4 year old won't go to sleep

4-Year-Old Sleep Problems! (Navigating The Challenges)

What If A 4-Year-Old Won’t Go To Sleep Or Won’t Go To Bed?

Caring for a 4-year-old is hard. Why? Because at this age, they start to become more independent. Most kids at this age do not follow instructions easily. Nighttime can become a nightmare for the parents too. 

Two most common complaints of parents:

“My 4-year-old won’t go to bed.”

Second, “My 4-year-old won’t go to sleep.”

Both phrases have different meanings. 

If your 4-year-old won’t go to bed, it means he is not ready to reach the bed, while if he won’t go to sleep, it means he is already in bed but will not fall asleep.

In this article, I will try to offer solutions to both problems. Hopefully, you get your answer and know what might be causing the problem and how you can handle it. 

4-Year-Old Won’t Go To Bed – (Reasons & Solutions):

So, you have a hard time getting your 4-years-old to bed? Every night is about chasing a child who will just run. Does he just want to play in the living room?

Try the following tips:

1- Make the bedtime predictable:

Try calling a couple of minutes before bed. And give options. 

For example, “it’s almost bedtime. Will you come in 2 minutes or 3?”

My daughter always bargains. I give her two choices; two or three minutes. She will say, “5 minutes?”. I say, “Okay! I’m counting”.

4-year-olds love choices. It will make them feel that they are the decision-makers. So they decide they will reach the bed in 2 or 3 minutes.

This works for most kids of this age. 

You can also set the timing by yourself if that works for you. The goal is to make bedtime predictable. 

For example, “I’m dimming the lights; we’ll go to bed after 10 minutes.”

2- Have a consistent routine:

This is a very common piece of advice “have a consistent routine.” But believe me, it works like magic. 

Having a routine is the original version of “make the bedtime predictable.” This way, your child will know that he will go to bed after doing this. 

Have the same bedtime every day. For example, you shouldn’t drag and drop your child to bed at 8 p.m. while he is used to sleeping at 11 p.m. 

Whatever time you decide, stick with it. 

If you have difficulty following a routine, like your 4-year-old is not even ready to brush his teeth when it’s time, I have tips for you. 

Keep reading!

3- Discourage active play before bed:

When a 4-year-old is actively playing like jumping, bouncing, or running around the house, it will be harder for you to bring him to the bed.

It’s natural for him to want to play more instead of suddenly stopping, reaching to the bed, and falling asleep (out of nowhere). 

Try to engage him with something where he doesn’t have to spend a lot of energy—like coloring, reading books, family time, or crafts. 

Screen time also counts as active play in the situation because the child’s brain becomes busy with all the singing and dancing he is enjoying on the screen. 

4- Make bedtime fun:

4-year-olds are all about fun. Give them fun, and they are yours. 

Make the bedtime fun and see your kid running towards the bed. 

Here are a few ideas to make bedtime fun.

  • Teddy bear family time in the bed: Ask your child to bring the teddy bear family so they can sleep together. Don’t ask him to sleep with them; instead, pretend play on the bed.

  • Bedtime is silly-face time: Tell him that we will make silly faces when on the bed.

  • Turn off the light and make shadow puppets: Ask him to get to the bed so we can turn off the lights and make shadow puppets.

  • Peek A Boo Bed: Lay on his bed and start playing Peek A Boo. He will be there in no time to join you. (Yes! Peek-a-boo is fun for big kids too).

5- Call for the story:

“Who is coming for a funny story? Teddy bear or spiderman?” 

Ask this from the stuffed toys when he is around. 

You are most likely to receive an answer from your 4-years-old, “me!”. If not, pick one stuffed animal or toy, put him on the bed, and start the story.

Your little one will be there. 

6- Set a reward:

Reward your toddler with something he likes. It’s unnecessary to reward with something like candy or a toy daily. 

Do whatever your child loves. Is it a hug? A kiss? Pillow talk? Storytime?

