Limit-setting Sleep Disorder

When my nephew was 3 years old, he had a little bedtime plan that when his parents call for bedtime, he would come up with ideas and last minute needs just to delay bed time. The “I am hungry and I want Pizza” worked for a couple of times, but mom figured it out quickly. Such behavior is not uncommon among toddlers and young children who use this method to resist bedtime sleep. Other bedtime requests include asking for a glass of water, needing frequent bathroom visits, or “one more story” and even crying. These kids are testing your limits.

Your child is basically trying to resist the limits you set for his or her bedtime. This is what is termed limit-setting sleep disorder.

How to deal with limit-setting sleep disorder

  • It is very important that you stay firm to bedtime and nap times and not give in to the child’s resistance. It is important to reinforce the limit; with time the child learns that their techniques will not yield results and the resistance will diminish.
  • Be sensitive to the child’s need: keep the bed room open and the light on in the hallway if that is what they need. Reassure them of your presence (outside of the bedroom) and that “everything is alright”.
  • Create a reward system. One example is to give them a card for every night they go to bed on time. When they accumulate let’s say 10 cards, they get a treat (a trip to the playground).
  • Create a bedtime environment that is relaxing to the child: Avoid food or beverages with caffeine (found in candy, hot chocolate), avoid television watching or video games close to bedtime; instead, read to the child.