My 3-Yr Old Boy Can't Get to Sleep.

Updated on March 13, 2009
D.L. asks from Everett, WA
19 answers

I'm really worried about my boy. We get up at the same time every day. He may or may not take a nap between 11:00-1pm. No later than 2pm. I put him to bed at 8pm and he lies awake for hours. He doesn't cry or make a sound but he rolls around and around and around trying to find a comfortable position like an insomniac adult would.

He twirls his hair and picks at his lips or face. I sing to him and rub his back and hold him but nothing works. I asked him if he is okay or if something hurts and he tells me he is okay. It's like he just can't get to sleep. And when he finally does get to sleep, he rolls around so much, I don't think he is getting an actual sound sleep.

And ofcourse I do not feed him sugar at night. We calm down at night. I read to him and here it is at 11pm and he is wide awake.

My whole family has suffered with insomnia and I am guessing that this is hereditary. But at such a young age??

What can I do next?

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W.C.

answers from Seattle on

For give my bluntness but,

no more naps, even if he is dropping in his steps--just no more naps.

more exercise--swimming, gymnastics--soccer (?), throwing ball with his dad after work, etc.

get one of those machines that make ocean or forest noise.

warm lavender bath before bed time.

same routine every single night without fail.

and good luck.

1 mom found this helpful
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R.S.

answers from Seattle on

My son who is 2 1/2 has the same problem. His bed time was 8 and just over the last 2 weeks I have started to push it back 15- 30 min. It has made a big difference. He now goes to bed about 8:30, 8:45 and almost goes to sleep right away. Maybe you could try that to see if it helps.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

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S.W.

answers from Seattle on

I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he has insomnia. Try eliminating his nap all together. He's old enough not to take a nap. The nap is probably giving him just enough rest to make it hard to go to sleep at night. My son will do the same thing if he takes a nap. As long as he doesn't take a nap he goes to sleep just fine. Your son will be ok without a nap. It may take a week to adjust, but I bet he will be able to go to sleep at night and sleep better. Good [email protected]

2 moms found this helpful
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A.D.

answers from Portland on

it sounds like it's time to cut out the nap. my daughter is the same way, if her sitter gives her a nap longer than 45 minutes she's awake until 9:30 or 10 PM (her bedtime is strictly 8 PM). however, if she doesn't have a nap, she's asleep by 8:30. it makes for a happier child and a happier mother, overall.

1 mom found this helpful
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A.F.

answers from Seattle on

I was recently reading a new book called "Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution" and he (a cardiologist surgeon) states that any white foods (flour-based, even whole grain) and all fruits can have the same responses as refined sugar on your system. I know you don't give him sugar at night, but my 4 yr old is very sensitive to sugar and I just recently started cutting out fruits and white food overload at night (after 3P) and started giving her moderate to high protein in the evenings (cottage cheese, cheese, chicken, etc) and her night terrors have gone away completly.

I'm so sorry you all are having this problem; I feel for you and your family. I know how difficult sleep issues can be on the entire family!

best of luck
A.

1 mom found this helpful
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N.F.

answers from Anchorage on

I see a ton of sleep questions up here, and it often seems like the parents want the kids to sleep more hours (out of every 24) than the kid needs. I don't know if this is the case for you, because you don't say what time you get up, but unless it's 5a.m. or earlier, your child doesn't need to go to bed at 8 after getting a 2 hour nap. I know I'd love it if my twins needed more sleep (I'd get more done!) but at almost 3 years old, 11 hours of sleep and 13 hours awake out of every 24 hours is right for them. There are charts on line that will show average values by age, although kids do vary. My kids nap, but that means they sleep only 9 hours at night. Some folks seem shocked that my 2-year-olds go to bed at 10, but if you do the math, 10p.m.-7a.m. and 1 p.m.-3p.m. add up to 11 hours.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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J.D.

