28/03/2010 22:42 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne: My Son Can't Get To Sleep

What's your dilemma about any aspect of life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to answer your questions. Send your questions in here and say if you'd like your name to be changed.

Josie asks:

My six-year-old finds it very difficult to get to sleep. He has always found this
hard even as a baby/toddler he would fight sleep and has always slept less that other children, usually less than 10 hours a night. He has a set bedtime routine of bath, snack, reading and finally a story. But as soon as I leave him in bed he starts fidgeting and getting up and down.

He is a very active boy and sometimes it's as though he cannot wind down. I have tried aromatherapy and looked at his diet. At the moment he listens to an audio story CD just to try and keep him in his bed. This works sometimes. Do you have any other suggestions that might help him relax as I feel his school work and concentration are affected by his lack of sleep?

Here's the life coach's reply

Dear Josie

It sounds like you are doing all the right things, but as you have noted, your son seems to be one of those children that just doesn't settle down easily.

The NHS recommends that six-year-olds get 10 and three quarter hours' sleep per night. So if your son is getting less than this on a regular basis, it might his development and health.

Here are some things you could look at:

  • Increase his activity level. Lots of little boys are like puppies who basically need to be walked several times a day so they don't go stir crazy. So add in a walk to school, trip to the park, bike ride, swimming session etc whenever you can.
  • Look for a calming activity he can take part in. Martial arts isn't just about fighting, mental discipline is a big part of it too.
  • Remember that he is tired. Many children do get agitated when they are tired, and don't get less energetic in the way that adults do. So even though he may be active, this could just be a habit he's got into rather than a sign that he doesn't need to sleep. Keep reminding him of this, even if you sound like a hypnotist: "You are feeling very sleepy" etc
  • Keep activities fairly low key in the hour before bedtime. So no Power Rangers games, sessions on the Wii or scary cartoons.
  • Change around his bedroom and move the bed. He will have got used to behaving in a particular way in his current space, so one way to encourage new behaviours is to create a new environment.
  • Declutter his bedroom as much as possible. Put toys away in storage so that they are not in his eyeline when he's going to bed - perhaps tidy up time could be part of his bedtime routine? Also remove any electrical devices from his room, especially TV, computer or games console.
  • Try a calming book like Babar's Yoga for Elephants, or something from the Relax Kids range.
  • Give him a small toy to hold at bedtime. This is something that has worked very well with my six-year-old son when he's feeling "too fizzy" to sleep. Something little like a Playmobil or Lego figure to hold in his hand in bed concentrates his attention and helps him to stay put. Yes he continues playing for a few minutes, but because he's in bed and it's dark he also conks out pretty quickly too.
  • Be calm yourself. Children are very adept at picking up on their parents' moods, so try to stay calm at bedtime.

Best wishes and good luck,

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What do you find helps your child get to sleep? Leave a comment below