Difficulty Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep

As most adults know, sleep can be complicated and cannot be forced. The books in this section help a child to establish a bedtime routine and to unwind and relax in order to get their bodies ready for sleep. If a child is expressing a lot of worries or fears before bed, some of the books in the Anxiety-Related Challenges section of the Bookshelf may also help.
Age range: Ideal for 1st through 5th grade, but much of the workbook is applicable to kids a bit younger with some extra parental support.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook is a good fit for any child experiencing sleep challenges. It’s appropriate for kids who resist going to sleep, who are struggling to sleep on their own, who have difficulty falling asleep, and those who wake up frequently during the night. It teaches pre-bed relaxation skills, helps a child develop a good bedtime routine, and addresses fear of the dark, nightmares, and scary thoughts that often arise at bedtime. This workbook uses a metaphor of a child being a sleep magician, and it teaches kids fun slight-of-hand magic tricks in each chapter.
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This riff off of The Princess and the Pea teaches children relaxation skills to use before bed when they are having trouble feeling sleepy (including stretching, taking deep breaths, and doing a mindfulness exercise of placing worries on stars and watching them twinkle and disappear). It’s a fun, well-written read, and it easily leads into a child practicing the relaxation skills along with the Princess. Adults might benefit from joining in as well!
Age range: Preschool through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book walks children through a relaxing yoga routine to help them settle their bodies prior to going to sleep. For a child who often has the wiggles or feels uncomfortable when they get in bed at night, this book could be really helpful. The visualizations that accompany the yoga poses (e.g., picturing birds settling in a tree at night) could also help a child to settle their minds before sleep. This book is also available in Spanish and German.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a lovely collection of peaceful mindfulness exercises for a child to practice with an adult before bed, or really anytime they could use a relaxing reset. A child who often has a lot of racing thoughts or worries when they’re going to bed might particularly benefit from some of the exercises in this book. Therapists and child care providers interested in incorporating mindfulness exercises into their work with children might enjoy using this book during the day, as well. All but the last prompt on dreams are applicable to the daytime as well as bedtime.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a really fun read for a child who has a fear of monsters under the bed or in the closet, but who knows (at least on some level) that monsters aren’t real. It helps a child to shift their view on monsters from dangerous to silly and innocuous. It’s also just a very adorable book.
Age range: Toddler through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: This story is really excellent for soothing a young child who has been woken up by a loud noise. It’s particularly relevant for a child who lives in a city. The Red Brick Building is an apartment building, and a car alarm is featured prominently. It’s a fun story with repetitive onomatopoeias that really sing, and it encourages a child to listen to the quiet sounds of a city night as they fall back asleep.
Age range: Toddler through 1st grade.
Recommended for: Young children who like dogs will enjoy this very adorable book about a dog who isn’t sleepy even though it’s bedtime. This book will help a non-sleepy child feel understood, and it encourages a child to get snug in their bed and think about the highlights of their day and what they’re looking forward to tomorrow. This book is also available in Spanish.