Tell your child that if you come here in one minute, we’ll have “this” (whatever the reward is)

7- Offer choices:

I’m repeating this point again. Offer choices. Make your little one the decision maker. 

“Do you want a fairy story or the story of a lion?

“Do you want to sleep on “this” corner or “this”? 

This tip is also great for getting your 4-years-old to follow the pre-bedtime routine like brushing the teeth and putting on the sleep sacks or pajamas. 

Keep a couple of toothpaste flavors and ask him which taste he wants today. Then, let him choose his night suit. 

8- Avoid over-tiredness:

My 4-year-old daughter becomes hyperactive when she is very sleepy. She won’t stop talking. She will run very fast and won’t get to bed. 

It is very hard to control an over-tired child. Try to put them on the bed when they are sleepy but not over-tired. 

4 year old playing on bed

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4-Year-Old Won’t Go To Sleep:

If your 4-year-old will not fall asleep, he is in bed but does not want to close his eyes; look for these things and solutions. 

1- Avoid screen time during the evening:

It is said repeatedly that screen time is unsuitable for kids and should be cut off, but I disagree. 

Screen time is not suitable for kids’ health, but at the same time, it’s necessary too. They have to live in a world of digitalization; this is the best age to learn. 

You shouldn’t cut the screen time altogether instead, choose the best and the right time. 

Screen time makes a child’s brain very active, and he has difficulty falling asleep. This is because the brain needs to slow down before falling asleep. 

So limit the screen time during the day. And get blue light glasses for kids that will keep their eyes safe. Do not let your kid watch screens in the evening ( at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.)

Engage them in healthy activities like cooking dinner, talking with family, coloring, or crafting. 

4 year old watching tv

2- Not sleepy or too sleepy?

There can be two reasons for your 4-year-old not falling asleep. 

Not Sleepy?

4-year-old need 10-12 hours of sleep in 24 hours. If he cannot fall asleep (or doesn’t want to sleep), it can be because he has had a long nap during the day. 

Too Sleepy?

Just like not getting to bed when the child is too-tired, he may not be able to sleep when he is too sleepy. This is mainly because of all the crying and aggression that will make your 4-year-old irritated, and he will face difficulty falling asleep. 

Moreover, 4-year-olds need more time to settle down and fall asleep because they think a lot. The imagination is at its peak at this age. 

Don’t rush; give them more time. 

3- Create a soothing environment:

Your 4-year-old may not sleep when the environment is not much comfortable for sleeping. Like a baby crying, elders talking in the living room, or traffic noise from the road. 

You can cover the outside noise and light with these tips:

4- Story that ends with “then they go to sleep”:

The bedtime story has magic for 4-year-olds. My daughter would do anything for a story. 

Try to tell a story that ends where the characters go to sleep peacefully. Make the child imagine the night environment and everyone is sleeping. 

For example, “and then the bear closed his eyes while mama was talking. It was dark and quiet around them. Everyone else was sleeping. And then the baby bear fell asleep and had a good night’s sleep.

Kids can feel the imagination. 

5- Closed eyes story only:

You can tell your little one that you will only tell the story when he closes his eyes. So instead, tell a soothing story so he can fall asleep while his eyes are closed. 

6- Pillow talk:

Do not underestimate the power of “pillow talk.” Talk with the child when he is on his pillow. 

Instead of asking, “how was your day?” you can start by telling about your day. How do you feel, and how was your day? 

4-year-Old Won’t Go To Sleep Alone:

Most 4-year-olds can sleep alone, but if you have a complaint, “my 4-year-old won’t go to sleep without me.” You can try the following tips. 

1- Make him feel secure:

Your little one might be scared of something. As I mention, the imagination of 4-year-olds is generally powerful. They can imagine a monster and then actually get scared of it. 

Ask him why he is scared, and then do not ignore him and laugh if he comes up with something silly. 

Soothe him and be with him if he is scared. 

