4 Tips to Help Your Gifted Child Fall Asleep

Asian mother comforting daughter in bed.

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An observed characteristic of gifted children is their need for less sleep than other children. While this might make them more efficient, it should also be noted that many gifted children may also have difficulty getting to sleep.

Why a Child May Have Trouble Falling Asleep

  • Not Tired: Yes, it could be that simple. Since some gifted children don’t need as much sleep as other children, they may just not be tired when their parents put them to bed and want them to go to sleep.
  • Need More Time Alone to Wind Down: Your child may need extra time alone to settle down from the day. Sleep won’t come quickly as the child needs time to reflect.
  • Brain Won’t “Shut Down”: A gifted child will often complain to parents that their brain just won’t stop working. They may even say things like, “My brain won’t turn off” or “My brain won’t let me go to sleep.”

Tips to Help Your Child Get Sleep

Like most advice found in the usual parenting books, advice for helping children fall asleep doesn’t always work. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to try it, but don’t be surprised if your child still has trouble falling asleep. Here are some suggestions to try:

  • Focus on Relaxing Rather Than on Falling Asleep: A child can no more will themself to fall asleep than an adult can. In fact, the harder we try to fall asleep, the more elusive sleep seems to become. Instead of insisting on a specific time for lights out and going to sleep, insist on a specific time to be in bed and stay in bed, a time for quiet and peaceful activities, such as reading, looking at books, or listening to soft music. Getting out of bed is not allowed.
  • Make Bedtime Earlier: Some children need more time to wind down from the activities of the day. If a child’s usual bedtime is 8:00 p.m. with lights out at 8:30, parents can move the bedtime to 7:30 and allow the child’s brain more time to calm down. The time should be time alone, not time spent talking with a sibling or a parent. This can be more difficult for children who share a room, particularly if they share a room with a chatty sibling who needs to talk!
  • Make or Buy a “Bed Tent” for Privacy: The inner life of a gifted child can make it hard for them to sleep, but the world outside can prevent a child from falling asleep as well. There are just too many distractions, too many sights, and sounds. To eliminate some of these distractions, parents can make a “bed tent.” Or for parents who want and can afford something a little fancier and certainly easier, ready-made tents are available. A bed tent is a light-weight, bed-sized tent whose bottom fits over the child’s bed like a fitted sheet. Bed tents have vents and can remain open or be zippered shut. They are made to look like cars, ladybugs, trains, or “castles.”
  • Supply a Brain On/Off Button: No, of course, the button won’t really turn the brain off, but sometimes a child just needs a prop – imaginary or real – to help them power down their mind. Some children can imagine that their brain is like a computer and they simply need to go through a shutdown process. Other children may imagine double-clicking on their “brain button.” And some children can use an old lamp (with the cord removed) as their on/off switch. Anything that clicks can function as the prop for their brain button. Even if this trick doesn’t work every time, it serves well as a metaphor for both the child and their parents. Not to mention, it’s just fun.

A Few "Don'ts"

Don’t expect any of these methods to give immediate results and don’t shift constantly from one technique to another. You can try all of them all at once or just some of them, but whatever you choose to do, give it some time to work before switching gears. Just because it doesn’t work on the first night doesn’t mean it won’t work when practiced over time.

Don’t worry if your child is not getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age, either. For example, most toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 need 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, but a gifted child may sleep only nine hours a day. Most parents can tell when their child is tired since tired children tend to get cranky when they haven't had enough sleep.

If your child is getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, is cranky, has circles under their eyes, has headaches and is having trouble concentrating, they are probably not getting enough sleep. However, if your child is healthy and functioning well, they probably just need less sleep than the average recommended amount.

Don't automatically assume your child needs less sleep, either. Some gifted children may actually need more, not less, sleep than other children.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Park A. TIME. Insomniac?. You Might Have a Hyperactive Brain. February 28, 2014.