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The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep

by Elizabeth Pantley


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Guaranteed to help parents reclaim sweet dreams for their entire family

New from the bestselling author of the classic baby sleep guide!

Getting babies to sleep through the night is one thing; getting willful toddlers and energetic preschoolers to sleep is another problem altogether. Written to help sleep-deprived parents of children ages one to five, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers offers loving solutions to help this active age-group get the rest they—and their parents—so desperately need.

A follow-up to Elizabeth Pantley's megahit The No-Cry Sleep Solution, this breakthrough guide is written in Pantley's trademark gentle, child-centered style. Parents will discover a wellspring of positive approaches to help their children get to bed, stay in bed, and sleep all night, without having to resort to punishments or other negative and ineffective measures. The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers tackles many common nighttime obstacles, including:

  • Refusals to go to bed
  • Night waking and early rising
  • Reluctance to move out of the crib and into a big-kid bed
  • Nighttime visits to the parents' bed
  • Naptime problems
  • Nightmares, "night terrors," and fears
  • Special sleep issues of twins, special needs children, and adopted children
  • Sleepwalking, sleep talking, snoring, and tooth grinding

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071444910
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 04/25/2005
Series: Pantley Series
Edition description: List
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 501,264
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Pantley is the author of the parenting classic The No-Cry Sleep Solution as well as Gentle Baby Care, Perfect Parenting, Hidden Messages, and Kid Cooperation. She is frequently quoted as a parenting expert and is the mother of four great sleepers.

Read an Excerpt

the no-cry sleep solution for toddlers and preschoolers

Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep
By Elizabeth Pantley


Copyright © 2005 Better Beginnings, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-150209-2

Chapter One

Learn About Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Sleep

As the mother of four children, I know I don't have to convince you that your life would be easier if your child went to bed easily and slept the entire night—every night—waking up in the morning at a reasonable hour, refreshed and happy. I understand how frustrating it is to end the day with battles over bedtime, and I know the pain of being roused from a sound sleep every single night by a child standing near my bed. But I also know the pleasure of having my four children sleep all night while I, too, have my own good night's sleep.

Bedtime and sleep-related problems are far more challenging than many other aspects of parenting because we parents are directly affected by our children's lack of sleep, since when they aren't sleeping, we aren't either. We simply cannot function well as parents—or, as a matter of fact, even as people—when our own sleep is continually disturbed.

I think you will be surprised to learn that, beyond both the obvious parenting issues and the direct problems associated with bedtime and sleep, your child's sleep habits can affect every single waking moment of every single day. The quality of his sleep (or lack thereof) has a role in everything from dawdling, crankiness, and hyperactivity to growth, health, and learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Everything.

You are probably reading this book to learn how to end your bedtime battles with your child. Of course, that's the purpose of this book, and I'll share with you many tips for achieving that goal. But even more, you'll learn enough about sleep to be convinced that while the request for "one more drink of water" will fade in memory, the effects of good, healthy sleep in childhood can influence your child's health and welfare not only today, but for his entire life ahead.

Important Facts You Should Know About Sleep

When parents think of their children's sleep, they visualize a quiet child at rest. Actually, sleep is a dynamic activity: a complex series of phases, each of which contributes important aspects to health and well-being. Table 1.1 shows the various stages of sleep and describes what happens at each phase.

Each of the first four stages of sleep lasts from 5 to 15 minutes, and a complete cycle of the five stages of sleep takes between 90 and 110 minutes. Stages 2 and 3 repeat backward before dreaming sleep is entered, so the sleep cycle actually looks something like this: drowsy, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, stage 3, stage 2, REM (dreaming), continuing through the night by alternating between REM and non-REM sleep in a cyclical pattern. A full and healthy night's sleep that brings the best benefits of restfulness and rejuvenation allows an adequate number of these cycles, usually between four and six.

The Normal Flow Between Sleep Stages

Children (and parents, too) move through these sleep cycles each night, riding them up and down like waves. A child who falls asleep easily and sleeps well all night flows peacefully and contentedly through the stages of sleep all night long.

Now that you understand the concept of these sleep stages and how they work, you can begin to identify and understand some of the common sleep issues that occur with children:

• There must be a preface to sleep—time for a child to wind down and relax. A child simply cannot go from wrestling with Daddy on the family room floor and an exciting, bouncy piggyback ride up the stairs directly to stage 1 of sleep. In that case, a second wind is a likely possibility.

• Children in the early stages of sleep wake easily. So when you have a child who fights sleep, he may begin to drift off but pull himself back just before he falls asleep, even if he's very tired. He may also be easily awakened by the sounds and activity of the household.

• Children enter sleep in a logical progression. If you are reading a bedtime story to a child who is relaxed and entering stage 1, maybe even beginning stage 2, but you get him up to use the toilet or move him to bed, he'll probably wake up fully. You've interrupted the normal flow of sleep stages and must begin the process again. (Oh, joy!)

