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The Sleep Questions That Keep Parents Up At Night

We’re back with our second round of questions from parents that came in from our partner Khan Academy Kids. There is so much to think about when considering all of the aspects of sleep for our children. All of the W’s need to be thought of – Who, Where, When, What.  Thanks to our friend and sleep expert, Dr. Azizi Seixas for his continued support of families and children and for providing us with these responses. 

QUESTION: Do some kids just need less sleep than others? Our 3-year-old has stayed up till 11 pm several times and been fine the next day with a 7:30 am wake-up time. (Our kids currently sleep in so ~7 am wake up is normal).

ANSWER: Three-year-olds typically need about 11-13 hours of sleep and are generally transitioning away from naps (one nap instead of several naps is typical at this age). It’s not a matter of needing less sleep. It’s more about keeping a consistent bedtime routine. Getting less than this amount of sleep every once in a while is not detrimental, although you may see the effects immediately, as your child may seem tired, sluggish, hyperactive, or irritable if they do not get sufficient sleep. The concern would be continuing this sleep pattern frequently. 

*Dr. Seixas has written up a full blog on typical sleep requirements by age, along with some tips. You can read more about this topic here

QUESTION: How do you feel about giving a child a sleep aid if they are not settling down (e.g. Melatonin supplement)?

ANSWER: In general, pharmacological aids might be too early for a toddler and kids. We’ve compiled a list of natural sleep aids for kids that you may want to consider trying first.

Use Moshi Stories to help kids settle down. There are many different characters and storylines that your child may connect with, in addition to sleep meditations and music. 

For young children, rocking your child for a few moments before bed can help them settle down, as well. 

QUESTION: My kid is fully potty-trained during the day but still struggles with naps/sleep. Should I just keep them diapered for sleep? Is there an age where I should be concerned about this?

ANSWER: Yes, you can keep them diapered during sleep. Each child is different but it seems that your child is meeting key developmental milestones, not to worry at this time. Potty training and sleep training are not on clockwork where one comes before the other. 

QUESTION: What should I do when my baby has to follow a fixed nap schedule at daycare that is different from her more flexible schedule at home? And is there anything we can do to prep our baby to nap in a daycare setting when she naps in a pitch-black and silent room at home?

ANSWER: It is key to try to simulate sleep experiences and be consistent with nap time. Children love routine and the more we establish routine the better results. Make small, incremental changes at home that mirror what she will experience at daycare. Also, babies will adapt, not perfectly, but after some time transitioning, the baby will learn to adjust to the new routine. 

QUESTION: My 2-year-old is attached to Mom at bedtime. It’s painful. My wife stays in the room with him and he still takes forever to fall asleep. Lately, after 10-20 minutes he’s been telling us “all done, wake up time” despite clearly being tired/wiped out. There’s a question in here somewhere  Maybe it’s just “help?!”

ANSWER: I think sleep training may be in order. Children need to learn that bedtime is sleep time. Having a teddy bear or some transitional object that can provide comfort can be helpful during this time, along with calming stories like Moshi offers. 

QUESTION: Sometimes my child refuses to sleep if I’m not sitting in the room with him. When he was a baby we “sleep trained” him so that he could fall asleep by himself, but sometimes he just seems to need me in the room in order for him to fall asleep. Is this ok?

ANSWER: This is okay. Children need the security of having a parent close by in the dark as they try to fall asleep. Parents’ presence serves as a transitional object where children can trust that they will be okay in the dark. Parents should be aware that sleep and the absence of others can stir up a lot of fear for their children, so be patient. It is also likely that parents will observe sleep regression during this time. 

In case you missed the first part of this blog, read it here.

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