17/09/2009 09:54 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Six Steps To Get Your Child To Sleep Through The Night

If you have young children, you'll know all about sleep deprivation. Is there anything worse? You can see why it's used as a torture device. I certainly felt tortured when my two refused to sleep.

So here's a new idea to try: The Sleep Fairy

Author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies Sue Atkins, came up with the idea of the Sleep Fairy to help her own children and now uses the technique to help the parents who come to her for advice. The Sleep Fairy pops into a child's bedroom at night sprinkling her fairy dust and waving her magic wand full of deep sleep and magical dreams.

Children are intrigued and curious to find out more so Sue advises parents to develop the concept further. "The Sleep Fairy helps little children to sleep all the way through the night. When the child sleeps ALL night without calling out, fussing, or climbing into Mummy's bed during the night, they receive a special treat from her under their pillow in the morning – just like when the Tooth Fairy visits."

Sue, who runs Positive Parents = Confident Kids says: "Read a calming story, tuck them in, and say: 'Unless you have hurt yourself then you don't need me. It's time for falling asleep.' Maybe put on their favourite quiet music or story CD then kiss them good night." Sue used to leave small, inexpensive, treats for her children, such as a little toy or coloured pencils. "Some mornings my little ones did not make it through the night so the Sleep Fairy did not come."

These are Sue's six simple steps to successful sleep:

1. Be reasonable - Make specific, reachable goals that your children can achieve. If you've got into a bad habit with your child, give them the goal of only waking up once in a night to earn a visit from the Sleep Fairy.

2. Give clear instructions - Tell your child exactly what they have to do to get a visit. "When I say goodnight, you must stay in your bed and not call out."

3. Start by rewarding every night - You need your child's behaviour to change if you're going to have a good night's sleep again so reward them every time for up to 30-days to change their pattern. Then, gently move to lots of praise or a sticker chart making it harder to get rewards for sleeping, but by then the new habit will have been established.

4. Move to a more intermittent or random reward system - once you see the behaviour established, tell your children the Sleep Fairy must help other children who have sleep problems. The Sleep Fairy will still visit once in a while (randomly). Or if your child likes patterns and routines then tell them the Sleep Fairy will visit them every Friday night from time to time.

5. Finally, let this system come to an end - once you get your regular hours of sleep help your child to write a letter saying thank you for visiting and helping them, and to say goodbye. Let your child know that the Sleep Fairy must go and help other children who need her now.

6. Some stages and upsets bring back old sleep habits and before you know it you've moved backwards again. So, bring the Sleep Fairy back. Then move back to every night for a week, going to intermittent for a week and then say goodbye again.

Raising Happy Children for Dummies by Sue Atkins is available here from Amazon