Sleep Clinic 7 - troublesome twins

It's twins who are causing problems in this month's sleep clinic. Follow Mandy's solutions to sort out this double trouble!

Are your twins playing up at bedtime? Follow the advice of Mandy Gurney, from the Millpond Sleep Clinic, and hopefully these problems will soon be sorted out.

Q. One of my twins won’t go to sleep properly.

My twins, Sally and Andrew have just turned three. They have been in a bedtime routine since birth and still are. Both of them sleep in the same room.
Since we moved them from cots to beds last October, Andrew will not go to bed.

In summary ,we have tried

Reward chart This didn’t work, even after he could see that Sally was getting all the presents. Eventually he got his ten stars and we went to the toyshop to get his present, which he chose. After that he was not bothered.
Treats and praise Didn’t work
Taking things away from him Didn’t work
Taking him up to bed, not speaking to him etc Doesn't work

None of the above seem to bother him. And if we ask him to go to bed he says "no". If he does go to bed and sleep on time, then we do praise him in the morning. I have also bought him a new duvet cover to see if that works, but it hasn’t. The only way that he will go to bed (sometimes) is if he is in our bed and my husband lays with him.

This is now starting to affect Sally as she will not go to bed, because she wants to be with him. Ideally I would like him in bed by 8pm. Please help!

Mandy says:

“Andrew sounds like a bit of a monkey, and it might be that he’s using bedtime as his way of controlling his own little world and getting a bit more attention from you.

Try not to be too anxious about his bedtime behaviour, without meaning to, you may be giving too much time to this activity e.g. the fact that he settles well when with Daddy, gives the game away! While you continue to “reward” Andrew it is unlikely that his behaviour will change.

Don’t discuss bedtime and try to reward him for his behaviour in regard to other things in the day, rather than for how he behaves at bedtime.

You also need to take another look at his bedtime routine. You say that the twins have been in this routine since they were babies. It may be time to re-visit it.

I always say that you cannot make a child sleep, but you can create the right environment for sleep. That’s what you need to do, so that Andrew almost can’t resist falling asleep.

You need to stick to a short, quiet and focussed bedtime routine. A warm bath (which helps with the production of melatonin to make him drowsy) must only take five minutes, and very importantly not get too lively.
After the bath, you need to go straight into the room where he’s going to sleep. Don’t go back downstairs or anywhere elsewhere. Read one story, and dim the lights (which also helps with the production of melatonin).

Timing the bedtime routine is very important

• Start the routine 45 minutes back from when he naturally falls asleep. Before you start do a sleep diary to get an idea of when his natural sleep time is.
• This may not be your ideal time, as Andrew’s natural falling asleep time at the moment could be 9pm.
• It appears from your question that he has created a late sleep phase for himself and to enable him to learn to fall asleep quickly you need to work with his natural falling a sleep time.
• Once he is settling to sleep quickly and without a fuss, bring the bedtime routine and sleep time forward by 15 minutes a week.
• You must wake the children every morning by 8.00am (even at week ends) to reset their body clocks.
• Repeat this process weekly until you reach a more appropriate bedtime for their age.
• I would suggest you follow this approach for both children.
• Guide to timings for a 9.00pm sleep time: start the bed time routine at 8.15pm (let them play quietly before then). Follow the entire process as I’ve explained above. Aim to say goodnight by 8.45 pm and the children should be asleep about 15 minutes later.

At 3, children need around 12 hours at night without any sleep in the day. Make sure Andrew's not napping too much in the day."

Q. Both my twins are causing problems

I have two-and-a-half year-old twin boys who are taking an hour or more to fall asleep at night. I work, so when I get in, it is time to cook dinner, eat and then bath time. The boys and their big sister (who is 5) watch a bit of educational TV and then at 7.30pm it is bedtime. The boys have a bottle in bed, big sister goes to bed and is asleep within five minutes (bliss I know -she is very good at sleeping). The bottles are collected, then the boys play, sing, talk and do whatever else they can do to annoy me or delay going to sleep. (By the time bedtime comes around I am so tired and can't lay down to read stories etc - I am a single mum and working most days of the week and at home it is busy, busy busy). The boys are in daycare throughout my work day and we have reduced their day time nap to a maximum of one hour. 

They are just so full of energy all the time - from the moment they wake at 6am until when they finally fall asleep about 9.30pm.. This leaves no time for me really. I really need some help with ideas that will help with getting the boys to go to sleep in a shorter time frame. Short of putting them in separate rooms (which I don't have the luxury to do), I have no idea what else to do - Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Mandy says:

“Your problem is not actually that different to the one above with the other twins, and I think that you should take a similar approach, with the Late Sleep Phase programme.

In general, I find that most settling problems are caused by lively bedtime routines that take too long and are not focussed enough. My programme should teach children to fall asleep within 15 minutes of being put to bed.
Keep a diary to find out the natural sleep time for your boys, however late it is. You currently state that it is 9.30pm, so you need to start the whole bedtime routine 45 minutes before that, at 8.45pm. Have quiet play before this.
Aim to settle the twins in bed by 9.15 so they are asleep by 9.30. Then, after a week, move the whole process earlier by 15 minutes.

Repeat this until the twins are going to bed by 7.30 to 8pm, and keep daytime naps at 45 minutes. Make sure you wake them every morning (even at week ends) by 7.30am, to reset their body clocks.

This is a very successful sleep technique, even though to begin with, parents are sometimes shocked with how late you start putting the children to bed.

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Millpond Sleep Clinic was the first private clinic to specialise in babies' and children's sleep problems. It now has a reputation as the UK's leading children's sleep clinic

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