If he imagines a monster, try to divert his imagination instead of discouraging him. Like a monster becomes a superhero and actually saves a little child from falling. 

Once your kid has developed a positive imagination, he won’t get scared and will go to sleep without you. 

4 year old monster

2- Pillow talk:

Again, pillow talk will help you secure the connection with your four years old. The child, who craves your attention, will get fulfilled, and it will be easier for you to put him to sleep alone after you have had a great chit-chat. 

3- Bedtime story should be soothing:

The bedtime story should be soothing. So instead of the fight between two dinosaurs, tell a story of a mommy and baby lion who helped an old cheetah.

4- Sit with him until he is drowsy:

If your little one doesn’t let you go, just sit with him. Do not lay down with him. Instead, sit there and tell him, “I’m here until you are ready to sleep. 

Wait there until he is drowsy. Then start changing your poses to see if your child becomes alert or not. Finally, you can leave if he is comfortable with you changing your position. 

If not, wait a few more minutes. 

Just do not lay down with him to sleep. Instead, offer a comforting object like a soft blanket or a plush. 

5- Make an excuse for going to the toilet:

Most 4-year-olds understand what it means to go to the toilet. You can tell him that you will use the restroom and be back in 5 minutes. 

Make sure you are back in 5 minutes. The goal is to let your child stay alone for some time, so he becomes comfortable. Ditching is not the goal; he won’t let you out next time. 

Once he is comfortable being alone in the room for 5 minutes, make your next break 10 minutes long. 

This way, you can gradually make your kid habitual of staying alone in the room, and one day he will fall asleep before you are there. 

6- Sleep training:

If your 4-year-old was sleep trained, but now he doesn’t sleep alone, you should try the sleep training method you used to teach him in the first place. 

Offer rewards to sleep alone without mommy. 

7- Try weighted blankets:

Weighted blankets give a feeling of comfort and security. So try it. 

Is it ok if a 4-year-old doesn’t go to sleep until 10 or 11 pm?

If a 4-years-old takes a long (and strong) nap during the day, then it is okay if he stays up until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. (Given that he has to attend school in the morning.)

Without a nap, it is not acceptable if a 4-years-old stays up late at night. 

Normally, 4-year-olds go to school and the average school time around the world is between 7 to 8 a.m., so they have to wake up between 6-7 a.m. 

Doing the math! If a 4-years-old does not take a nap but has to wake up at 6 a.m. and he needs 11 hours of sleep in 24 hours, then he should be asleep by 7 p.m.

Amm! Let’s create sample schedules with or without a nap. 

Sample 4-year-old sleep schedule with Nap:

Wake up: 6 a.m.

Get ready, eat breakfast and go to school: 6-7 a.m.

Return from school, change and eat snacks:  11:30 a.m. – 12-30 p.m.

Homework and screen time: 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Lunch time: 2:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Nap time: 2:30 – 5:00 p.m

Wake up, toilet break, and snack: 5:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Playing: 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Dinner: 7:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Walk with parents or family time: 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Bedtime (pre bedtime routine including stories, hugs etc.) : 8:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Sleep: 9:00 p.m.

Sample 4-year-old schedule without a Nap:

Wake up: 6 a.m. 

Get ready, eat breakfast and go to school: 6-7 a.m.

Return from school, change and eat snacks:  11:30 a.m. – 12-30 p.m.

Homework and screen time: 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Lunch time: 2:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Playtime and  very light snack: 2:30 – 5:30 p.m

Dinner: 5:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Walk with parents or family time: 6:00 – 6:30 p.m.

Bedtime (pre bedtime routine including stories, hugs etc.) : 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Sleep: 7:00 p.m.

Bottom line:

If your 4-year-old won’t go to bed or won’t go to sleep, it’s usually because of a specific reason. And there are many things that you can do to make him sleep faster. 

Remember, four-year-olds respond very well to fun-filled instructions. So understand your child and do accordingly. 

Here’s what to do if your 4-year-old is not getting enough sleep.

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