answers from Seattle on

D.,

I have been there -- still am to some degree. Both my sons are 'active' sleepers. When my eldest was barely one, we took him to the Seattle Sleep Clinic and they asked if he was a 'sleep walker' -- I laughed and said 'No, but he is a sleep crawler!' The folks there were no help. They were used to dealing with adults. So... what can I say to help? A couple of things: (1)has your son been checked for sleep apnea? Does he snore (at all), suffer from allergies or asthma? Those can interrupt sleep. Does he get enough activity during the day? Children these days don't often. And boys -- at least mine -- need the heavy muscular activity to challenge their bodies and minds. Which brings me to another item: Sensory issues. Sometimes it is issues of temprature, light or texture that affect sleep... I read somewhere that for sleep to really work, the room needs to be pitch dark. Any light at all will interrupt sleep. Indeed, recent research indicates that too much light at night is linked to the developement of breast cancer in women. So... darken his room, check the ambient temperature, and check his bedding/clothing for textures. Are there any stray vibrations or sounds that might be waking him? Again, we run an air filter which blanks a lot of sound. Finally, for some children a 'heavy' blanket helps quiet their activity. If you are interested in this, contact me and I will send you a link to it (I don't have it at the moment). The heavy blanket is a trick used by pediatric OTs to help calm and soothe children.

I hope some of this works... on the bright side, though, recent research indicates that insomnia is linked to higher levels of intelligence and creativity... :>

Best wishes
Jenny

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J.C.

answers from Seattle on

D. -- you sound like you AND YOUR LITTLE BOY are handling this very well--- he stays in his bed-- he has NOT made this any kind of power struggle ( I want to PLAY - I need more WATER) --- . And yes, - from what I've experiences with my God-children's father and my younger God-son--- your best bet ( other than the fabulous life you have created for your boy---- shown by his lovely handling of this -- really I'm so impressed) -- is to check out a really first rate sleep clinic --- perhaps Childrens' Hospital if you are in the Seattle area ---
The only addition I'd suggest to your regime is to be sure whatever tv shows or videos he watches after say 5 pm are really low key --- and then you might suggest to him that you might put a tape player in his room with music that he likes -- ( nice, quiet classical or any other that are soothing and calm)

Blessings,
J.

1 mom found this helpful
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A.S.

answers from Eugene on

Have you tried letting him stay up until he feels sleepy and wants to go to bed?

1 mom found this helpful
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C.S.

answers from Medford on

Hi, I'm sorry I don't really have any advice for you, but my son (turned 3 in Jan) does the same thing and had been for a while. Usually hard to get him to sleep before 11-11:30, even though I put him to bed at 9pm. He sleeps in until about 7:30 most days. If I don't give him a nap he will usually go down easier, but he will also start melting down the last few hours of the day. If he takes even 1/2 hour nap at daycare it is a late night. I just keep hoping it is a phase and he will sleep better eventually. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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D.T.

answers from Portland on

Music or a story on a tape or cd is good advice. I used that alot when my son was younger. Do not use the tv is stimulates the wrong part of the brain. You may ask your doctor if you can use melatonin it is a supplement to get your inner sleep timer adjusted. I would ask your doctor first. I have an adhd son and the melatonin helps him get sleep.

1 mom found this helpful
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B.B.

answers from Portland on

Hi there! My toddler son is the same way, except I know he isn't ready to give up his nap...if he goes without that he's trying to fall asleep by 6pm, and that wouldn't be good 'cuz you know he'd be up at 3am!!
But he is a night owl for sure!!
I give him a 1/4 tab of melatonin crushed up into a swallow of milk (water, whatever) and in about an hour he's drifting off. He doesn't just fall asleep all of a sudden and he doesn't act drugged. And he's down by 9:30 and up at 6:30am. My 10 y/o son has trouble getting to sleep - same thing, will lay there for hours...so he takes the melatonin too and it works wonders for him.

1 mom found this helpful
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M.S.

answers from Portland on

I don't know what your daily schedule looks like, but maybe he isn't getting enough energy out during the day. Try doing something really active after dinner time. Go outside and run around, or chase him through the house and tickle him. Before bed, give him a sippy cup of warm milk. Be sure to brush his teeth afterward, but you can do that while he is laying down in his bed. Make sure it isn't too light in his room. If he has any nightlights, put something between the light source and him so it isn't shining directly in his eyes. Keep all hallway lights off. Consider putting a fan or some other white noise thing in his room.

