Digital clock “cure” for kids who can’t fall asleep

I love Karen's gentle hack for encouraging little ones to stay in bed:

Both my kids were prone to coming out of their rooms at night as toddlers, saying "I can't sleep." A trick that worked well for us was that I would tell them to go back to bed and try to fall asleep and that I would come in in five minutes.

They each had a digital clock in their rooms so I might say, "I'll be back at 7:52 to check on you." I'd go in at the appointed time, kiss them on the forehead, thank them for staying in bed, and promise to come back in 15 minutes ("at 8:07" say).

I never missed a promised return, but usually by this second trip, they were sound asleep. It turns out that watching your digital clock change is as soothing (boring?) as counting sheep.

My son has this Oregon Scientific clock in his room that projects the digital time on the ceiling. Pretty cool.

Related: Sleep tips at Parent Hacks


  1. Margaret says

    We had a similar problem with our son and here’s what worked for us… (we live in a small NYC apartment by the way)

    I would tell him that I had to go cleanup the kitchen and would come back when I was done with the dishes. Then I would actually go do the dishes. He would always fall asleep listening to the sound of me doing that. Eventually he started to say, “Goodnight…go do the dishes!”

  2. Tommy Tuesday says

    Not saying this hack won’t work, but having been an insomniac long before I knew that word, I remember watching minutes tick by on my alarm clock for an entire hour. By :35, anticipation fueled the insomnia and my eyes started feeling funny.

    As an adult, I can’t stand a visible alarm clock, it has to be turned away from the bed. What, like you never had any bizarre neuroses? ;-)

    Silver lining: insomnia no longer an issue. Frequent baby-induced sleep interruptions uncovered a previously unknown sleep-on-demand feature.

  3. Cathy says

    Naps were required when I was young, although I thought I was WAY too old for naps. My mother would tell me that I didn’t HAVE to take a nap, I could just rest and lay down quietly for 30 minutes. She would set the timer for 30 minutes and I would never hear it go off because I was out like a light. I am the youngest of 5 and when I compare notes with my siblings, this worked on all of us.

  4. Allie says

    I saw this in parents mag: and it lookes interesting. Lights up as a moon when its night time and turns to a sun when its time to wake up. Like an alarm clock the parent sets. They are all out right now, I am on the list when they get more.

  5. Sandy says

    We actually have the same projection clocks you have featured here. I tell my son (he is 4 yo) that when we turn out the lights and he can see the time on the ceiling projected in red, it is bedtime. And when he wakes up in the morning and he can no longer see the time above him, he can get out of bed.