Can I Sleep Train My Older Child?


This week our contributing writer Jillian Dowling talks about sleep training older children.

Most people think of babies when they hear the term “sleep training”. My personal philosophy is that it is never too early or too late to work toward getting the healthy sleep we need.

Over the past few years I have noticed that there are a lot of older children (age 6-12 particularly), who are struggling to get enough sleep.

I was hearing over and over about children who didn’t sleep well as babies and toddlers, and are still struggling with sleep nearly a decade later (and in some cases more than a decade).

My heart really went out to these parents who hadn’t experienced a good night sleep for so long. And also to these children whose sleep deprivation was affecting their lives in so many ways.

Bedtime anxieties, fear of the dark, nightmares, and not wanting to sleep alone were at the top of the list of reasons these children weren’t sleeping well at night.

Many parents have chocked the sleep problems up to “FOMO”.  This can be partially true with all of the electronic devices that lead our children to late night texting, television watching, and Youtube watching, however, there may be a much more physiological explanation for their sleep issues.

When children have anxieties about going to sleep and stay awake too late, it starts to throw off their circadian rhythm, which can make it really hard for your child to fall asleep.  They end up in a vicious cycle of being too anxious to fall asleep, and then too over tired to fall asleep.  Their bodies can end up working against them and actually keep them awake.  Leading to further anxiety.  These anxieties then often lead to wakings during the night where children commonly get up and go into their parent’s bed.  Then their sleep problems become an issue that effects the whole family.

Helping to deal with night time anxieties and creating a sleep plan that they feel good about and are willing to get on board with are the most crucial steps in helping kids overcome their sleep issues.  3-4 weeks is about the amount of time you will need to invest for real positive changes in your child’s sleep.

Getting your child on a healthy sleep plan should be a very positive experience with great rewards at the end.