How to Address Sleep Issues in Children: A Psychologist’s Insights

Kate Chered
4 min readNov 19, 2023

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It’s not uncommon for young children to resist sleep, especially during their adjustment to daycare.

Tatyana Chelpanova, a psychologist, notes that unwillingness to sleep often manifests in toddlers during the adaptation phase to daycare.

Going to sleep represents a loss of control. It’s challenging to drift off when there’s a lack of trust in the surrounding environment.

When I worked as a caregiver in a daycare, I observed that children brought in very early tended to fall asleep almost instantly. In contrast, those arriving later often struggled to settle down.

Where Does the Resistance to Sleep Stem From?

There are various reasons why a child might resist sleep during naptime, both in the initial adaptation period and later:

  1. Waking the child up very late in the morning out of concern for their well-being, thus allowing them to sleep longer.
  2. Deviation from the sleep routine on weekends, where parents permit skipping daytime naps at home.
  3. Possible discomfort in the sleeping environment, such as an uncomfortable bed, its placement, or inadequate bedding.
  4. The child may not be tired during the daycare hours, leading to reluctance to rest.

It’s crucial for parents to identify the root cause of their child’s sleep resistance to effectively address the issue.

What Parents Can Do

The primary task for parents is to understand why their child refuses to sleep in daycare. Based on the reason, solutions may vary:

  • Engage in constant communication with the child, preparing them for daytime sleep in daycare. Reassure them that even if you’re not there, someone like Ms. Maria will assist them in falling asleep, and you’ll pick them up later.
  • If the child feels anxious during naptime, allowing them to bring a favorite toy to bed might provide comfort. Negotiate with the caregiver to permit this, and perhaps have the caregiver spend a little time beside the child’s bed, offering reassurance.
  • Establish a consistent daily routine for the child, including waking up earlier in the morning and ensuring they nap on weekends. If the child attempts to manipulate adults by resisting sleep to be picked up early, it’s essential to communicate that parents are at work and can only pick them up in the evening.
  • If external factors hinder the child’s sleep, discuss these with the caregiver. For instance, ask if it’s possible to change the child’s bed or adjust their sleeping arrangement.

Psychological Strategies for Better Sleep

A skilled educator plays a vital role in resolving sleep issues. Telling a child they aren’t forced to sleep but can peacefully lie down with closed eyes, just daydreaming, often leads to them falling asleep naturally.

Teachers can employ clever tactics, such as suggesting that the child can stay awake but with closed eyes. In my experience, organizing a contest like “Who falls asleep the fastest gets a sweet prize” worked well for older preschoolers who resisted napping.

Understanding and addressing sleep issues in children requires a collaborative effort between parents and caregivers, emphasizing trust-building and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

FAQs

How can parents help their child adapt to daytime sleep in daycare?

Parents can facilitate adaptation by engaging in constant communication with the child. Reassure them that someone trustworthy will assist them in falling asleep, even if parents aren’t present. It’s essential to set a positive expectation for naptime in the daycare environment.

Where does the resistance to sleep often stem from in young children?

The resistance to sleep in children is often linked to factors such as discomfort in the sleeping environment, a deviation from the sleep routine, or the child not feeling tired during daycare hours. Identifying the root cause is crucial for effective resolution.

What are some common reasons for a child’s reluctance to nap in daycare?

Common reasons include late awakening in the morning, deviation from the sleep routine on weekends, possible discomfort in the sleeping environment, or the child not being sufficiently tired during daycare hours. Understanding these reasons helps tailor solutions.

When should parents intervene if their child resists sleep in daycare?

Parents should intervene when they notice a consistent pattern of sleep resistance. Addressing the issue promptly ensures a smoother adaptation process for the child. Early intervention can prevent the development of prolonged sleep difficulties.

What psychological strategies can educators use to help children with sleep issues?

Educators can employ psychological strategies, such as telling children they aren’t forced to sleep but can peacefully lie down with closed eyes. Organizing contests, like “Who falls asleep the fastest gets a sweet prize,” can be effective, especially for older preschoolers resistant to napping.

How crucial is the role of a caregiver in resolving child sleep issues?

The role of a caregiver is paramount in resolving child sleep issues. Skilled educators can build trust with children, employ clever tactics to make naptime more appealing, and work collaboratively with parents to create a comfortable sleep environment.

Originally published at https://beingmotherhood.com on November 19, 2023.

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