How To Get Your Child To Fall Asleep

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

In a recent Huffington Post article, Sarah Kupferschmidt, M.A., BCBA provided four simple tips for parents struggling to get their kids to sleep.  When appropriate, examples from my own parenting experiences are also included.

They are:

1) Keep the bedroom cozy and calm.  In other words, get the stimulating auditory and visual gadgets out of the room and, while you’re at it, keep any excitatory behavior out of the room as well.  For our children, we have had success with white noise iPad apps that play sounds of rain, ocean waves, etc… in the bedroom.

2) Develop a consistent routine.  For “consistent” read “predictable.”  Part of the routine should also include “winding down time” that acts as a transition between normal home activities and bedtime.  In my own home, we have had success with a relaxing Pandora station to help wind down our children.

3) Be aware of sleep dependencies.  Dependencies include “things in the environment that your child needs to have in place to fall asleep” including being held, rocked, or sushed.  Dependencies can also include objects such as a pillow, or stuffed animal, that can be beneficial in your absence.

4) Consider a bedtime pass.  Sarah recommends a bedtime pass if your child frequently gets out of bed or makes requests through the night.  The pass itself can take on a variety of forms, but functions as a discriminative stimulus that allows your child to make a limited number of requests during the night.  Sarah notes “you might start out with 3 passes and gradually after a few nights reduce it to 2 passes then 1 pass.”

Be sure to check out the full article and let us know what you think in the comments below.  Also consider subscribing to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


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1 Comment on "How To Get Your Child To Fall Asleep"

  1. Thank you for this excellent article. The sleep hygiene recommendations listed above are important for helping a child learn to sleep. As an autism parent myself, I know it is like to have years of disrupted sleep with a bouncing screaming child up at all hours.

    Autism parents struggling with sleep issues may wish to consider teaching their child to stay in bed and lie still by using the ABA-basedTAGteach method (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance). With TAGteach, you can precisely mark and reinforce the behaviors that help a child fall asleep: behaviors such as Quiet Mouth, Head On Pillow, Hands Still, Feet Still, and Yawning. All you need is a small flashlight. With time and patience, you can teach your child to lie down calmly in bed and fall asleep.

    This worked beautifully with my son.

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