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How to Help Children Fall Asleep on Their Own

How to Help Children Fall Asleep on Their Own

Right when parents think they are on track with getting their sleep back, many children who were once good sleepers suddenly aren’t. At least that’s the experience that author Tracy Cutchlow had, and shared on The Huffington Post this month.

While attending SLEEP 2015, an annual meeting which features more than 1,000 incredible presentations showcasing the latest groundbreaking findings in sleep medicine, Cutchlow found inspiration in a small room labeled, “Practical Strategies for Working Parents to Manage Behavioral Sleep Problems in Children.”

Thanks to pediatric psychologist Brett Kuhn at the University of Nebraska Medical Center there is a new sleep strategy for children who won’t stay in bed long enough to truly relax or can’t fall asleep without you.

“The Excuse Me Drill” focuses on teaching your child what they should be doing for sleep, with you being all the positive reinforcement they need. Here’s what Cuthlow recommends for children ages 3 and up:

1. Mentally prepare yourself for a possibly long night; the first night should be the most the challenging.

2. Take a seat next to your child in bed and as you give them him/her praise for staying in bed, also give lots of touch and affection, such as rubbing their earlobes or scratch their back. After awhile say, “You are doing a wonderful job staying in bed. Excuse me, but I need to go do something. I’ll be right back.” Immediately leave the room and come back right away.

3. Resume soothing touch and began to focus on the positive, giving compliments on anything you see. Look impressed at how relaxed their legs are, “Wow!  You are lying in bed and your legs are so relaxed.” Then, excuse yourself again for a little bit longer this time and come back in resuming step 2.

4. As you began to see progress your child lying in bed, start leaving and coming back in sporadically and taking advantage of being unpredictable. According to Kuhn, unpredictability will help your child try to stay in bed because they don’t know when you (the reward) will be coming back. You may have to perform the drill 30 times the first night, but always remember to keep calm.

5. It is critical that you are not in the room when your child falls asleep so that they can eventually initiate going to sleep on their own.

6. Adjust the drill schedule based on how your child is doing. You may only have to come in the room half as many times as you did the first night.

Try keeping a sleep diary to record all of the progress and remember to be patient. If you feel as though you need more support or have any concerns about your child’s sleep, don’t hesitate to share any concerns with a licensed physician or sleep specialist.


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