Normal Stages Of Sleep For The Child Ages 8-12

One of the most popular posts on this blog over the years has been this little post about normal sleep stages:  This actually is not my own personal favorite post on sleep.  My personal favorite is here:

Normal stages in sleep, according to The Gesell Institute, include: Continue reading

Toddler Nights

Nights with a toddler can be challenging….Sometimes toddlers don’t fall asleep very easily or readily. Sometimes they fall asleep easily but then wake up frequently.  Sometimes they fall asleep easily but then wake up for a period of hours during the night and then go back to sleep.

The one thing you can count on in toddler nights is that it will change every night!

Many mothers ask about night weaning their toddlers, or how to get their toddlers to sleep longer. Here are some outside resources about toddler sleeping and toddler nights that you might find helpful for you and your family.  You are the expert on your family, so take what works for you and your situation:

These are some of the links I have found helpful over the years, and I hope you will enjoy them as well.

Many blessings,


Normal Stages in Sleep For The Child Ages 4-9

Some friends and I were recently discussing older children that take an hour or so to really fall asleep.  It reminded me of some of the things I have read regarding normal sleep stages. 

Around age three is when many children start to go to bed “well”, but they may wake up in the middle of the night and walk around or play.  This night waking often disappears by age four, and it may not disturb anyone in the family, but you may find them asleep in odd places in the morning.  

Four through seven year olds typically also go to sleep well, but five year olds often have terrible nightmares and wake up screaming.  Five and a half year olds and six year olds may also have nightmares, but are usually more readily quieted and calmed than the early five year old.

Children around the age of eight  and nine especially often have a really hard time going to sleep; but eight is a lower point for nightmares.  Typically there is a rise in nightmares again around the age of nine, which decreases by age ten.

I have seen many children who had trouble sleeping from infancy on; I have also seen children that had extreme trouble in sleeping in infancy who do quite well falling asleep and sleeping through the night during their preschool years and above.  It seems to vary widely from individual to individual.  It also has seemed to me, from what I have observed, is that children who were in co-sleeping families often do not seem to go through the “hard to go to sleep phase” of eight and nine.  That has just been my experience; please leave yours in the comment box.

One thing The Gesell Institute of Human Development recommends in their writings for children who are having trouble falling asleep is to check for allergies to artificial food dyes, but also the common allergens of dairy, wheat and corn.

Nighttime fears can also play a part in a child having difficulty going to sleep.  Children can fear wild animals, robbers, the safety of the home, and many other things before they try to go to sleep.  It seems the height of this can be for an eight year old.    I don’t know as there is any one set way to respond to these fears; I think much of how one approaches this depends on the individual child.  Sometimes I think the easiest thing to do in this situation is to accept that this is only for a season and to let the older child fall asleep in the parent’s bed and then move the child to their own room.

I would love to hear your stories on this subject in the comment box.

Many blessings,


When Does Co-Sleeping End?

Many mothers ask this question, especially when infant number two or three comes along:  exactly how long should co-sleeping last? when will it end? 

In my experience, age five (possibly by age  four if there is an older sibling in the room as well), is an age where many children at least start in their own beds.  They frequently then will come in when they wake up in the night. 

However, even if children START in their own beds, they need to be parented to sleep.  Most children like you to lay down with them until they fall asleep.  This is the time of the day where your child may be most relaxed and will  really talk about serious things that are on his or her mind.  It is an opportunity not to be missed!!    Most children who are aged eight or so can talk to you, cuddle with you, kiss you good night and then go off to their own room and crawl into bed and fall asleep.  They still might like to sleep with you several nights a week if you are open to that.

I find most children sleep pretty well through the night typically around ages six to seven, unless they are sick.

I personally think one should keep a bed open to children as long as possible.  If they want to be close to you, why deny the opportunity for connecting with them?  Growing up can be scary and wonderful and challenging.  Even a nine-year-old is still pretty  little. Childhood is such a short time and being open to just being there and being available gives children such a comfort.  

Many blessings,


PS.  And please don’t forget this back post if you need more:

Peaceful March: Small Children and Sleep

Here are a few more thoughts about small children and sleep:

If you have a child who never has slept well, and medical causes such as silent reflux and unaddressed food allergies have been ruled out, please do try to be calm.  This child has a hard time going to sleep, an inability to sleep as it is.  I know it is hard, I know it is challenging.  But if this were you, you would want to be treated with kindness, and with respect.

After that,  we do need to recognize that there are certain things that go with certain ages regarding sleep.  For example:

  • Ages two to five are times typical of nightmares (and even sleep terrors or  sleepwalking!)
  • At age two, there are many requests for water, for this, for that.  Try to anticipate what your child will need and want.  They may want a glass of water at night.  Try to keep the bedtime routine short and simple.
  • At age two- and- a-half, this is an age of ritual and tradition. They would like the same routine each night.  Try to keep the routine as simple as possible and be patient because this ritualistic approach to bedtime really is just a phase. 
  • To me, age four is about the time children sleep through the night really well, (many sources say sleep is much improved between ages three to four) unless they are still not dry at night and the wetness wakes them up.