• If your child requires certain conditions to fall asleep—such as your presence—she will wake easily when she senses she is going to lose the very thing she needs most to feel secure before she falls into a deeper sleep.

• Stages 3 and 4 are called delta sleep, which is regarded as the most restorative time of sleep. If a child lacks sufficient delta sleep, she will be sleepy the next day, regardless of how much stage 1 and 2 sleep she had. A child who fully awakens frequently throughout the night may not be getting enough delta sleep.

• Children spend substantially more time than adults in stage 4 sleep. This is when growth hormones are released, making deep sleep very important for your child's physical development.

• While scientists still debate the exact reasons and purposes for dreaming sleep, it appears to be a mechanism by which your brain sorts through the day's events, processes new information, explores issues that you are worried about, stores memories, and "cleans house." Research has demonstrated that REM sleep is crucial at all ages for proper functioning of the brain and psyche. The duration of REM sleep periods increases over the course of a night, so the longer a child sleeps, the more time he will spend in REM sleep time. An adequate amount of REM sleep enables a child to wake up feeling refreshed, happy, and energetic.

• Normal sleep follows a cyclical pattern throughout the entire night, but periods of deep sleep (stages 3 and 4) are longer at the beginning of the night. This explains why many children have a long sleep period followed by more frequent awakenings during the second half of the night.

• Sleep inertia, which is the gradual awakening process that occurs when a child first comes out of sleep, can be affected by the amount and quality of the child's sleep. The confusion and sleepiness of this state may last longer and be more intense if a child has not had enough sleep. Researchers are still trying to confirm a direct correlation, but if your child remains sleepy and dull for more than a few minutes after waking, it may be a sign that she's not getting the sleep she needs.

Brief Awakenings Between Sleep Stages

All human beings wake up five or more times each night, particularly when shifting from one stage of sleep to another. For a good sleeper, these brief awakenings aren't noticeable or remembered. You might fluff a pillow, straighten a blanket, or check on your child sleeping beside you, and then fade right back to sleep.

These brief awakenings have different consequences in babies and children. While a content sleeper will find a comfortable position and go back to sleep, a more finicky sleeper will become fully awake in search of whatever she needs to go back to sleep. Thus the series of sleep stages must begin anew.

A child can make a very strong sleep association wherein he associates certain things with falling asleep and believes he needs these things to fall asleep. When he begins to fall asleep or comes to the surface in a brief awakening between sleep stages, he may prevent himself from falling back to deeper sleep until he locates what he needs to comfortably ride his wave of sleep stages once again.

Remember that although all human beings wake periodically throughout the night, this association process is one of the main reasons that babies and young children call out to a parent in the middle of the night. They need a parent to right their sleeping situation so they feel secure and comfortable and are able to fall back to sleep.

The Biological Clock

Human beings have an internal clock, called a circadian rhythm, that regulates wakefulness and sleep. When it's working properly, people feel awake and alert during the day and sleepy at bedtime. The actual internal clock runs on a twenty-five-hour cycle, but it easily resets itself each day based on the person's sleep habits, timing of meals, and exposure to light and dark.

Some children have internal clocks that set easily; others have a finicky system that can be upset by any kind of external cue: lights that come on after he falls asleep, noise from dish-washing in the kitchen, or the beeping of a parent's alarm clock early in the morning. Haphazard nap- and bedtimes, irregular mealtimes, too much light or activity at bedtime, or not enough light in the morning can skew a child's biological clock as well, disturbing his state of biochemical equilibrium and causing an inability to fall asleep, poor-quality sleep, or too early waking.

The human biological clock needs resetting every day, and the components of a healthy bedtime routine, as will be discussed in the next chapter, will help keep your child's biological clock working properly.

How Lack of Adequate, Restful Sleep Can Affect Your Child

When I began to research sleep and children, an idea began building in my mind. With each piece of research I read, the idea became clearer until I finally reached that "Aha!" moment: for many children, the main reason for temper tantrums, fussiness, irritability, dawdling, and stubbornness is the lack of adequate, restful sleep.

Perhaps an even bigger catastrophe is that poor-quality sleep sets Mom or Dad adrift in that same fog when a child isn't sleeping in a way that allows parents to replenish their reserves. This creates chronic fatigue in the parent—from tending to a child's night waking and other sleep issues month after month, year after year—which can seriously reduce the parent's ability to navigate the day effectively. So the family ends up with a grumpy and non-cooperative child handled by a parent with a very short fuse. In short, everyone in the family suffers.

