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When your kids are not getting all the sleep they need, ask yourself, “Where they are when they’re not sleeping?” Maybe they’re in their own beds, but maybe they’re somewhere else.

There’s a small percentage of families that are committed to co-sleeping, with everyone in one big bed. But there are many more families that have separate beds for everyone even though not everyone uses his or her own bed.

In some households, children start the night in their own beds, then wander into their parents’ bed sometime in the wee hours, not just occasionally but every night.

In other households it’s a parent who sleeps in the child’s bed on pretty much a nightly basis.

In other families, kids with separate bedrooms end up all in one bedroom, either sleeping on an empty bunk or curled up at the foot of a sibling’s bed.

And let’s not even consider the kids who spend the night in the dog’s bed or who fall asleep on the couch each evening and spend the night there.

The long and the short of it is that even though people may say everyone sleeps in his own bed, in actual fact this doesn’t happen all that often. That’s fine if it works, but if children aren’t sleeping well or if adults are kept awake night after night, then it might be time to reconsider the sleeping arrangements.

If it’s time for a change, then you’ll get some resistance from your children and you’ll get it in the middle of the night when you’re least likely to be at your best. So talk through the new plan and the reasons for it during the day when everyone’s more agreeable. Say, “Tonight, when you go to bed, we’re going to try something new. You sleep in your bed all night without getting up or coming into Mommy and Daddy’s bed. In the morning I’ll say ‘High Five!’”

Remind the kids of the new plan before bedtime. And during the night, stick to the plan. Take your midnight-wanderer back to his own bed and tuck him in, reminding him that in the morning you can say “High Five!”

Make sure, of course, that the child’s sleeping arrangements suit her. Let most of the stuffed animals sleep on a shelf (and live pets in their own beds) so there’s room for your child to stretch out and move around in bed. Make sure she’s warm enough (maybe wearing footie pajamas) but not too warm. Experts say a good sleeping temperature, even for small children, is 67o. And if your child needs a night light and a sippy cup of water handy, set that all up before lights out. Make it easy for there to be no excuses to get out of bed.

It will take a few nights of consistent reinforcement to make the new sleeping locations work, but work they will.

There. Don’t you feel more rested already?

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.