What Do You Do When Children Wake In The Middle of the Night and Want to Sleep In The Family Bed?


Frustrated parent

It is the middle of the night.

You are suddenly woken up.

Your child is poking you saying, “Can I sleep with you?”

You are too tired to get up so you let your child squeeze into your bed.

You toss and turn the rest of the night because you have a foot in your side and hand in your face.

Getting children to stay in bed all night is a common bedtime problem, especially when children are insecure or lonely.  If this is the case for your child, you may be considering having a family bed.  Read the article “Is The Family Bed An Option For You?” to help you make a decision.

Once you have gotten your child to fall asleep in their own bed, instead of the family bed , you may still face bedtime problems if the child wakes in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.  If you start allowing them in your bed, it may be a difficult habit to break later.

Your child is not going to stop growing.  If you are already feeling squeezed out of the family bed, then what will it be like a year from now?

To help children get back to sleep in their own beds, especially if you don’t agree with the family bed, follow this plan:

  • Tell children that when they wake in the middle of the night, they can use the same self-calming skills you taught them to get to sleep the first time. (humming, singing, listening to soft music, or doing quiet movements such as rocking)
  • If they wake you, return them to bed and remind them of their self-calming and get them started using one. Leave before they are asleep. If children are not fearful or insecure but just haven’t mastered these skills, repeat this step often.  You can use one of the suggestions above or help them use their imagination to relax.  For instance, have them imagine they are floating on a pond and see a pebble fall past that they watch as it goes down.  The pebble is not thrown at them.  It just gently slides from the side and is peaceful, calm, relaxing.  They can slowly count how long it takes for the pebble to sink.
  • Reassure yourself that their sleep patterns will mature and that they will sleep deeper and longer as they get older.

Getting children to sleep on their own is only one type of bedtime hassle.  For details on how to solve all ten bedtime challenges get the teleseminar that summarizes all my bedtime articles.   Click here for more details about “The Halting Bedtime Hassles” teleseminar.  This one hour audio contains the solutions you need to help solve all top ten bedtime battles with children.  Click here to check it out!


Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is President of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. For 30+ years, Jody has trained tens thousands of parents and family professionals worldwide through her dynamic workshops and hundreds of interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines. She is the author of the award-winning book The Parent’s Toolshop®, and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds, plus other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.

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