Fascinating yet frightening new studies demonstrate that children who do not get enough quality sleep may suffer from a long list of problems, including the following:

Mood and Behavior

• Irritability

• Depression

• Exaggerated emotions

• Increased aggressive behavior

• Behavioral problems

• Hyperactivity


• Reduced physical performance of small and large motor skills

• Delayed recovery from illness

• Disruption in natural growth and development


• Impaired hand-eye coordination

• Memory lapses

• Lack of concentration

• Impaired memory

• Compromised decision-making processes


• Unrestful sleep

• Inability to nap

• Increase in nightmares and night terrors

• Increase in sleepwalking and sleep talking

Dr. James Mass, an expert on sleep from Cornell University, writes in his book Power Sleep (HarperCollins, 1998), "Sleep plays a major role in preparing the body and brain for an alert, productive, psychologically and physiologically healthy tomorrow." He sums it up by saying, "If we don't get adequate sleep, our quality of life, if not life itself, is jeopardized."

How Sleep Affects ... Sleep

It's a vicious circle: a consistent lack of adequate, restful sleep creates chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation brings fatigue, but this tiredness is coupled with an ironic inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The quality of sleep is compromised. Sleep is often fitful, with an increase in nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, and sleep talking. Furthermore, in many households the stress over children's sleep issues creates sleep deprivation in the adults, and this stress is felt by the child. So worry and tension add to why everyone in the entire family is short on quality sleep.

How much sleep does your child need? The actual number of hours that your child sleeps is an incredibly important factor for his health and well-being. A sleep study completed by Dr. Avi Sadeh at Tel Aviv University demonstrates that even a one-hour shortage in appropriate sleep time will compromise a child's alertness and brain functioning and increase fatigue in the early evening. That's an amazing finding, and it calls for parents to look very closely at the total number of hours their children are sleeping.

The following table is an important guide to your child's sleep hours. All children are different, and a few truly do need less (or more) sleep than shown here, but the vast majority of children have sleep needs that fall within the range shown in Table 1.2.

If your child is not regularly getting close to the amount of sleep on this table, he may be "chronically overtired." This will affect the quality and length of both his nap- and nighttime sleep, which will directly affect his daytime behavior, learning, and growth.

Your child may not seem tired, because overtired children don't always act tired—at least not in the ways parents expect. Regardless of how your child's actual sleep hours match up to the table (because each child's needs are individual), the following signs may indicate he's not getting an adequate amount of sleep. Do any of these apply to your child?

• Tends to be whiny, fussy, or clingy

• Sucks his thumb, finger, or pacifier at times other than bedtime

• Carries a blanket, stuffed animal, or other lovey around during the day

• Is hyperactive, especially at times when you think he should be tired

• Is overly stubborn

• Has regular temper tantrums or easily becomes upset or angry

• Has difficulty falling asleep when put to bed

• Falls asleep frequently when in the car, bus, or train

• Falls asleep in front of the television

• Sometimes falls asleep on the sofa or floor before bedtime

• Sleeps later in the morning on days when the house is quiet

• Takes a long time to become awake and alert in the morning

• Does not appear to be well rested and full of energy

• Doesn't seem as happy as she should be

Children who are chronically overtired will often resist sleep, not understanding that sleep is what they really need. It's up to you to help your little one get the sleep he needs.

Experts tell us that sleep habits formed in childhood can affect health, mood, learning, and performance—both now and in the future. That's why it's so important to help your children establish good sleeping habits now, so they can reap the benefits for the rest of their lives.

Does Your Child Have Sleep Problems That Need to Be Fixed?

This may seem like an odd question in the first chapter of a book on children's sleep. But before going a step further, take a look at your situation to make sure you are looking at things clearly. I've found that during the early years of a child's life, everyone has opinions about how you should be raising your child, and other people's opinions may sometimes cloud your perceptions of reality. So take a deep breath, clear out all the cobwebs that other people have placed in your path, and first go over what's not a problem.

The Sleep Situation That Doesn't Need to Be Fixed

Your child is getting enough sleep, you're getting enough sleep, and everyone in your household is happy with how things are going. The problem is that your in-laws, your friend, or your neighbor is telling you that something in the way you are doing things is wrong and must be changed. Perhaps your child is up with you until midnight and then sleeps until noon. Maybe your king-size bed is where the entire family sleeps and your toddler's crib holds only his collection of stuffed animals. Possibly Mommy sleeps in the toddler bed, Daddy sleeps on the sofa, or your preschooler sleeps on the floor in your bedroom. Maybe the whole family plays musical beds every night, and you never know where anyone will end up. Or perhaps your bedtime routine is two hours long and includes everything from reading to singing to back rubs. Maybe your two-year-old is still nursing to sleep for bedtime and naps, or your three-year-old sleeps with five pacifiers and the family dog.

Here's the bottom line: if your child is getting enough sleep, you are all sleeping well, and the people who live in your home are happy with the way things are working out, then nothing needs to be fixed, regardless of what anyone else has to say about your family's sleeping situation.

If this is the case for you, then the only thing you need to change is your response to unwanted advice about how you are running your own household. You may want to change the subject when the topic of bedtime comes up in conversation, or do a little research so you can back up your parenting choices more confidently.


Excerpted from the no-cry sleep solution for toddlers and preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley Copyright © 2005 by Better Beginnings, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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