“My 5 year old won’t go to bed unless my partner and I also go to bed. She has been like this from birth and now it is driving me insane.”

This is a very common situation because children love the companionship of their parents. When co-sleeping has been a long-term practice, this is what your child has come to expect as normal. They don’t understand the reasoning behind you wanting to turf them out of the sleep space that satisfies all of their emotional needs, they love, and feel completely safe in.

Attempting to dissuade your preschooler from the family bed is sure to evoke significant anxiety, confusion and a range of undesirable behaviours from screaming, tantrums, and simply flat out refusal, to 101 reasons why they need to be in your bed with you beside them.

For some families accepting the 8.00 pm bedtime curfew is the easiest option, especially when early morning wake ups are likely!

Too much of a good thing can have consequences

The ideal amount of sleep for adults is between 7-9 hours so 8pm to bed could potentially mean you wake at 3 am, way too early to be starting your day, and more likely to mean a lot of tossing and turning trying to convince your mind to ‘go back to sleep’.

‘Sleep Begets Sleep’…old wise words!

For young children whom need 10 to 12 hours sleep, tossing and turning, frequent waking throughout the night and then waking at the crack of dawn, usually is the result of sleep debt.

Have you had one of those nights when you slept so badly and then think you will ‘crash’ out the following night, only to find you have another bad night?

Blame sleep-debt! Lengthening sleep hours, leads to deeper sleep and less awakening. Many a parent knows that when their child sleep pattern improves, they seem to crave even more sleep.

The big bed move…When is the time right?

Lets face it, it’s your life so trust your gut feeling. Waiting for the transition to occur naturally is ok if you are getting the sleep you need.

But if you find yourself wishing for your bed back, and years of sleep deprivation has caught up with you, NOW is the time to win back your healthy mind and body and patience.

 One of the things about making changes is that it triggers a certain amount of stress, and that is the single biggest factor that you will want to keep to a minimum.

Stress elicits the release of cortisol, aptly named the ‘stress hormone’, which is going to make settling to sleep more prolonged and likely the reason that you ‘give in’, as the sleep becomes a huge battle. But moving on from bed sharing for older kids is all about consistency, building confidence and developing a sense of trust that all will be well.

Choosing a Strategy

1. Depending on age, a strategy that works well is the weekly sleepover. Invite them to a sleep with you on a night when you know it wont matter if your sleep is disturbed and you can have a quiet day relaxing, to help recover the sleep deprivation. Friday or Saturday night is often a great compromise and you can even make an educational game of it.

Make a ‘days of the week poster’ and have your preschooler put a sticker on each day, counting down to the actual sleepover date. Make the night a special event: a new story, favourite meal, lots of cuddles, etc. It will give them something to look forward to and help them adapt to the new sleep situation.

2. Cold turkey: tonight you are sleeping in your own room!

If this is your game plan, some preparation is essential, because there will be tears. Let your preschooler know about the coming changes and invite your child to help set up the new room. A visual plan can give them a sense of knowing what is to come and help alleviate anxiety. Invite them into conversations about the changes and how they feel and how you feel. You might tell them how much you love bed sharing with them but you don’t like waking up tired and grumpy. Now is also a great time to discuss the ‘intermittent’ sleepover strategy’.

A systemised and consistent approach will make the transition easier for them and you.  Routine is a no brainer. Keep it short, cover all excuses, genuine and inventive that your little person may come up with in order to prevent them sleeping in their own space. Be kind, supportive and firm…sometimes you just have to be!

Be consistent.

When the bedtime routine is over, and it’s time for lights out, this is often the tears and tantrums stage and a time when your child will need substantial emotional support. Sharing your bed was all about providing emotional support to your little person. Don’t expect them to not require it when they are in their new room. They are most likely to going to need a whole lot more support, for a time!

Speeding up their ability to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper is all about helping them feel safe and secure. Remember it can take weeks to break old habits. Patience, consistency, love and support will win any day, over poor routine and sleep space inconsistency. Music is a wonderful tool to aid relaxation and provides a can be used as a lifetime when over stressed. A cuddle friendly toy can also be a much sought after comforter for brief wake ups when you are not right there.

Whatever plans you make for big kid transitioning, the best results will come with less stress, gentleness and consistency.

Sleep is an essential ingredient for great parenting. Don’t stay in sleep debt to long.

Was transitioning your children into their own bed a hard thing to do? SHARE with us below!

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  • My youngest will not sleep in her own bed at all. There was a time she would when her older sister was in the room with her (when not at her father’s) but now even she won’t be enough to stop the “ghosts or monsters” from getting her little sister. So things have gone backwards towards getting my bed to myself. Well my cat too. Hoping she changes her mind one day..

    • Sounds like you are doing a great job at meeting her sleep needs but sometimes this is at the expense of your own. Independent sleep is all about gaining your little ones trust that they are protected and loved and supporting them to learn how to relax. For support to solve sleep debt and wake feeling refreshed, you can email deb@nighnigh.com.au to find out which options are best for your family.


