How to Get Your Child to Stop Sleeping In Your Bed

Letting kids sleep in your bed can interfere with your sleep.
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While some parents don’t mind a ‘family bed’ other parents find letting the kids pile into their bed isn’t conducive to their sleep--nor their romantic relationship.  But sometimes, getting a child to sleep in his own bed isn’t easy.

Whether your child has always slept in your bed, or it’s a new habit, there are some steps you can take to get your child to stop sleeping in your bed:

1. Make Your Child’s Room Sleep-Friendly

A soothing environment can calm nighttime fears and promote sleep.

But each child’s idea of a relaxing environment may be slightly different. While one child may enjoy some white noise in the background with a night light, another may want a stuffed animal, complete darkness, and utter silence.

Be willing to experiment with a few different things to see what helps your child relax the most. Easing nighttime fears can be key to getting your child to sleep independently.

2. Create Clear Expectations

Talk to your child about the change in sleep habits that you’re going to make. Say, “You’ve been sleeping in my bed every night since you were sick two weeks ago. Tonight you’re going to start sleeping in your bed again.” Make it clear that you expect your child to stay in his own bed all night too.

3. Take it One Step at a Time

If your child has been sleeping in your bed for a long time--perhaps even all of his life--he will need a little help with the transition to his own bed.

Create a step-by-step plan that will help your child become more independent a little at a time.

For example, you may tell your child he can sleep in your room but only on his mattress on the floor. Or, you may sleep in his room with him until he grows a little bit more comfortable. Then, slowly transition him to sleeping in his bed on his own.

4. Establish a Helpful Bedtime Routine

A healthy bedtime routine will help your child unwind and get ready for sleep. A warm bath, a few good books, and some cuddling can help your child get ready to sleep in his own bed. Then, when it’s time for lights out, shut off the lights and leave the room so he can practice falling asleep on his own.

5. Be Consistent

While many parents want to consistently return a child to his own bed when he sneaks in their room during the middle of the night, they’re often too tired or frustrated to be consistent. But if you want your child to stop sleeping in your bed, you have to send a clear consistent message every single night.

If your child sees that his persistence and protests are effective, you’ll teach him he can manipulate you with misbehavior. Be consistent in returning your child to his bed and don’t make exceptions that say he can sleep in your bed because he’s tired or because you had a rough day. Sending mixed messages will only prolong the problem.

6. Provide Positive Reinforcement

Reward your child for sleeping in his own bed. Sticker charts work well for toddlers and preschoolers. Token economy systems motivate older children to follow the rules.

Tell your child he can earn, “Two tokens for staying in his own bed all night,” or that he can earn the right to stay up an extra 15 minutes tomorrow night if he stays in his bed. Combine rewards with praise and make it clear that you’re pleased with your child’s progress.

7. Problem-Solve Proactively

You will likely encounter a few problems when getting your child to sleep in his own bed. Perhaps he sneaks into your room so quietly you don’t even hear him (in which case hanging a bell on your door might help wake you).

Or maybe, you’re having another baby and your child is sleeping in your room because he’s a little jealous of his new sibling.

If this is the case, providing extra one-on-one time during the day can help him get the positive attention he needs.

When your child seems to regress, or you’re encountering problems that get in the way of getting him to successfully sleep in his own bed, take a step back. Examine the potential reasons why and problem-solve how to address the issue most effectively.