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Help! My Child Won't Sleep

By Dr. Janet Zoch:

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Bedtime. The word that can strike fear and dread into the minds of parents everywhere.

Everyone has been there. Your family is winding down the day, getting ready for bed and it becomes time for your child to go to sleep. The only problem is that your child would rather be doing anything else besides sleeping. Problems with sleeping can set into motion not only a sleepless night for children but also for parents, leading to a struggle with morning wake-up which can set off the entire day negatively. Parents ask me all the time, “What do I do if my child won’t sleep?”

Over time I have learned parents know how to focus on keeping their children healthy by instilling good personal hygiene, but not much attention is given to another type of hygiene that is equally important- sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the key to helping your child get a better night’s sleep.

Below are 10 simple tips for parents to help their child get a better night’s sleep.

Dr. Zoch’s Top 10 Sleep Hygiene Tips:

  1. Establish a bedtime that doesn’t change more than an hour, even on weekends.
  2. While physical activity earlier in the day is helpful,  children should avoid high energy activities, video games or TV 30-60 minutes before bedtime,
  3. Never underestimate the power of a bedtime story. Creating a calm bedtime ritual your family can do together helps everyone, even parents, to unwind.
  4. Try to include a doll, toy or blanket when you comfort your child to help them learn to soothe themselves with it later to feel safe and secure.
  5. Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
  6. Remember to be “brief and boring” if you need to check on your child.
  7. If your child is tossing and turning, it is better to have them get out of bed to do a low energy activity like reading for 20 minutes in order to keep their mind from associating their bed with sleeplessness.
  8. Use your child’s bed only for sleeping to avoid getting in the habit of using it for other things such as watching television, playing, eating, etc.
  9. Avoid caffeine (soda, tea, coffee, chocolate) in the afternoons/evenings. It may not interfere with falling asleep but can still lead to light sleeping during the night.
  10. Discuss medications with your child’s doctor as some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can interfere with your child’s restful sleep.


About Dr. Janet Zoch
Dr. Janet Zoch is a staff psychiatrist at DePelchin Children's Center. Dr. Zoch completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine following the completion of her general psychiatry residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin. A licensed child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Zoch specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of child and adolescent psychiatric conditions including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, developmental disorders and disorders of attention. Focusing on a comprehensive, compassionate and collaborative approach, Dr. Zoch works to build a strong therapeutic alliance with children and their families. Dr. Zoch is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Zoch received her Doctor of Medicine from University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford.