An exhausted mother bathes her child, puts him in comfy pajamas, reads a bedtime story, and gives a final hug before drawing up the blankets. She tucks him in, whispering “night, night,” and tip toes toward the bedroom door. No sooner does she reach the threshold when she hears, “Mommy, I need a drink of water.”
Shoulders slumped she goes to the kitchen to get a cup of water, knowing that this is only the first of many efforts by her son to keep her from leaving him for the night. The glass of water is followed by the child’s need to use the bathroom, more glasses of water, and searches for lost pacifiers. The boy hugs his mom over and over, telling her he loves her. She pries his arms from around her neck, assures him that she loves him, too and heads for the bedroom door each time, saying ‘goodnight.”
This cycle of “goodnight” followed by more requests that require the mother’s attention may continue for over an hour at which time the child may fall asleep or the frustrated mother stops responding to the requests. While this pattern may be familiar to many parents of small children, few understand why children sleep processes can be so difficult.
A baby not sleeping or children’s sleep patterns can be disruptive to the family, but sleep help is possible. The key to solving the problem is by understanding why this cycle exists in the first place.
Why your child won’t sleep
While most infants sleep well and wake only when hungry or wet, a newborn sleep cycle might still be interrupted by night crying used only to bring comfort.
Fear is an underlying issue in many infant sleep issues as well as children sleeps issues. Often this fear is about a child losing control over himself or his parents while sleeping. Night crying is often really a check to assure that the parents are still present and will be there when needed. Finally, a child may use repeated requests for water, hugs, and bathroom visits as a way to exert control over his parents. He is testing to see if they hear his calls and if they will always be there to meet his needs.
Another cause of a child not sleeping may be difficulty from separating from their parents, toys or even the sunlight. Children use stalling tactics to delay this separation, resulting in the cycle described above.
Getting your child to sleep
While there are many reasons for disruptive patterns, there is sleep help. Understanding why a baby is not sleeping or newborn sleep patterns include frequent night crying is the necessary start to creating positive children sleep cycles.