8 Things to Do When Your Child Doesn't Want to Go to Bed

Parents worry when their child doesn't want to go to bed, but this is normal and happens frequently. It's best to develop a sleep routine.
8 Things to Do When Your Child Doesn't Want to Go to Bed
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 17 December, 2022

If your child doesn’t want to go to bed, this can be the beginning of a battle with them and can lead to wear and tear for adults as well. A child who has difficulty falling asleep also causes their parents to get less rest. This can increase irritation during the day and sometimes cause problems in the family.

When it comes to babies, it’s normal for them to take a while to fall asleep, as they’re developing and will gradually acquire sleep habits similar to those of adults. But why do some children not want to go to sleep, and what can we do about this situation? Here are some tips for when your child doesn’t want to bed so that you can all get the rest you need and avoid conflicts in the family.

What makes your child not want to go to bed?

Is your child one of those children who find it difficult to go to bed and always puts up a fight when they have to sleep, or are they a child who used to sleep well and now doesn’t want to do it? There may be several reasons why a child refuses to go to bed. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • They’re busy playing: When an activity is more interesting and it’s time to go to bed, it’s normal for kids not to want to go to bed and to get upset, angry, or frustrated.
  • It’s not quite dark yet: A time change may mean that when it’s time to go to bed, your child sees that it’s still light outside and doesn’t want to go to bed.
  • They’re not sleepy: Your child may have taken a nap or had a fun day and now doesn’t feel like going to bed.
  • They need something and don’t know how to communicate it: They may have some worry or a thought that’s keeping them from falling asleep.
  • Your child wants to spend more time with mom and dad: If during the day, your child hasn’t been able to spend as much time with you as they would have liked, they may not want to go to bed so they can spend some more time with their parents.
  • They’re afraid: They may be going through a stage of nightmares or night terrors, so they’re afraid to go to sleep.
  • The temperature in their room isn’t comfortable: This prevents them from falling asleep.
A mother and child fighting over a video game controller.
When a child’s very entertained in playing video games, it’s logical that they don’t want to go to sleep. It’s best to set a time limit and avoid the use of screens before bedtime.

What to do when your child doesn’t want to go to bed?

Here are some of the things you can do when your child doesn’t want to go to bed. Give them a try!

1. Set a time to go to bed

In general, children need to rest between 9 and 12 hours each night, but each child has different needs. Parents should see how many hours they need to wake up rested and set a time for them to go to bed every day.

2. Have a bedtime routine

Routines are very important for children, as they provide security and stability. Therefore, having a routine before bedtime will make it easier for them, and they’ll know what comes next. For example, peeing, brushing their teeth, reading a story, and going to sleep. Being clear about this will make it easier for them to relax and less difficult to fall asleep.

3. Create an environment that’s conducive to sleep

Relaxing cuddly toys, soft sheets, lowered blinds, and ensuring that it’s quiet will allow your child to fall asleep faster and better.

4. Reduce stress or activity levels

It’s important that during the hours before going to bed, the child is calm and reduces their activity level. It’s a good idea to dim lights, turn off screens, and do things that help them relax, such as reading a book or listening to music with mom or dad.

5. Have some flexibility on vacations, weekends, or holidays

If you’ve established a bedtime, it’s important to comply with it, but also be flexible depending on the situation. When you’re on vacation, you can delay bedtime a little bit because the next day, you don’t have to get up early. If it’s a holiday or the weekend, the same applies, as long as there are clear limits. What you have to take into account is that they still sleep the number of hours they need and so they wake up rested. Sleep habits are very important and must be followed, although there are small exceptions.

A toddler crying in her room during the night.
If the child’s afraid, you must be available to assist them at all times. You can also use resources such as leaving a light on.

6. Offer resources if you see that they don’t want to bed because they’re afraid

If the child’s going through a period of fear or nightmares, you must give them your support and be available if they need you at any time during the night. It’s important not to minimize their fears. You can also offer resources such as leaving a light on or telling them pleasant stories.

7. Talk to them if you notice they’re worried

If it’s difficult for them to sleep because they’re pensive or seem to be worried about something, it’s important to talk to them to see what’s wrong. Perhaps they have an emotional need or a problem that you haven’t detected. It may be their concern about the arrival of a new sibling, the change from a crib to a bed, a fight with a friend, or a change of schools, among others.

8. Keep the room at the right temperature

Sleep cycles depend not only on light but also on temperature. If the room’s too hot or too cold, these conditions can cause kids to have problems falling asleep. Ideally, a comfortable temperature will help your child sleep well.

A child not wanting to go to bed is more common than you think

Many parents worry about their children not wanting to sleep, but this is more common than you might think. There are many reasons why a child may have trouble falling asleep and all of them are normal. In addition, even adults go through stages in which sleep becomes a complicated task. If your child is having a hard time falling asleep, follow the tips that we’ve shared with you, which can help you with this problem.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.