Our Mission: Create Opportunities for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their Families to Participate Fully in the Community

Time To Go Night Night


Responding well to bedtime problems or night waking right from the start can help set the stage for better sleep (for both yourself and your child) later in life.

From Birth: Establishing Good Sleep Habits

  • Expose your child to morning daylight whenever possible, and darken bedroom at night
  • Limit daytime naps to no more than 3 consecutive hours
  • Limit exercise in the hours before bedtime
  • Create and follow a bedtime routine
  • It is important to put your infant in his crib before he is asleep

At 3 months: Fading Nighttime Feedings

  • A major contributor to awakening or bedtime problems in young children is nighttime feedings. Infants who are used to being fed at night likely will have their sleep disrupted and also may have problems going to sleep on their own. First, infants who are fed right before bedtime…may not be able to fall asleep without first being fed. Second, the child's diaper may become overly wet in the middle of the night, and this can wake some children. Finally, feeding affects the body's timing and rhythm, and late-night feeding can change it enough to disrupt sleep.
  • A fading schedule can be used to reduce the time or amount of fluids that your child receives each night, and increase the time between feedings until you can eliminate bedtime and middle-of-the-night feedings:
    • On the 1st night, give your child 7 ounces (if bottle-fed) or feed her for 7 minutes (if breast-fed), with at least 2 hours between feedings.
    • On each subsequent night, reduce ounces or minutes by 1 (e.g. the 2nd night would be 6 ounces or 6 minutes), and increase the time between feedings by 30 minutes.
    • A crying child may be hungry, but he does not need the nourishment.
    • By the 8th night, your child should no longer be fed at bedtime or in the middle of the night.

At 6 months: Sleeping Through the Night

  • Most infants can sleep through the night without awakening at 6 months of age.

Everyday Activities

Everyday activities we take for granted can have an impact on how well we go to sleep and whether we stay asleep. Below are a number of good sleep habits that should be followed to help your child (or yourself) sleep better.

  • Establish a set bedtime routine.
    • Make the last 30 minutes before bedtime a regular routine.
    • Include activities such as dressing for sleep, washing and reading.
    • Keep the order and timing of each activity about the same each night.
    • Do not include activities that could cause conflict (e.g., cleaning up room)
    • Avoid watching TV during this time; it can interfere with sleep.
    • Avoid extending the time for the bedtime routine (e.g., just ONE more story?)
  • Develop a regular bedtime and a regular time to awaken.
  • Eliminate all foods and drinks that contain caffeine 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Encourage your child to engage in exercise 4-6 hours before bedtime, but not in the hours immediately before bedtime.
    • Exercise or vigorous activity will raise our internal body temperature, which will increase alertness and decrease sleepiness. However, raising the body's temperature will cause it to compensate by subsequently lowering its temperature 4-6 hours later. Lowered body temperature results in drowsiness.
  • Restrict activities in bed to those that help induce sleep.
  • Reduce noise and light in the bedroom.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes in the bedroom.
  • Eat a balanced diet, limiting fat.
  • Limit any use of tobacco and alcohol.

Do include a weekly program of exercise during the day.

Page Last Updated: 2017-09-27