Our ProSquad sleep expert, Malia Jacobson, answer a reader's question about working toward an effective sleep routine for challenging children.

Q: My three-year old son, a very strong-willed, challenging child, is usually tired and physically ready for bed at night, but gets a second wind just as the bedtime routine is starting. We have the same routine every night for him and his brothers — cleaning up, reading, praying, singing, etc. He generally sleeps all night, but that transition to bed can be very difficult with not only the normal stalling tactics, but there's also yelling, crying, etc. What can we do to try and help him, and cut down on his stress — and ours — at bedtime?

Thanks for the great question. Your problem is a common one: Many children get a "second wind" before bedtime, and many parents think this behavior is normal. In fact, this extra dose of bedtime energy is a sign that your son is overtired.

When children are overtired, their bodies fight hard to stay awake by pumping out extra adrenaline. This results in a "wired" state that sets in just as kids should be winding down for sleep. Overtiredness is the enemy of a good bedtime, because it leads to the exact bedtime antics you describe, including crying, yelling, and difficulty falling asleep.

To remedy this condition, try moving his bedtime earlier by 30 minutes. You can further ease bedtime battles by maintaining a rock-solid bedtime routine — your routine should contain exactly the same elements in the same order, every night. For more information about creating an age-appropriate, effective bedtime routine, check out this recent post at my blog, The Well Rested Family.


Sleep Pro, Malia Jacobson

Malia Jacobson has been helping tired families sleep since 2007. She is a writer, editor, nationally-published sleep journalist, and author of Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too. Her sleep articles reach millions in respected print publications.

Malia's articles have been featured in over 70 news outlets and publications, including ABC News, Women's Health Magazine, Costco Connection Magazine, Seattle's Child Magazine, ParentMap Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and Cincinnati Family Magazine. She is a contributing writer at Family Time Magazine and Broward Family Life Magazine.

She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's degree in business administration/marketing. When she's not writing, she organizes a popular attachment parenting group in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington, digs in her garden, and explores the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young daughters.