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My daughter is such a mess before bed—she's so hard to
deal with! She's 5, and her bedtime is 8 p.m., but she fights it every single night. Sometimes
doesn't fall asleep until closer to 9 p.m. What should I do?
If she isn't napping anymore, she might be telling you she's
tired earlier than 8 p.m. She has a funny way of communicating it, but so do most
little kids—they haven't yet learned the adult habit of winding down, getting
calm and curling up when they're tired. Instead, they tend to wind up and look
like they're fighting sleep.
Actually, adults have a second wind before bed too—one last
period of alertness, when our bodies are sending us "stay awake" signals to get
us through to bedtime. Once we're closer to bedtime itself, those alerting
signals are finally withdrawn so we can sleep.
So don't be fooled: It's normal for kids to look very awake
in the hour or so before their optimal tuck-in time. At 5 years old, your
daughter needs about 11 to 12 hours of sleep, so if she wakes up at 6:30 a.m., her
bedtime could be around 7 p.m. If
that isn't possible, because of work schedules, set a bedtime as close to 7 p.m. as you can manage on a regular basis.
Eventually, her body will adjust and she'll start sleeping in later.
Put a clock in her bedroom and teach
her to stay in bed, in the dark, until 7 a.m. (or at least 11 hours after lights
out). Eventually, her body will adjust, and she'll start sleeping in later. Make
sure she's getting lots of outside playtime during the day and, of course, not
having any very sugary or caffeinated drinks or electronic screens before bed.
In Chapter 5 of "The Happy Sleeper," we have all kinds of
sweet advice for helping preschool and school-age kids hop into bed with smiles on their faces. Sometimes, it's just a matter of getting creative about the
last few steps of the bedtime routine so they're alluring. I'd suggest reading
that chapter and making sure you're following the Healthy Sleep Habits.