How can I get my child to sleep?

This question was asked in Potomac, Maryland on 02/14/2013.
How can I get my child to sleep at night? She is 8 months old and keeps us up throughout the entire night. Are there any safe things that we can do at home so that she can obtain more regular sleep at night that is closer to our sleep schedule?

Doctors Answers (4)

Jana P. Kaimal, MD, FCCP
Answered on: 4/5/2013 7

Newborns and infants need quite a bit of sleep. A newborn can sleep up to 18 hours a day, while babies over three months can sleep up to 12 hours a day. With newborns, parents should pay close attention to their baby's sleep patterns and learn to identify his or her signs of sleepiness. The crib should be established as a place for sleep, and babies should be placed in it, always on their backs, when they are drowsy. Parents should encourage nighttime sleep in order to develop healthy habits for the future. As a baby grows older, a consistent sleep schedule should be established in order to maintain a routine. Encouraging a baby to fall asleep independently will teach him or her to self-soothe and not rely on the parents as a source of comfort. Blankets and stuffed animals can be additional sources of soothing, but these should never be placed near a baby's head and face. It cannot be emphasized enough that consistency is key. As your child grows into a toddler, the healthy habits that have already been established should be reinforced. Bedrooms should be "sleep friendly," and the environment should remain the same night-to-night. Whether your child sleeps with ambient light or noise, such as from a nightlight or a fan, or if they sleep with none of these things, that should be consistent. The room should be cool, quiet and dark. Televisions and computers can only serve as a distraction from healthful sleep. These sources of media should be turned off well before bedtime, so children can relax their eyes and their minds. When children associate healthy sleep habits with bedtime, the whole family will benefit. Having a nightly routine will teach young children the importance of restfulness, as well as guarantee more nights of healthy, restful sleep.

Daron Scherr, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 4/5/2013 1

It is normal for a child to wake up every hour and go back to sleep on their own. Adults wake every 90 minutes, observe their environment, and go back to sleep within 2 minutes and don't remember they were awake. You only remember the awakenings that last longer than a few minutes.

The abnormal part is that your child stays awake and cries for you. The most common cause of this is that your child has not yet been trained to go to sleep on their own. Work on initially getting your child to sleep without you present; there will be tears, as sleeping alone is not a normal human trait. It is a "luxury" for us wealthy Americans.

Keeping your child awake for most the day, except a reasonable nap; and try to time your sleep, initially, to match their sleep will help you be less sleep deprived and more patient.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 2/18/2013

I would suggest that you go to the library or bookstore and obtain a book on how to get your child asleep. There are numerous possible causes and even after reading the book and trying many approaches, parents are still stumped on what to do. We don't know what is going through the infant's mind. Sometimes, very simple changes work but regardless of the effectiveness or lack thereof the child will grow out of staying awake and start to sleep normally. Unfortunately, about that time, your sleep has been so disrupted that you may have trouble sleeping.

Ramie A. Tritt, M.D., FRCSC
Answered on: 2/18/2013

For a patient that young it would be best to start with her pediatrician. He/She can determine if the problem needs to be seen by a specialist.