One of the only things more painful than stepping on a Lego barefoot is hearing your child ask for just “one more thing’” after they should be asleep in bed. This phenomenon of children making repeated requests after bedtime can be a symptom of limit setting behavioral insomnia. Limit setting insomnia occurs when a child makes repeated demands with the ultimate goal of delaying bedtime. Examples can range from requests for a drink of water, to one more story or I need just one more kiss goodnight. These delay tactics can reduce total sleep time which can in turn result in insufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep can then manifest itself in impaired daytime functioning such as hyperactivity, moody behavior, difficulty focusing, difficulty in school or reduced energy levels.
If you suspect your child may have limit setting behavioral insomnia there are steps you can take to improve their sleep. Enforcing strict bedtime limits is essential to redirecting this behavior. Making this change can be achieved by having a regular pre-bedtime routine. Children need structure and limits for their lives to be predictable. Predictability gives children a sense of security. By organizing your child’s evenings in a predictable manner leading up to bed, they can mentally prepare themselves to make the transition to sleep.
Addressing your children’s needs can be built into their pre-bedtime routines. Bath time, stories, drinks of water, teeth brushing and adjusting the nightlight should all be done before you say goodnight. Once you have said goodnight further “curtain calls” by your child should be redirected back to bed with as limited interaction as possible. This can be as simple as walking them back to bed and reminding them it is time to sleep. By enforcing bedtime regularly without exception, your child’s limit setting behavioral insomnia will feel like a bad dream.