Parenting Tips: “Getting Much Sleep Lately?”

Parenting Tips
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“…taking hold of the hope set before us…” Hebrews 6:18 

Getting Much Sleep Lately?

Children by adoption often struggle with sleep issues.  Their history of institutionalization, improper sensory input, poor-self regulation, and the adjustment into a new home and family can create many issues, including trouble going to sleep and/or staying asleep.  This is one of the hardest things to deal with as parents, as it affects so much of your world—physically, emotionally, logistically—everything!  There is no “one size fits all” approach to remedying sleep problems because each child and situation is so different.  However, we do have some suggestions of things to try.  


  • Swaddling for little ones, or weighted blankets for older children, may be helpful.  This “tight” feeling may give the sensory soothing your child needs to feel safe and comforted.  
  • Protein (like turkey) before bedtime can be helpful in inducing deeper sleep because hunger is satiated longer.  Think through your child’s whole diet, and see if there are things he or she is eating or not eating, or medications or vitamins that he is taking, that might influence sleep.
  • Nighttime routines are very helpful, which consist of the same schedule each night like snack, bath, reading, prayers, massage, etc.  
  • Incorporating soothing scents into the nighttime routine might help too, such as lavender or chamomile.  Try using those scents at bath time, massage time, or maybe next to your child’s bed in some form such as an oil diffuser, scented nightlight, etc.  You will have to experiment with different scents to see what your child likes—everyone is different—and some things may be too powerful or overwhelming and have the opposite effect.
  • Try different sleeping arrangements.  Allowing the child to sleep in the parents’ room, in a crib or on a mattress next to your bed seems to work well for many families.  This seems to soothe some children’s fears, and allow easier access for parents to meet their needs in the night.   But sometimes children do better in their own room or in a room with a sibling.  In their own room, you might be able to try stimulations like music or white noise machines, brighter night light, etc.  Other children may sleep best in the bed with parents.  Many parents think that co-sleeping is a really good way to go and it might be worth your adjustment (or worth the investment in large bed), if it helps you all sleep better.  Often parents fear they will NEVER get the child out of their bed if they start this practice, but they all do eventually.  Also, of course, you have to consider safety in this situation as it is not safe to sleep with an infant.
  • Try putting your child to bed earlier, letting her sleep longer, or take a longer nap.  Sometimes not enough sleep leads to even more sleep issues.  
  • If you think your child may be having night terrors, common advice for this is to avoid scary things in the day (like scary stories or games, etc), and if he wakes up about the same time each night, wake him up gently about 15 minutes before the time he would normally wake up, and just gently roll him over, recover him, and help sooth him back to sleep before the “terror” comes.
  • Consult with your pediatrician as needed, though he/she may not understand the grieving, trauma, adjustment that is affecting your child.  Sometimes there are substances that might help, like melatonin, but we don’t recommend those things without trying everything else possible first, and without knowing how those things might affect your child, so always seek medical advice before trying medications or supplements.

We encourage you to try only one or two things at time until you find something that works.  Also, try each thing for at least 5-7 days, because often one or two nights of trying something is not enough to give it time to work.  Furthermore, we believe it is helpful to keep a diary or log that documents when your child sleeps better or worse, and what led up to that (activities and diet during the day, etc), so maybe you can narrow down specific information about what helps and what hurts her sleep routine.  

Remember too that this may take a while to remedy.  Continue to let other people help so you can get some rest when you can.  Take a nap when your child naps or is in school if you need to.  Sleep in when you can if she does.  Let go of everything extra for now so that you can get through this difficult season.  

For more help aimed at your specific situation, or any other adoption related needs, feel free to reach out to us!

ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching.  Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.

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