Any tips on helping a 3 year old relax and fall asleep?

Allison - posted on 03/14/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )

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Just joined b/c our son has been co-sleeping for 3 years, but has always been a light sleeper. We have two different challenges right now, because he has a really hard time getting to sleep, whether he is very tired or not! Also, he is very restless and kicks and flops ALL over the place during the night (often kicking us in the head), so we would like him to sleep alone now.



A little background - I nursed him to sleep every night until a couple months ago. We had gotten down to only the bedtime nursing by that point. He slept in our bed until 1.5, nursing several times a night, and now has his own Queen-sized bed. We always read 3 books before nursing, and we still do read the books and do everything else the same before bed. The weaning was mutual, because it wasn't helping him fall asleep anymore, and he had started being very restless even when nursing. So one night I asked if we could just have stories and no milk, he said OK - I think he knew I was trying to put him to sleep with it! Anyway, he has not asked to nurse again, and seems happy with that, and I often hold him in the "nursing position" when he needs some cuddling, which he likes.



Starting several months before weaning, after lights out my hubby or I will lay by him in his bed, and remind him to lay still and quiet - which he does for a good 5-10 minutes, then he starts tossing and turning like he can't get comfy. We try to encourage him to lay still, but he says he "can't". We often rub or pat his back to get him calm, but as soon as we stop he gets all squirmy again. With me it often takes 1-2 hours from story time until he is asleep, but with my husband it's usually only 30 minutes.



We usually sleep in his bed all night, but sometimes go to our own bed. He wakes up at least once or twice a night, and if we're not there he will come into our bed. He falls asleep within 15-20 minutes, but usually we have to pat or scratch his back that whole time to get him to sleep. I love sleeping by him, but with all the kicking and pushing, I never get much sleep, and if I move his feet off of my head, he wakes up and it all starts again! I should add that he was worse when in our bed and nursing at night, he used to wake up literally every hour. HOWEVER, he used to go to sleep immediately when I nursed him at bedtime.



We are making a little progress by just being more firm about telling him to stay still, but a couple nights I literally had to leave him alone and crying for a few minutes "to calm down" because he was pushing me out of bed and kicking around so much. I warned him several times I couldn't sleep by him if he kept doing it, but then I had to actually follow through and go. He followed me and I told him to go lay still in his bed for me to come back, which he did, but after I came back he was squirming again in just a few minutes!



He is SUCH a nice boy during the day, a good listener, inquisitive, VERY talkative and very mellow, friendly and a good helper, but he becomes a different person at night! I'm so exhausted I would love any ideas you guys have! I really want to teach my son some ways to relax and fall asleep! Anyone else have similar situation? Any suggestions???

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Katherine - posted on 03/14/2010

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This may sound odd...but I was reading in a magazine that one of the ways to relax a child is to pretend you are planting a garden on his/her back. It's an image/sensory exercise and apparently works quite well. Try it and let me know :) When you are doing it, you quietly describe what you are doing.

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Allison - posted on 03/17/2010

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Thanks for the tips! I was skeptical of the garden thing but tried it and it worked very well! It's only been two nights, so hopefully that will continue to help; anyway, I think this kind of calm sensory stimulation might be the right path, cause he just has such an active mind/imagination, it's like he's too bored to lay in bed! But it's definitely a balancing act, because if we give him a toy or something to hold onto, he can't stop playing with it to fall asleep, either. He's like his dad - anything, no matter how boring, can be this really exciting toy - including pillows, stuffed animals, books, etc! I'll get some of those sensory balls and see if those help or hinder :) Thanks again!

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