Refer to the definition of sleep problem: When a child’s sleep habits cause recurring or continuing problems for him or for his family, then there is a sleep problem.

The best way to identify a possible problem is to listen to the parents— yourselves. Listen to how you describe the experience of parenting. How quickly, or how often, does the subject of sleep come up? How much energy do you spend thinking, worrying, or complaining about sleep? Are your feelings about your child being colored by your frustration and exhaustion? If there were just one thing you could change about your child or your life, would it be sleep?

EXERCISE 1-1: Types Of Problems

The following checklist will help clarify the type or types of problem your child is having. Mark each sentence that generally describes your child. Use a check mark for those that fit at some times. Circle that check mark if it is a current issue.

1. She wakes during the night and can’t find her pacifier.

2. The only way I can get him back to sleep is to feed him.

3. He sleeps in late and won’t take a nap.

4. She hops out of bed defiantly.

5. He wants several drinks of water and goodnight kisses.

6. She comes to our bed during the night.

7. I can’t wake him in the morning.

8. He won’t be alone in his room because of the “monsters and snakes.”

9. She comes to our room scared and crying.

10. He needs to have all the lights on at bedtime but will look at books forever if I let him.

11. She screams and thrashes around.

12. My husband can’t put her to bed—she only wants Mom.

13. We are ready for bed, but he is not!

14. He calls out during the night wanting juice.

15. She wakes up several times with no particular pattern.    

16. He seems to wake about every few hours.

17. He is reluctant to go to sleep at bedtime because he’s afraid of bad dreams.

18. Note any uncircled check marks; these indicate changes—possibly improvements. Fit your answers into the following key to see possible types of problems your child shows. There may be some overlap because the same symptom can be an indicator of several types of problems.

Frequent waken 1, 6, 9, 14, 15, 16    Nightmares and sleep terrors: 8, 9, 11, 17

Night feeder: 2, 14    Difficulty getting to sleep: 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 13, 17

Unusual sleep cycle: 3, 7, 10, 13, 15    


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