Bedtime Pass For Managing Sleep Problems

Bedtime Pass For Managing Sleep Problems

For children who have a difficult time staying in their bedroom or cry out, making a bedtime pass for your child may be valuable.

Key points to remember about bedtime passes for managing sleep problems

This page is about sleep in primary school children. It's part of a whole section on sleeping sound.

  • for children beginning school, bedtime should ideally be no later than 8.30pm
  • establish a regular bedtime to help set your child's internal body clock
  • for children who have a difficult time staying in their bedroom or cry out, making a bedtime pass for your child may be valuable
  • sit down with your child and explain what you are going to do
  • you and your child should make the pass

What time should I put my child to bed?

For children beginning school, bedtime should ideally be no later than 8.30pm.

Decide on a suitable bedtime for your child. Establish a regular bedtime to help set your child's internal body clock. Be sure that your child is ready for sleep before putting them to bed.

How can a bedtime pass help my child with sleep problems?

Being consistent will increase your chances of success with improving your child’s sleep patterns.

For children who have a difficult time staying in their bedroom or cry out, making a bedtime pass for your child may be valuable. Follow the steps for setting up the bedtime pass.

Sit down with your child for a chat

Sit down with your child and explain what you are going to do. Explain that your child is having difficulty going to sleep on their own and that you have come up with an idea of how to help.

You could say something like this:

"I know it's hard for you to go to sleep so I have thought of an idea for you".

Explain the pass strategy to them

You could say something like this:

"You and I are going to make a pass for you to use every night. You will get one pass per night. After Mum or Dad has put you to bed you can use the pass for one free trip out of your room, for some specific reason. An example could be if you want to give Mum or Dad one last hug, or one last trip to the toilet. If you do use the pass you need to give it to Mum or Dad and go straight back to bed".

Stress that the free trip out of their room needs to be for a short specific reason (5 minutes or less).

Let them know what happens next

Explain what happens after your child has used the pass.

You could say something like this:

"After you use your pass, you need to go back to bed and stay there for the rest of the night".

Make the pass

You and your child should then make the pass. You can use cardboard or note cards cut to about the size of a small photograph as long as the pass is sturdy. Allow your child to colour in or write on the pass to make it their own.

Give them the pass before bed

Just before bed, hand the pass to your child and remind them of the purpose. Follow your typical bedtime routine and then leave the room. If your child asks to use the pass, allow this and then take the pass. Send your child back to bed and remind them that it is time to stay in their room and be quiet.

What if my child keeps calling out after using the pass?

If your child calls out AFTER using the pass, ignore this behaviour. Even if this behaviour gets worse, continue to ignore the behaviour. If your child comes out of the room AFTER using the pass, physically guide them back to bed with no or minimal talking.

For the first few nights when you are using the pass, remind your child of the rules of using the pass, give them the pass and follow the same routine.

Should I reward my child for using the pass?

Remember to reward your child for being able to use the bedtime pass and stay in their room after that (see Rewards for managing sleep problems). Try your strategies for a number of nights (3 to 7 days). Being consistent will increase your chances of success with improving your child's sleep patterns. If possible, make sure you and others caring for your child do the same thing as well.

Thumbnail of 'Bedtime pass' handoutStarship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand thank the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, for making this content available to parents and families.

© Copyright – Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2014. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of this content may be reproduced by a process, electronic or otherwise, without the specific written permission of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute..

This page last reviewed 30 April 2020.
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