How do you keep a three-year-old sleeping through the night?

How do you keep a three-year-old sleeping through the night? Our little guy gets up 2 to 4 times a night with various demands such as needing a drink or needing to use the potty. He sleeps upstairs and we sleep downstairs. Needless to say no one is getting any rest.

The first step is to redefine the problem. You can’t make him sleep. You can teach your son to stay in his bedroom. He can learn to soothe himself back to sleep.

The second step is to make a plan. Sit down with him and talk about a plan. Even three-year-olds can participate in making a plan. The plan will have two parts: encouraging room sleeping and discouraging getting up and out of his room.

Encourage him to stay in his bedroom when he wakes up. Night time wakening is pretty common.  If he stays in his bed, he will more likely fall back asleep quite quickly. There are a couple of things that will help:

Tell him:

  • You expect  him to stay in his room because he is getting big
  • Mommy and daddy need their sleep
  • He needs to learn how to fall asleep when he wakes up
  • Make a Room Sleeping Chart recording how many times he goes out of his room.  He can earn a sticker for reducing his getting up to two times, then one, and then staying in his room.

You can discourage him getting up by:

  • Reducing your response to his wakening
  • Almost no talking to him when he gets up
  • No cuddling
  • Give him a spill proof cup of water (sippy cup) in his room to drink during the night
  • Don’t give juice or milk as you don’t want his teeth to rot
  • Teaching him to self soothe

Teaching a three-year-old to self soothe is done by having him teach his teddy bear or other favourite toy to go back to sleep.  He can tell the teddy bear to breathe calmly and relax. He could sing a lullaby to his teddy bear.  Show him and have him practice.

To help him manage through the night, you may want to consider:

  • Giving him a potty in his room to use during the night
  • Giving him an audio recorder with some soothing music that he can play when he wakes
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