A bedroom scene with various calming elements such as a cozy bed

How to Deal With Bedtime Struggles in Preteens (12-13 Years Old) Children

Bedtime struggles can be a common challenge for parents of preteens, specifically children aged 12 to 13 years old. As this stage is marked by significant physical and emotional changes, it’s important to address these struggles in a sensitive and understanding manner. In this article, we will explore effective strategies and techniques to help you navigate through these bedtime struggles and ensure a good night’s sleep for both you and your child.

Understanding the Importance of a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine is crucial for preteens as it helps regulate their sleep schedule and prepares them mentally and physically for sleep. Just like athletes having a warm-up routine before a game, a bedtime routine acts as a signal to their body and brain that it’s time to wind down and get ready for rest. Research has shown that a consistent bedtime routine can improve sleep quality and reduce bedtime struggles in children [1]. Hence, it is worth investing time and effort into establishing a routine that works for your child.

When it comes to establishing a consistent bedtime routine, there are several key elements to consider. First and foremost, it’s important to set a specific bedtime for your child. This helps create a sense of structure and predictability, allowing their body to adjust to a regular sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, having a consistent wake-up time in the morning can further reinforce this cycle and promote healthy sleep habits.

In addition to setting a specific bedtime, incorporating relaxing activities into your child’s routine can help them unwind and prepare for sleep. This can include activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Engaging in these calming activities signals to their body that it’s time to relax and shift into sleep mode.

Another important aspect of a bedtime routine is creating a sleep-friendly environment. This includes ensuring that the bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Removing distractions such as electronic devices and creating a cozy and inviting sleep space can help promote a more restful night’s sleep.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that consistency is key when it comes to a bedtime routine. By following the same sequence of activities each night, your child’s body and brain will start to associate these actions with sleep. This can help them transition more easily into a state of relaxation and ultimately improve their sleep quality.

Research has also shown that a consistent bedtime routine can have long-term benefits for preteens. It not only improves their sleep quality but also enhances their overall well-being and cognitive functioning. A good night’s sleep is essential for optimal growth, development, and learning [2]. By prioritizing a consistent bedtime routine, you are setting your child up for success in various aspects of their life.

In conclusion, a consistent bedtime routine is crucial for preteens as it helps regulate their sleep schedule and prepares them mentally and physically for sleep. By setting a specific bedtime, incorporating relaxing activities, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and maintaining consistency, you can ensure that your child gets the quality sleep they need to thrive. So, invest the time and effort into establishing a routine that works for your child, and watch them reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.


[1] Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2018). Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep medicine reviews, 40, 93-108.

[2] Gruber, R., Cassoff, J., Frenette, S., Wiebe, S. T., & Carrier, J. (2012). Impact of sleep extension and restriction on children’s emotional lability and impulsivity. Pediatrics, 130(5), e1155-e1161.

Identifying Common Bedtime Struggles in Preteens

Understanding the specific struggles your preteen may be facing can help you address them more effectively. Let’s explore some common bedtime struggles and how to tackle them:

Resistance to Going to Bed

It’s not uncommon for preteens to resist going to bed, claiming they’re not tired or that they can’t fall asleep. This resistance could be due to their growing sense of independence and desire to have control over their own activities. To tackle this, provide your child with choices within boundaries. For example, you could let them choose their own bedtime within a reasonable range. This empowers them while still maintaining your authority as the parent.

Additionally, it’s important to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This routine can include activities that help your preteen wind down, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book together, or engaging in a calming conversation. By creating a predictable and soothing environment, you can help your child transition from the busyness of the day to a state of relaxation and readiness for sleep.

Difficulty Falling Asleep

Some preteens struggle with falling asleep due to an active mind or the inability to relax. One effective strategy is to teach them relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Encourage them to visualize a peaceful scene or use guided meditation apps specifically designed for children. By practicing these techniques together, you can help your preteen develop a toolbox of coping mechanisms to calm their mind and body before bed.

In addition to relaxation techniques, it can be helpful to create a sleep-friendly environment. Ensure that the bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains to block out any external light, and use white noise machines or earplugs to minimize any disruptive sounds. By optimizing the sleep environment, you can enhance your preteen’s chances of falling asleep more easily.

Fear of the Dark or Nightmares

Many preteens develop fears of the dark or experience nightmares. It’s important to validate their feelings and provide reassurance. You can use a night light, provide a comfort object, or enhance their feeling of safety by implementing a “monster spray” ritual. Pediatrician Dr. William Sears suggests involving your child in the process of making the spray, which can help them feel more in control [2]. By addressing their fears head-on, you can help alleviate their anxiety and promote a sense of security at bedtime.

Furthermore, encourage your preteen to express their fears and concerns openly. Create a safe space for them to share their experiences and emotions without judgment. By actively listening and offering support, you can help them process their fears and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Excessive Screen Time Before Bed

Excessive screen time before bed can disrupt your preteen’s sleep schedule. The blue light emitted by electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep [3]. Encourage your child to power down their devices at least an hour before bed and engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as reading a book or listening to calming music. By reducing screen time, you’re facilitating a more seamless transition into a restful sleep.

In addition to reducing screen time, it’s important to create a technology-free zone in the bedroom. Remove electronic devices from the sleeping area to eliminate any temptation for late-night scrolling or gaming. Instead, encourage your preteen to engage in calming activities that promote relaxation and prepare the mind and body for sleep.

