will have a hard time if he's overstimulated too so make sure he isn't watching tv or playing video games before bed. And he needs a good amount of physical activity to wear him out without overstimulating him. My kids fall asleep sooner on the days that we swim after dinner. You have gotten a lot of good suggestions. I hope you find something that works. Good luck!

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answers from Columbus on

I agree that starting with your pediatrician is what to do first. I would also ask him/her if there are any foods your child is consuming that could be linked to this problem. Take a look at what he's eating throughout the day and what exactly is in them. Too much sugar, food coloring, etc. Your doctor should know what to avoid to help.

Good luck with this.

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answers from Omaha on

Have you talked to your doctor about it? The only thing I can think of to suggest is, is it possible he has enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids? Does he breathe loud, snore at night, chronic sore throats or have sinus issues? My son is 4 and while we didn't necessarily have trouble getting him to go to sleep, he would wake up during the night and then complain about daytime fatigue. He breathed like Darth Vader during the day and was an open mouth sleeper. I could hear him breathing from his bedroom door. We had his adenoids taken out in March and it has made a night and day difference! Something else you might want to check out. You would have to see an ENT to get an X-ray of his tonsils and adenoids. Most ped doctors don't perform that in their office. Good luck!

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answers from Columbia on

Melatonin, no night lights (except in the bathroom and on the way to the bathroom).

Also, like another parent said, if your child is on medication for ADHD, I suggest giving it to him early in the morning so that the stimulant has worn off by bedtime. If it's a non-stimulant, like Strattera or Intuniv, you might try giving it to him at bedtime.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

We've gone through stages of sleep challenges. Plenty of exercise helps. Swimming in the early evening or late afternoon seems to really put our girls to sleep quickly. A fan helps create white noise and they like to have the air circulating in the summer. Music was NOT helpful because they would just want to stay awake to listen to it as long as possible. Also reading before bed is a great habit and naturally makes one sleepy. Go to the library A LOT. Always have interesting books for him to look at just for before bedtime. One of my girls like the big DK non-fiction picture books, lot of good science, etc. You can't force someone to actually sleep, but you can have the rule he must be in his room (maybe even in his bed) at bedtime. Consider getting a bed tent. Keep reducing the amount of light in and around his room. I like the Supernanny technique of just guiding them back to bed without conversation or attention every single time, until they figure out it just doesn't pay off to keep getting out of bed. Good luck!

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answers from Columbia on

If you've tried everything but spanking, maybe it's time to try that?

If not, then it sounds like he doesn't respect your authority. Mommy sets bedtime. Mommy sets naptime. Until she abdicates that authority and
gives it to the child. Then the child decides.

Right now the child is deciding. However it happens, that needs to stop.

I hope that helps. :)
Oh, and our son wouldn't sleep either. Until we did sleep training - meaning no more excuses, no more answering the whines, he can sleep through the night and just hasn't learned to self soothe yet. We used the Babywise book series, but Ferber is similar.

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answers from Dallas on

melatonin worked for me when I tried it, start with the lowest dose. but it tends to cause you to have very vivid dreams, they can be good or frightening, just thought you might want to know. I may try it with my 12 yo, he also has trouble sleeping. lots of daytime activity helps him the most, but he really isn't a very active person, but he will read a book all night if I let him. I do ask that my kids stay in their room, I encourage them to think about something they want to do the next day (guided dreaming like someone else said) and they do listen to calming music. When my kids were little we had some music that had a heart beat sound in the back ground and it seemed to help, but I lost it when we moved, so I don't know what it was called, it was from Focus on the Family (a baby gift someone gave me) but my son had a lot of trouble turning his mind off also, and he doesn't seem to need as much sleep at 12 yo... but when he was 5 I did have a 8:00pm bed time, no nap, and he would sleep late when he could.

ps it may not be like this for everyone but you are certainly not alone! hope that helps



answers from Tyler on

I have a 9 year old and a 4 year old. My 9 year old has always been a great sleeper. He falls asleep in cars and really anywhere. They both go to bed at 8:00. My son (9 year old) is asleep by 8:05. My 4 year is definitely NOT asleep by 8:05 and is often still awake for sure at 9 if not 9:30/10:00. I have decided not to worry about it. She still has to go to her room and go to bed. She has permission to get up and get water and go to the bathroom. But, she is not allowed to come and talk to me or watch tv or do anything with me. She has to stay in her room. She recently asked me if she could play with something in her bed and told she could. I just KNOW she is not tired at 8PM and is not going to go to sleep. However, she does still take a nap at daycare and I know that is contributing to the problem. So, I am just patiently waiting for the nap to end at daycare.

Good luck!


answers from Boise on

I was going to suggest melatonin also. It sounds like his sleep pattern needs to be reset.

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