Tips to overcoming bedtime battles with sleepless kids

With Alaska's short days in the winter and long days in the summer, it can be difficult for children to sleep.
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:30 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Any parent that’s struggled to get their children to sleep — be it a newborn, toddler or older kid — knows it can be a frustrating process, especially with the vast change of daylight between summer and winter in Alaska.

For Marie Scheperle, she tried everything to get her daughter to sleep through the night. She said nothing worked and it was taking a toll.

“She got into this habit of, somewhere around April, of waking up at midnight and 3 a.m.,” Scheperle said. “At midnight we could soothe her, but at 3 a.m., it was impossible.”

After about 13 months, Scheperle connected with Molly Penney, a certified sleep consultant. Scheperle said that’s when things started to take a turn.

“She sleeps beautifully,” she said of her daughter. “I mean, it was sort of like magic and that was really surprising, and honestly I didn’t think it would go as smoothly as it has.”

Penney has a passion for helping parents and kids sleep better. A lifelong Alaskan and mom herself, she too struggled to get her son to sleep.

“When my son was five months old, I was fed up with the waking up four or five times a night. I was desperate for a good night’s sleep,” Penney said.

Penney said she didn’t have much luck finding someone in the state to help her, so she did her own research, became a certified sleep consultant, and opened her own business called Alpenglow Sleep Consulting.

“I saw how my life had changed once I educated myself about children’s sleep, and I immediately thought it was something I wanted to get into,” she said.

Some of the most common questions Penney gets asked from parents is whether they think their kids can’t be helped, or that they’ve done something wrong.

Penney said that’s not true.

“You don’t have to be exhausted because you’re a parent,” Penney explained. “It’s not a badge of honor that you have to wear, you can totally take control of your child’s sleep and any child can benefit from getting more sleep at night.”

Given Alaska’s seasonal daylight, or lack thereof, Penney said summer is the hardest season for kids to fall asleep.

“People have more activities going on, so they’re are out of the house more, you know camping, fishing — all of these things make it more challenging — and it’s also very light, which is difficult for children in Alaska,” she said.

Another misconception is the belief that the later they keep their kids up at night, the later they’ll sleep in.

“It’s actually the opposite,” Penney said. “The earlier you put young children to bed, the later they sleep in in the morning ... 7 or 8 o’clock at night for bedtime is great for kids, you know, under four years of age.”

For kids who come up with every excuse in the book not to go to sleep, Penney said a lot of it has to do with setting healthy boundaries.

“Just tell them, ‘This is when we all stay in our rooms, this is when we go to sleep, we’re gonna shut the doors now, it’s time to rest our bodies’,” Penney said.

Penney wants parents to know there is hope for sleepless kids, but her golden rule is if parents start putting their kids to bed early, that solves half the battle.

Penney typically works with 12 to 18-month-olds because that’s when the nap transition takes place. She said she also work with newborns, twins and kids up to five years old.