These are all things that have helped with mine. He only needs 10-12 hours of sleep, so calculate how much sleep he is getting to see if he is getting enough with his schedule. If he sleeps from 11-1 nap, and 11-7 at night, that is 10 hours of sleep, and could be enough for him. Not all kids need to go to bed at 8pm. You may also consider cutting out his nap so he gets all his sleep in one stretch. You can also wake him up earlier so he will fall asleep sooner. If nothing seems to work, and you feel he is not getting enough sleep, then talk to his dr.

1 mom found this helpful

L.U.

answers from Seattle on

D. - I have a son who is 3 also. If I put him down for a nap he will not go to sleep until about 10 or 11. Our normal bedtime is 8pm also. So, no naps for him or else he is up and down, singing, playing until late in the night and he has to get up at 7am to go to work with me.
I would suggest eliminating nap.
L.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I have found that when I stay in the room with my grandchildren they take longer to go to sleep unless I'm lying down with them, unresponsive to their questions and/or comments.

Their mother puts on a CD that contains either soft music or a story and then she leaves the room. Sometimes the 5 yo, when he was younger, had difficulty falling asleep and she just quietly taken him back to bed. Either he's outgrown it, has adapted, or her putting him back to bed has taught him that staying awake does not get him attention.

My granddaughter, when she's at my house, will usually go to sleep while I'm reading to her or while listening to a story on CD.

I think that a big part of being able to go to sleep is having a night time routine. Perhaps a bath, quiet time, reading stories, or even watching a 30 minute quiet DVD such as the Little Bear series. I remember my mother rubbing my and my brothers' backs for a short period of time. She didn't stay in the room longer than 10 minutes or so.

Does he have a night light? That has helped my grandchildren too. When my granddaughter was 3 I frequently rocked her until she was sleepy.

My daughter, who came to me as a foster daughter at age 7, had difficulty getting to sleep. She frequently wanted to talk about things. If your son spends his day elsewhere, or away from you, 10-15 minutes letting him talk may help. I did learn with my grandchildren that if I spent more time than a few minutes after they were in bed they stayed awake longer.

I suggest that the adult's confidence that the child will go asleep if left alone might help. If your son has a quiet bed time routing I suggest trying after you stay with him a short period of time, reading, rubbing his back, or some other soothing routine that you tell him that you're confident that he will learn how to go to sleep before you leave the room. Empathize with his difficulty but reinforce that going to sleep is going to happen. Encourage him to not think about it. Put a CD on to help distract him from focusing on going to sleep.

My daughter became quite frustrated because her kids had difficulty going to sleep. When she stopped paying attention to it they gradually went to sleep more quickly.

1 mom found this helpful
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J.C.

answers from Medford on

Hi D.,
i am a mother of five children, with the youngest being 17, she is the one that has the insomnia problem, along with me. One of the things that has helped me is what they call meditation or soothing music, calming waters, raining waters that type of thing. I know when it is raining or snowing that seems to be when both of us get our best sleep. Just a suggestion. Good luck.
Joe

1 mom found this helpful
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D.K.

answers from Bellingham on

My daughter is like that, still! And she is 12. i think some people just need more sleep than others. She stopped taking naps very early.

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K.W.

answers from Portland on

Late comment here, but I agree you might try hanging-around-and-helping-him less. I find that my girl is perfectly happy to stay awake and listen to me read/tell stories, sing songs, etc. Now I lay down a few feet away and say "quiet time now, love you, good night" and fake sleeping (or actually conk out). In 3-10 minutes, without the stimulation of my attention, she's gone. I don't leave the room until she's asleep--she's not ready to be alone in the dimness--but I have found that paying a much shorter span of attention to her has been a huge help.

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A.H.

answers from Portland on

My son did this same thing around 2.5. It's time to stop your son's nap. It might take a couple of days, but he'll adjust and fall asleep at night. Good luck!

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