Is it correct for parents to force their children to sleep?

The bedtime routine is a cherished aspect of parenting, where tender moments of storytelling, cuddles, and whispered “goodnights” unfold. However, the question arises: Is it correct for parents to force their children to sleep? In this exploration, we delve into the realms of how to make kids sleep, why sleep is crucial for children, the ideal children’s sleep time, and the delicate balance between encouraging and forcing sleep.

Why is Sleep Important for Children?

Before delving into the debate around enforcing bedtime, it’s essential to understand why sleep is vital for children. Sleep is a cornerstone of physical and mental development during childhood. According to paediatric experts, children between the ages of 3 and 18 require varying amounts of sleep to support growth, learning, and overall well-being.

During sleep, the body releases growth hormones essential for physical development. Moreover, adequate sleep contributes to cognitive functions like memory consolidation, attention span, and problem-solving skills. Sleep is also crucial for emotional regulation, helping children manage stress and navigate their emotions effectively.

Inadequate sleep in children has been linked to a range of issues, including behavioural problems, weakened immune systems, and even academic challenges. Hence, it’s evident that sleep plays a pivotal role in fostering a healthy and thriving childhood.

How to Make Kids Sleep: Establishing Healthy Bedtime Routines

Creating a conducive sleep environment and establishing consistent bedtime routines are essential strategies for ensuring that children get the recommended amount of sleep. Here are some effective ways to make kids sleep without resorting to force:

  1. Consistent Bedtime Routine:
  2. Create a calming routine that signals to the child that it’s time to wind down. This may include activities such as reading a bedtime story, gentle music, or a warm bath. Consistency is key to helping children develop a sense of security and predictability around bedtime.

  3. Limit Screen Time Before Bed:
  4. Before bedtime, exposure to screens, such as phones or tablets, can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle due to the blue light emitted. Encourage activities that promote relaxation instead.

  5. Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment:
  6. Ensure the child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep – cool, dark, and quiet. Comfortable bedding and a familiar stuffed animal can also contribute to a sense of security.

  7. Regular Physical Activity:
  8. Promote regular physical activity during the day, as it helps expend energy and contributes to better sleep at night. However, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime.

Children’s Sleep Time: Understanding Individual Needs

While guidelines provide general recommendations for children’s sleep time based on age, it’s crucial to recognise that every child is unique. Some children may naturally require more or less sleep than the average. Therefore, paying attention to individual cues and adjusting accordingly is vital.

For instance, if a child consistently wakes up refreshed and exhibits alertness during the day, they might be meeting their sleep needs, even if their total sleep time slightly deviates from the standard recommendation. On the other hand, persistent signs of fatigue, irritability, or difficulty concentrating could indicate a need for adjustments to the bedtime routine or duration.

The Role of Communication in Bedtime Success

Communication is a cornerstone of effective parenting, and bedtime discussions should be no exception. Engaging in open conversations about sleep with children can help address any concerns or anxieties they may have. Are they afraid of the dark? Do they have trouble falling asleep due to racing thoughts? Understanding these factors allows parents to tailor bedtime routines to meet their child’s specific needs, fostering a sense of security and comfort.

Moreover, incorporating the child’s preferences into the bedtime routine can make the process more enjoyable. Offering choices, such as letting them select a bedtime story or pick out their pyjamas, empowers children and makes them active participants in their sleep routine.

The Impact of Technology on Sleep

In the digital age, technology is ubiquitous, and its impact on children’s sleep should not be underestimated. The glow of screens can interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Establishing technology-free zones at least an hour before bedtime contributes to a smoother transition into sleep.

Educating children about the importance of winding down without screens and providing alternative activities, such as reading a book or engaging in a calming craft, fosters a healthier relationship with technology and sleep.

Force to Sleep vs. Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits:

Now, let’s address the crux of the matter: is it correct for parents to force their children to sleep? While enforcing bedtime rules is a common parenting strategy, there’s a fine line between encouraging healthy sleep habits and resorting to force.

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits:

  • Setting consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Providing a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Encouraging physical activity during the day.

Force to Sleep:

  • Imposing strict bedtime rules without considering individual needs.
  • Using punitive measures to coerce compliance.
  • Ignoring a child’s cues and pushing them to sleep against their natural rhythm.
  • Creating a stressful bedtime environment.

It’s crucial for parents to adopt an approach that fosters a positive attitude towards sleep. Using force can lead to resistance, anxiety, and a negative association with bedtime. Instead, understanding and addressing the root causes of sleep difficulties can pave the way for a more cooperative and effective approach.


In the realm of parenting, the goal is to nurture and guide, rather than coerce and control. While it’s correct for parents to encourage healthy sleep habits in their children, doing so with empathy and understanding is key. By respecting individual needs, establishing consistent bedtime routines, and creating a positive sleep environment, parents can cultivate a lifelong appreciation for the importance of restful sleep in their children. Ultimately, the delicate balance lies in fostering a harmonious bedtime routine that embraces the joy of drifting into dreams rather than forcing the sands of sleep through an hourglass.

For more blogs on how you can help your child sleep better and develop healthy habits, visit EuroKids.

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