By addressing and tackling these common bedtime struggles, you can help your preteen establish healthy sleep habits and ensure they get the rest they need for their overall well-being and development.

Establishing Clear Boundaries and Expectations

While preteens are seeking independence, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and expectations when it comes to bedtime. This provides them with a sense of structure and security. Let’s explore some practical ways to do this:

Setting a Reasonable Bedtime

Consulting with your child’s pediatrician or psychologist can help you determine an appropriate bedtime based on their individual needs. They may recommend aligning with the National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines, which suggest that preteens aged 12 to 13 should aim for 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night [4]. By setting a reasonable bedtime together, you can help your child meet their sleep requirements without feeling overly restricted or overwhelmed.

Creating a Calm and Relaxing Bedroom Environment

Designing a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation is crucial for a successful bedtime routine. Consider the lighting, temperature, and noise levels in the room. Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp suggests creating a “calming oasis” by using soothing colors, soft lighting, and pleasant aromas [5]. By transforming their bedroom into a cozy sanctuary, you’re creating an optimal sleep environment that invites relaxation and tranquility.

Limiting Stimulating Activities Before Bed

Preteens often engage in stimulating activities before bedtime, such as playing video games or watching exciting TV shows. It’s important to implement boundaries on these activities and encourage more calming alternatives. You can introduce a rule that screens should be turned off at least an hour before bed. Instead, encourage your child to read a book, listen to calming music, or engage in a calming hobby such as drawing or journaling. By replacing stimulating activities with soothing ones, you’re helping their brain transition from an alert state to a more restful one.

Implementing Effective Strategies to Promote Sleep

Now that you’ve established a consistent bedtime routine and set clear boundaries, let’s explore some strategies to promote a good night’s sleep for your preteen:

Encouraging Regular Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular exercise can improve sleep quality by reducing anxiety and promoting physical fatigue. Encourage your child to engage in physical activities they enjoy, such as biking, swimming, or playing sports. Not only will they reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep, but they’ll also experience the positive impact of exercise on their overall health and well-being.

Practicing Relaxation Techniques

Teaching your child relaxation techniques not only helps them fall asleep faster but also equips them with valuable coping mechanisms for managing stress and anxiety. Suggest activities such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or taking a warm bath before bed. These techniques, recommended by renowned psychologist Dr. Carl Jung, can create a sense of calmness and help your child unwind [6].

Promoting Healthy Sleep Habits

Consistency is key when it comes to healthy sleep habits. Encourage your child to establish a regular sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate their body’s internal clock and promotes a smoother transition between wakefulness and sleep. Additionally, ensure their sleeping environment is comfortable, with a supportive mattress and pillows. Dr. Richard Ferber, a noted pediatric sleep expert, emphasizes the importance of a cozy sleep environment for quality rest [7].

Addressing Emotional and Psychological Factors

Bedtime struggles in preteens can often be influenced by emotional and psychological factors. Let’s explore some effective ways to address and manage these factors:

Open Communication and Active Listening

Encourage an open line of communication with your child and create a safe space for them to express their thoughts and concerns. Actively listen to their worries and fears without judgment or dismissal. Renowned obstetrician and pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton suggests that attentive listening can foster trust and help children feel understood [8]. By demonstrating your willingness to support and understand them, you can alleviate their emotional stress surrounding bedtime.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Preteens are not immune to stress and anxiety. Help your child develop healthy coping mechanisms by teaching them stress management techniques such as journaling, mindfulness, or engaging in creative activities. By providing them with tools to handle their emotions, you are empowering them to navigate bedtime struggles with resilience and confidence. Psychologist Dr. Alice Domar advocates for the use of relaxation techniques, stating that they help calm both the mind and body [9].

Seeking Professional Help if Necessary

If your child’s bedtime struggles persist or significantly impact their well-being, it is crucial to seek professional help. Consult with your child’s pediatrician or a child psychologist who specializes in sleep issues. They can provide expert guidance tailored to your child’s individual needs. Remember, there is no shame in seeking help when necessary, as it demonstrates your commitment to your child’s well-being.

In conclusion, dealing with bedtime struggles in preteens requires patience, understanding, and effective strategies. By establishing a consistent bedtime routine, setting clear boundaries and expectations, implementing sleep-promoting strategies, and addressing emotional and psychological factors, you can guide your preteen towards a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep. Remember, just as a ship needs a steady captain to navigate through rough waters, your guidance during this stage of your child’s life will help them sail through the challenges of bedtime and enable them to wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.


  1. [1] KidsHealth.org – How Can I Help My Child Sleep Better?
  2. [2] Dr. William Sears – 31 Ways to Get Your Child to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
  3. [3] Sleep.org – How Blue Light Affects Kids & Sleep
  4. [4] National Sleep Foundation – How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
  5. [5] Dr. Harvey Karp – The Happiest Baby on the Block
  6. [6] Dr. Carl Jung – Relaxation Techniques for Better Sleep
  7. [7] Dr. Richard Ferber – Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
  8. [8] Dr. T. Berry Brazelton – Touchpoints: Birth to Three
  9. [9] Dr. Alice Domar – Self-Nurture: Learning to Care for Yourself as Effectively as You Care for Everyone Else