Discovery Point Blog

April 16, 2021

Creating Bedtime Routines

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for all ages, especially those with rapidly growing bodies and developing brains. Unfortunately, getting some shut eye is easier said than done for many. 

Babies and toddlers can especially experience trouble sleeping, as research has shown 20-30% of this age group get less than adequate sleep. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that when little ones struggle to sleep through the night, their parents also lose valuable rest. If you’re ready for both you and your child to finally sleep soundly, you may want to reconsider how you’ve been approaching your bedtime routine.

One of the most simple and effective ways to encourage restful sleep is to build a bedtime routine that encourages your child to relax and gives them a sense of security before drifting off on their own. To help you get started, we’ve outlined some advice for building a better bedtime routine below.

The Building Blocks of a Solid Bedtime Routine

An effective bedtime routine for children generally incorporates three or four activities done in the same order at around the same time each night. A good “cue” for the beginning of the routine is to dim the lights in your home or switch off overhead lighting in favor of smaller lamps. In addition, turn off any screens that could be emitting noise and blue light.

Research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information has analyzed the effects of different activities on children’s sleep cycles and deemed the following to be beneficial for sleep:

  • Bottle/breastfeeding or a small snack
  • Warm bath or diaper change
  • Brushing teeth and other hygiene tasks
  • Reading or singing a lullaby
  • Talking about the day’s events
  • Snuggling and massage

Choose a handful of these activities to build a bedtime routine that is right for your child. End the routine with a goodnight kiss and turn the lights off as you leave the room. 

While you may feel compelled to wait until your child falls asleep, it’s best to make your exit after your child becomes sleepy but before they close their eyes. Otherwise, they may panic if they wake up in the middle of the night and find you’re no longer there with them. This crucial step helps children learn how to fall asleep on their own and can be initiated as early as at 2 months of age.  

Tips for Maintaining Your Child’s Bedtime Routine

It may take some trial and error to find the best set of activities for your child. We’re all different, and things that are relaxing for some may be overstimulating for others. Give your child some liberty to decide what works for them and what doesn’t. Most importantly be firm about timing, even if your child claims they aren’t tired.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you establish a routine that works:

  • Avoid sugar and caffeine. If you include a small snack as part of your child’s bedtime routine, keep the snack light, nutritious, and free of sugar or caffeine. Many processed foods contain unexpected sources of caffeine and should be avoided leading up to bedtime.
  • Make changes gradually. When introducing changes to the bedtime routine, make the adjustments as small as possible to avoid stimulating or confusing your child.
  • Don’t draw it out. As a rule of thumb, 15-30 minutes should suffice for most bedtime routines. Any longer, and it may be tough to fit in on busier days.
  • Offer a security object. For children one year old or older, holding onto a stuffed animal or cozy blanket can provide a sense of security and familiarity as they settle into sleep.
  • Aim for consistency. It could be tempting to stray from your child’s routine on weekends or days when your own routine is a little off, but sticking to the plan as much as possible will really pay off in the long run.

When it comes to a good night’s sleep, a solid bedtime routine can make all the difference. Use these tips to create a customized routine that will help your child achieve sleep independence so you both can get some rest.