Q: How do we get our children to sleep in their own rooms all night?
A: Parents have to figure out what the root of the problem is and not just stick a Band-Aid on the issue. Are your concerns with just getting to sleep, or actual sleep quality once they’ve fallen asleep? Or both?
Are they coming out because they are not yet asleep?
Insomnia in kids can occur for many reasons, but in younger children, it is frequently behavioral insomnia. The child has learned to fall asleep with a set of circumstances, and she can’t go to sleep on her own: I really need mom because that’s how I learned to fall asleep. Children with behavioral insomnia also tend to have difficulties putting themselves back to sleep after a normal night awakening (which can occur three to five times a night).
Or is your child having abnormal night awakenings, meaning there is a medical reason for not falling asleep or for night waking, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome?
It may be difficult for a parent to know. The first thing to do is gather data on your child’s sleep habits. Start with a sleep diary that logs routines (or lack thereof), which may help determine patterns/timing of awakenings. Working with your pediatrician or a sleep specialist may be a good idea.
Every child is different, and how every family copes with those sleep problems will be different as well. Having an open conversation between parents/caregivers, defining realistic medical and behavioral expectations, and rehearsing consistent responses to undesired awakenings are keys to success. This may be facilitated by a pediatrician or a sleep specialist. Changing a family’s sleep habits is a serious endeavor that will take time, education and patience, but it will be worth it for the entire household. Nearly every child can learn to sleep in their own room all night long once we understand why they are coming out.