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Is your child taking four-hour power naps during the day but still waking up at night? If so, you need to help him shift his schedule so he does most of his sleeping at the right time – at night.
The experts agree that you need to readjust his clock by waking him from his naps for playtime, by making sure he doesn't snooze too late in the afternoon, and by keeping his room dark at night and light during the day.
We turned to five leading sources for additional advice: child psychologist and sleep expert Jodi Mindell, experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pediatricians Richard Ferber, T. Berry Brazelton, and William Sears.
Establish a set bedtime routine. Children love consistency, and a routine will help your child learn to get sleepy at the right time. Set a bedtime that works for your family and your child and stick to it. A three-step routine of a bath, a soothing massage with lotion, and a story has been found to help children go to sleep and stay asleep longer.
The AAP's view
Establish a quiet routine to help your child get the message that it's time to sleep. Listen to soft music, read him a story, or give him a bath. Keep his bedtime the same every night, and let him take a favorite toy or blanket to bed.
Be patient and give it time. Getting upset with your child may make it harder to get him to sleep easily.
Make sure your child has a regular daily schedule of naps and meals. If he's napping late in the day or napping too long, he may have trouble falling asleep at night. Help him readjust his sleep schedule by gradually moving his meals and nap times earlier or shortening his nap.
You can push them up by about 15 minutes a day until you reach your ideal time. If your child's an early riser, slowly push naps and meals later, then adjust his wake-up time and bedtime as well.
Once you have your child on a schedule, stick to it. As tempting as it may be to just let your child go to bed when he's too tired to stay awake anymore, it's best not to let him set his own sleep schedule. It will become inconsistent, which isn't good for him or you.
Don't let your child nap or rest after 3 p.m. because it will break up his activity cycle and diminish his need for sleep at night. If he takes both a morning nap and an afternoon nap, consider shortening or eliminating his morning nap.
Choose a consistent nap time for your child and stick to it. Follow a regular bedtime ritual and both techniques should help your child adjust his sleep schedule.
See more sleep resources.