  • We will also be transitioning from cot to bed very soon. Fingers crossed all goes well.


  • We are about to embark on transitioning from a cot to a big bed. I’m not really looking forward to the month or so afterwards but fingers crossed we can just stay consistent and he will get it. It’s always hard with change but looking on the bright side, your child will learn a new skill – sleeping independently in their own bed.

    • sounds like you have a plan, but if it gets a bit rocky, I totally recommend using the 3R’s sleep system and the Nigh’ Nigh’ Sleepy Head resources. They are made specifically for problem sleepers as well as helping children establish deeper sleep patterns. Remember to be consistent and keep your routine short and sweet. Stress and tension is the number 1 thing to avoid. All the best! Deb Herdman.


  • We had a really smooth transition made easier by involving our son in the process. We talked about his big bed, and buying things for his big bed for him to sleep in. We put a rail up initially, until we all felt comfortable. It was smooth.

    • Hi Rovermum, great transitioning went so smoothly for you. Deb Herdman


  • I sure think sleep deprivation impacts all family members because it affects physical mental and emotional health, and can unbalance family relationships. Reason to make sleep for all family members (especially for mum and dad lol) a top priority !

    • Yes you are so right and all of the research strongly supports sleep as essential for good physical, emotional and mental health. Relationships can really fall apart when sleep debt is an issues. Cheers from Deb Herdman.

      • Yes, you are so right and all of the research strongly supports sleep as essential for good physical, emotional and mental health. Relationships can really fall apart when sleep debt is an issues. Cheers from Deb Herdman.


  • I’m a bit like meedee. My babies slept in their own space from day one of coming home from hospital. While I was breast feeding they were in a bassinet next to my bed, but then they went into their own cot, then bed. We made a game of being a big boy/girl when they transitioned from cot to bed – but they never slept with me and my husband.


  • it has been so long since I have slept a full night’s sleep, betwwn 2 kids that refuse sleep completely to a husband that snores I am the poster girl for mumbies!

    • Would love to help you awaken into a world, refreshed. What a difference it would make for your family. If you feel sleep deprived, your littlies are feeling it too. The three r’s to sleep success is magic. Seems too simple, but changes families to thrive. One mum said ‘it has saved her sanity’. Simply mouse over Deb Herdman at the top of the post to connect, and together we can make sleep happen for you and your family.


  • I need my space when i sleep and babies are noisy. I just couldnt do it. All my kids had their own rooms right from day one. The only time they ever slept in the bed with me was when they were older and they were sick. Dad went to their bed and they slept with me in the big bed as it was easier for me to be right there when they needed me. Thankfully my kids preferred their own beds.

    • Supporting your children to become independent sleepers is a gift for them and a godsend for you. Chronic poor sleep has health consequences. Children can become chronic poor sleepers for life! Awesome that you all sleep well and you support your children when they need some assistance. Regards Deb Herdman

      • Very much so. I hope my children will go on to do the same for their children.


  • We didn’t have any problem at all. From the first night we came back from hospital, she slept in her own bed in her bedroom. After the first breastfeeding in the middle of the night, I moved her to the crib in our bedroom, where she stayed till we all woke up. We never co-slept. So easy peasy. :-)

    • Sounds like you had the perfect plan for your family. Deb Herdman Sleep consultant @nighnighsleepyhead

      • Sometimes I think we were just lucky. But it has been great, yes. :-)


  • I know of friends that have this problem. I’ll send them this article.

    • Sleep deprivation impacts all family members because it affects physical mental and emotional health, and can unbalance family relationships. Thanks for passing the article to a friend in need. Your friend can always contact me at deb@nighnigh.com.au for support. Cheers Deb Herdman.


  • My sister still has her son in bed with her and her husband and his now 6! I’ll be telling her about this article, there’s great tips in there!

    • Children love the comfort of having parents nearby. If everyone gets adequate sleep, kids will organically desire their own space. My concern is always related to not enough sleep and how it affects life outcomes. I would be happy to help your friend in need. Simply email deb@nighnigh.com.au http://www.nighnigh.com.au


  • We never co slept for long lengths of time. Only a few hours here and there. But never had an issue with getting our children back to their beds. We did how ever have an issue with getting bout our children to sleep more then 2 hours without waking up. Our 6yr old daughter has only just started sleeping all night. OUr 3yr old son is still waking :(

    • Broken sleep is the pits and not only do parents feel the repercussions but it really affects kids. We need good sleep to put what we learn into our memory, it’s when we grow and when our body rests for cell repair. Constant waking is a sign of sleep debt. The Three r’s to Sleep success system would be a perfect fit for your family. Happy to chat. Contact me at deb@nighnigh.com.au


  • We never had our kids for the whole night in bed so there was never the drama of transitioning. From birth they had their own room and own bed. Now they are a bit older we climb all together in my bed and read and chat together for a while, after which they leave to their own bedroom.

    • Sounds like you had the perfect system for your family. Cheers from Deb Herdman @nighnighsleepyhead


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