How To Get Children To Go To Sleep By Themselves

If getting your little one drifting off to sleep alone, is a lengthy process taking you more than an hour, sleep coach, Cheryl Fingleson shares solutions and tips to save both yours and your child’s sleep.

We all know it is vital for a child to have uninterrupted sleep, for health, development and behavioural reasons. There is no hard and fast rule for the amount of sleep your child needs, the average range for 2-3 year olds is between 11 to 13 hours and ages 5-7 years is 10 to 12 hours, including naps within a 24 hour period.



Children will absolutely prosper when following a routine- FACT! It may not seem like it at first when trying to establish your routines, as you may receive some strong resistance to changes, but persist and you will undoubtedly see how your child flourishes with a consistent, practical routine.

A daily ritual to get to bed and off to sleep is essential to promote happy and comfortable sleep associations, and smooth bedtime scenarios, where kids will easily and comfortably go off to sleep without need for a parent. See what works for you and your family’s lifestyle, but a general idea is to incorporate bath-time after dinner, brushing teeth, a story and then tucking into bed for lights out. Stick to this daily so it becomes the norm and sleep time is expected.


Part of the routine involves setting the right scene for sleeping. The bedroom should encourage rest, relaxation and rejuvenation; all conducive to a good nights sleep. Especially important as preschoolers and upwards are sensitive to the energy of their surroundings. Tidy, uncluttered spaces will create a calm and peaceful atmosphere, so try to avoid clothing racks and shelving that display items and might stimulate a child. Also imperative, is to avoid technology, screens and loud sounds/toys in the room that can awaken senses rather than placating and subduing your child. Try dim lighting for the nighttime ritual in the bedroom and maybe incorporate a quick and quiet tidy up session before a story and keep all electronics away from this environment.

A relaxed, cosy and soothing environment will help your little one feel safe, secure and ready for sleep.

Over-tiredness and Hormones

Cortisol is a hormone released into the body acting as adrenaline or a ‘second-wind’ when your child misses their sleep window and becomes over-tired, making it difficult for them to unwind and fall asleep. It is best to avoid an extended nighttime procedure with ‘awakening’ acts that could lead to over-tiredness. Tickling for example, is not a good idea before bedtime, as is harsh, direct lighting to the eyes whether from electronics or room illumination. Room temperatures of 18-21c and blackout curtains for blocking light are ideal sleeping conditions for the body.

What we want to do is prompt the release of melatonin, which allows the body to relax and go into the first sleep cycle, so be sensible with using activities wisely at this time.


Positive encouragement will boost children to keep doing what they’re doing and so when a good behaviour during bedtime is displayed, reward it immediately at that moment, with praise or stickers for example. Reward first thing in the morning for a good nights sleep or right at the time when pyjamas have been put on without assistance.

Focus on areas of success rather than failure, and you will find that any changes to the bedtime routine you are implementing will be adhered to.

Requests and Waking in the Night

How to handle and eliminate a power struggle and a million requests once tucked up in bed from your toddlers and preschooler or their awakening through the night? Two words: BE BORING!

Always give simple short instructions which are easy to understand and follow.

Be calm but firm and reiterate that ‘its time for sleep’ without getting into any discussions. Let them feel secure knowing your presence is nearby, but be firm about either escorting them back to their room from awakening in the night, or responding to their menial requests for ‘water’ or ‘tucking in again’ or ‘being too hot/cold’. Remember that its not a time for punishments, just for setting the limits on what’s acceptable during sleep time.

The key points top remember are to keep things the same, keep things in time and keep things low key for bedtime practices. Your preschooler will soon come to have comfortable and readiness associations with going to bed for a night of sleeping, and with consistency you should all be having a relaxing night!

Stay away from screens an hour before bed for all, is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation and me.


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