Things to keep in mind for all ages:

  • Darkness and nighttime separation can be very scary to small children; please keep their needs in  mind!
  • Getting a child to “go to sleep” can be harder around the ages of 6 and 9 for developmental reasons.
  • Please realize changes in development, illness, stress, anxiety, travel, change in life events can really throw off sleeping
  • Magnesium, found in leafy green vegetables, is important for sleep.
  • Please avoid rough- housing before sleep
  • Does your child get up at the same time every day?  Does your child go to bed around the same time every day?  Most sleep sources seem to cite this rhythm as being important for setting the biological clock.
  • How much media does your child watch?  Many parents have told me their child slept much better after they cut screens out of their small children’s lives.
  • How much outside time is this child getting?
  • Do you also dim the lights and put your house to sleep as well at bedtime?  This can be very effective with small children
  • Do you have a short, simple routine leading up to sleep?  Do you have that special (calm, gentle, quiet) voice for telling stories before bed or reading a story before bed?  And please consider a one-book or chapter rule and if that would improve things for your child or not.  It might!  I think this goes along with simplifying the bedtime routine!

Peaceful nights,


The Peaceful Baby in March: Sleep (Part Two)


What if sleep for the family is really an emergency situation though?  There can be a darker side to all of this  if a mother is truly sleep deprived! 

I just have to say a brief word about  letting a baby “cry-it-out.”    First of all, there are  NO scientific studies that back up “crying it out”.  I have a wonderful article written by Macall Gordon that was published in Attachment Parenting International’s newsletter some years ago called, “The Dark Side of Sleeping Through the Night:  Four Big Reasons Why Crying-It-Out Doesn’t Make Sense.” This article is really fabulous, but I could not find it on-line at all, maybe someone else will be able to locate this article and post the link in the comment box.  At any rate, the first reason in this article is that “crying-it-out” is that it is  not supported by research at all.  In fact, as a pediatric physical therapist, I know that crying causes immune function to go down and cortisol (a stress hormone) to rise.  Why doesn’t anyone bother to  mention that in connection with “crying-it-out”?  The other issue I have with this, this time with my IBCLC hat on, is that mothers are biologically programmed through hormones and  through lactation to pick their babies up!  Why doesn’t anyone talk about that and the biological impulses we try to make mothers override by not validating their own biology?   From an attachment stand-point, and for future psychological health, for the future of the entire process of discipline and guiding child,  the entire first year is about an infant building up trust in a caregiver.   How does “crying-it-out” not harm this?   There are a multitude of other reasons that “crying-it-out” is just plain harmful! 

People who talk about an infant “playing you” or “manipulating you” at an early age over sleep have absolutely NO understanding of the biological or emotional  development of the child.  It is unfortunate. 

If you need someone to talk to, vent to, or ask about realistic sleep expectations,  please, please pick up the phone and call your local La Leche League Leader or Attachment Parenting Leader.  La Leche League even has a hotline now!  Call and talk to someone!

If you have an urgent need for sleep, the families I have worked with in the past have treated this as REAL.  It is urgent, it is as real as being sick!   We cannot be the mother we want to be when we are completely sleep-deprived!   Vacation time may need to be used so one can sleep and have another person at home to care for the infant.  A family member may need to come visit, or friends may need to come and help.  Our society can be such a disconnected one, and it can be so challenging to reach out to people and ask for help.  Yet, people are typically so willing to help. Other mothers have been there, and  they really do understand!

Make a plan for how you can figure this out.  Can  you sleep when the infant does?  What are doing that is more important than sleep?  Can someone help you with your other children so you can take your infant to bed and rest?  Can you all lay down together and rest?  Can you strip a room of dangerous-to-toddler items, lock the door with all of you in this room and rest? 

What can you do to help your child enter sleep more easily and rhythmically?  The first post in this two-part series had some suggestions for babies who really don’t sleep well, but I suppose the suggestions could be useful for anyone.

Children need a rhythm leading up to sleep or rest to help them wind-down.  How you do this in your family is up to you.  Some families have used a warm, calm bath.  Some have used reading books in that special nighttime/resting reading voice (which is different than the dramatic daytime voice!!).  Some families have used rocking, nursing, massage, foot massages, holding as parts of the bedtime routine.  How about singing lullabies?

Infants and children DO need to be parented to sleep.  Even an eight year old or nine year old likes being read to or to have a conversation before they go to sleep!  So, how you parent your child to sleep in your family is up to you as you are the expert on your own family!  All I would say is that if you are waiting to the point where your children fight through the bedtime routine or are completely wound-up, you may be starting too late.  Try earlier and see if that makes a difference.  

People ask me about co-sleeping and when their child will go into their own bed/sleeping surface. …. I remember one especially sweet nurse (an adult, obviously!)  I worked with and we were talking about this subject years ago and she said, “You know what?  When I go home and visit my mamma, I LOVE to jump into her bed.  It smells like her, and I miss seeing her!”  I loved that, the association of comfort and wanting to be near our mothers, even when we are adults.  I have seen some children take happily to their own bedrooms around two and a half or three and I have seen others do it more around the seven-year-change…Some children will still want to co-sleep when they have a nightmare, when they are getting teeth, when they don’t feel well, on special nights when they are so excited for the next day.  Warmth and love at its finest!


People ask me about sleep from an anthroposophic point of view, and the above posts are a great place to start.  The one thing I would like to add is that from an anthroposophic viewpoint, the small child is developing a relationship to time.  Modern medical studies confirm this in many regards; some studies I have read state that it can take up to 40 weeks in order to for an infant to have days/nights straightened out well.

Please do think of rhythm and routines leading up to nap/rest times and bedtimes as your friend.  I think it is important to guide our children in this regard, and to just not wait until they fall over from sheer exhaustion after they have been completely wound up!

All food for thought; as usual take what resonates with you for you and your family!

Many blessings,