How To Get Your High Needs Child To Sleep, Step-By-Step

Updated: Aug 17


If you have a child prone to trouble sleeping, you know what it feels like to fight the battle of "bedtime." Getting your high-needs child to sleep through the night can be impossible. They scream, cry, and never seem to get enough rest. But don't worry – you're not alone.

The good news: Finding effective solutions for high-needs children doesn't have to be too complicated or pricey! In this post, we'll walk through some tips for helping your child fall asleep faster than ever before by following this guide!

Step 1: Understanding Your Child's Sleep Needs

Before you start getting your child to sleep, you must first understand their sleep needs. First off: “How much sleep does my child need?” A normal night is around eight hours—but this varies depending on your child's age and whether they have any medical conditions that impact their sleep patterns (like allergies).

And while it's okay if your toddler naps during the day (or even goes to bed later), make sure he isn't getting too much more than two hours at a time! After the age of 5 it is recommended your child no longer nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, here are the recommended hours of sleep by age:

Recommended hours of sleep per age

Step 2: Establish a Bedtime Routine

Establishing a consistent routine is one of the most important things you can do for your child. Bedtime routines can help a child feel safe and secure. Moreover, a regular bedtime routine helps children know what to expect to prepare themselves for sleep. It also helps them release stress and calm down, which helps them fall asleep more easily.

dad reading bedtime stories with his son

A great bedtime routine includes:

  • Catching up! (Asking your child questions like how was their day? What are they feeling at the moment? What activities do they want to do tomorrow?)

  • Have your child say "Good night" at bedtime. This is a good way to ensure they know how to express their love for you, which will help them feel loved and cared for during this time.

  • Use body language cues (such as pointing) when communicating with your child so that he knows what you want them to do next in the routine.

  • Giving them praise for their good behavior. You can tell them the great things that they have accomplished that day.

  • Doing a quick and fun ice-breaker like doing a gummy bear dance, chicken dance, or baby shark dance. This activity will help them release energy and uplift their mood. However, keep these stimulating activities to more than one hour before bedtime. There should be no stimulating activities nor electronics an hour before bedtime.

  • Reading bedtime stories or listening to relaxing music.

  • Bedtime snacks such as apple slices or yogurt (with honey) will help calm both mind and body while they drift off into dreamland.

Children with limited communication skills may have difficulty knowing what will happen next, but going through their bedtime routine helps them feel more relaxed and prepared for sleep. It also gives them something to look forward to at night, which can help them fall asleep faster and wake up happier in the morning.

A nighttime routine also has an effect on your child's self-esteem as well as improving their mental health overall. By creating a comfortable environment where they know how things will play out (and what will happen if they get upset), you're helping them develop confidence in themselves while also giving yourself some peace of mind.

Step 3: Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment

teddy bear on a blue bed

You can create a sleep-friendly environment by ensuring the room is dark and cool, keeping it quiet, comfortable, and safe.

  • Make sure your child's room feels like a cocoon: You must create an environment where your child feels warm, secure, and loved. If possible, let them sleep alone in their own room as it can be stimulating for them to have a parent or their sibling in the room. Be sure there's nothing in the way of your child falling asleep (like old toys).

  • Keep electronics out of reach: Turn off all electronics when they're not needed; this includes TVs, tablets, and phones, as well as video games (which tend to keep kids up later into the night).

  • Limit screen time before bed: Limit how much time kids spend watching TV or playing on their phone screens before bedtime, so they aren't too distracted during this crucial activity period.

  • You can also try putting out some calming scents in the room—try chamomile, mandarin, or lavender candles if you want something soothing but not overwhelming!

  • You might consider using blackout curtains, white noise machines, or fans to create a calm and soothing atmosphere. And be sure to keep the room cool - between 68 and 72 degrees is ideal.

Step 4: Put Your Child to Bed Drowsy but Awake

sleepy kid rubbing eyes

The best way to do this is by putting your child to bed drowsy but awake. This means gradually winding them down and getting them ready for bed but not putting them to sleep. This will help them learn how to fall asleep on their own without needing you there to help them drift off.

This is because it's easier for children who have high needs for dopamine release (or arousal) when there is movement or noise present – so if your child is falling asleep on his own after being told that he has been good enough for an early night, then there isn't much point in trying to force him into slumber before exhaustion sets in!

Step 5: Be Consistent with Bedtime

sleeping kid with an alarm clock

One of the most important things you can do when trying to get your child to sleep is to be consistent with bedtime. Routine is key for these kids, so try to stick to a bedtime schedule as much as possible.

If they're used to going to bed at 8:30 p.m., then make sure that happens every night—even if it means staying up until 10 or 11 p.m.! Of course, there will be times when things come up, and you must adjust, but try to be as consistent as you can. This will help your child learn when it's time to sleep and make it easier for them to relax and fall asleep.

Step 6: Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself, too!