How to stop children from getting out of bed at night

getting out of bed

You know the drill, you’ve just sat down to relax and watch your favourite Netflix series when upstairs a small human is getting out of bed, making their way down the stairs and quick makes an appearance at the door. Or worse still, you are woken from a deep slumber at 3am with an unexpected visitor to your bedroom.

As exasperating as it can be for exhausted parents across the land, children getting out of bed is par for the course in parenthood. Moreover, before you know it, the getting out of bed schtick can become a habit by which you all become unwittingly controlled

Children getting out of bed or shouting for a parent happens for many reasons. Some because they genuinely need attention like needing the toilet or not feeling well.  Here we get insights and advice from Lisa Artis, Deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity on some of the reasons for children getting out of bed or not wanting to go to sleep at night.

OVERTIRED

Young children don’t know when they are tired and therefore become overtired easily and demonstrate this by becoming fractious, tearful, clingy and bad tempered – not conducive for going to bed.

SOLUTION: Parents/carers need to be aware of roughly how much sleep their child needs and keep to a consistent bed time and wake up time.

SELF-SETTLING

The biggest difficulty is often that children can’t settle themselves to sleep at the start of the night and get out of bed to seek out a parent.  Some children also need a parent in bed with them or rocked in a pushchair or even driving around in a car to be able to fall asleep. 

Once they come up through the sleep cycle to a point of a partial awakening and they find the conditions have changed they need attention which may lead to them getting out of bed.

SOLUTION: Teaching children to soothe themselves to sleep can be done gently and gradually.  The approach to self-settling is very individual to the child and the family depending. Some families want to do it more rapidly, others want to do a more gradual retreat. To get help and advice on an individual basis that works for you, you can reach out and talk to someone at our charity here.

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HUNGRY/THIRSTY

Children who are over hungry or thirsty will not settle and sleep well. It is best to avoid anything sugar-loaded during the evening such as biscuits, cakes and even hot chocolate.

SOLUTION: Plan a bedtime snack and a drink as part of the wind-down routine but make sure it’s something suitable like porridge or even a banana smoothie. 

NOT COMFY

Their bed needs to have a supportive mattress. This is particularly important for growing children. An unsupportive bed can result in aches and pains leading to problems in adulthood. According to BackCare, youngsters need a supportive bed as much as, if not more than an adult. 

SOLUTION: A new bed with a supportive mattress is a must for a growing child; an old, lumpy mattress is not likely to be conducive to quality sleep.

BEING FRIGHTENED

Nightmares and night terrors can leave children distressed and less likely to go to bed or prone to getting out of bed at night. Children may also want a parent with them during the night.  They can be caused by watching a scary movie, worries or anxieties or strange shadows in the bedrooms.

SOLUTION: Stories normalising this fear can be helpful and there are lots of lovely ones available.  Some children take comfort from having a parent’s t-shirt over their pillowcase so that they have their familiar scent close by. It’s a good idea to lie in your child’s bed in the dark and look around the room. A lovely wall hanging may look quite scary once the lights are turned off.

OVERSTIMULATED

Children who are overstimulated in the hours before bed (ie active play, use of technology) struggle to settle down and sleep and can often be found getting out of bed!

SOLUTION: Make the hour before bed a calming, relaxing time. Switch off gadgets and look for good hand-eye coordination activities like colouring, jigsaws. Try to stick to a regular wind-down routine and a set bedtime.

NOT SLEEPY

If your child is genuinely not tired, you may be putting them to bed too early. Sleep patterns do change as children grow and develop.

SOLUTION: Consider moving bedtime by 15-30 minutes. Keep a positive bedtime routine in place in the hour before and

For more information and advice on children’s sleep issues and children getting out of bed at night visit www.thesleepcharity.org.uk

Picture credit: Book photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

8 comments

  1. My daughter comes down stairs 2 or 3 times a night. I think the issue is she’s just not sleepy. Her older sister however loves sleep and needs an early bedtime. We try and make sure she has books and a drink so she can settle herself when she’s tired. It doesn’t always work though 😉

  2. My son won’t let us self settle him. I’m hoping as he grows older he will eventually fall asleep in his own bed.

  3. My son went through a phase last month of getting up every night (he’s 9). He just couldn’t get to sleep and was stressing over it. We ended up letting him sleep with us but thankfully he’s back to sleeping in his room again.

  4. Our boys still often sneak into our bed. Not often, but usually it is when they have had a bad dream. I tend to move them back and sit with them for a while.

  5. Our youngest is a nightmare for appearing in our bed, although he has got better as he gets older. We make sire technology is off at least half an hour before bedtime otherwise they don’t settle

  6. My nephew used to get out of bed about 10 times a night and I still didn’t know how they managed to keep him in the bed.

  7. I’m trying to figure out why some nights my daughter has a load dream! She will shout out like something scares her but shes asleep and cannot remember it! Happens more nights than it doesn’t, wonder why!

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