Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD
Diplomate, American Board of Sleep Medicine
Director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Connecticut Children’s Sleep Center
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Exhausted parents of young children are snapping up copies of “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep” by the Swedish psychologist, Carl-Johan Forssen, and since its publication, the book has rapidly risen to the very top of Amazon’s best-seller list. Parents just can’t resist the promise on the book’s cover that the story can make anyone fall asleep.
However, there have also been quite a few follow up stories about parents who have tested the book on their own children and, as parents might expect, the book is not a cure-all. Some kids do respond but many more don’t seem to fall under its spell. There are, however, some other simple changes parents can make that should significantly improve typical bedtime battles.
Connecticut Children’s Sleep Center can identify which bedtime changes would work best for each child. A parent would call to make an appointment with me, the Sleep Center’s new “Bedtime Doctor,” to review their current bedtime routine and to talk about what isn’t working well. I would then help the parent design a new bedtime routine to improve these difficulties.
For example, I often suggest that a parent try the bedtime ticket technique. This technique is really great for children who stall or make lots of additional requests after the bedtime routine ends. To use this technique, the parent gives a child one or two bedtime tickets at the end of the bedtime routine along with a final kiss and hug. The child is taught that after this final kiss and hug, they have to give the parent a ticket if they want anything else (another hug, a trip to the bathroom, a drink of water, an additional check-in and so on). Note that these tickets expire 15 minutes after they are given to the child. Once the tickets are gone (or expire), if the child makes any additional requests, the parent no longer grants these but instead simply comes to the child’s doorway and says in a calm voice, “Your tickets are all gone and I’ll see you in the morning.” The parent then leaves the room again and allows the child to read or play quietly in bed until he or she falls asleep. Each time the child calls out, the parent returns to the doorway and repeats this same phrase as often as necessary until the child falls asleep.
This technique helps a child to recognize when the bedtime routine is truly over and helps the child learn to make fewer and fewer requests after the bedtime routine ends. Finally (and children love this part!) if the child doesn’t “spend” the ticket at night, he or she can trade it for a small reward in the morning. Give this technique a try and see how it works for your child.
If you are an exhausted parent with some bedtime troubles at your home, please call (860) 837-6643 to make an appointment.