Bedtime: an evening period often dreaded by parents. Establishing a clear routine for bedtime can be quite helpful in sidestepping nighttime catastrophes. Check out these eight great tips for better bedtime routines.
Whether your child worries about the next day, or just can’t seem to let go of this day, bedtime can pose a wide range of issues. And let’s all commiserate with the longer daylight hours of spring and summer, because if the sun is out and still lighting the world at 7:45 p.m. then it must never be bedtime!
1. Make a List
For both adults and children, worrying about tomorrow can hinder good sleep. Before beginning bedtime, talk with your child about tomorrow and make a list of things to do, or questions to ask. Physically writing them down and seeing a list can help the brain relax and release worry. For example, if a spelling test is happening tomorrow, write down “Spelling test. I’m ready and will do my best!”
2. Use Cues
Make bedtime easier by using cues so your child knows that bedtime is coming; having this knowledge may reduce the struggle. Simple cues could be stating bedtime will begin in 10 minutes, then give a 5 minute warning. Try turning off lights downstairs and move upstairs to begin the bedtime routine.
3. Create a Routine
Offer your child ownership in his or her bedtime routine. Work together to make a chart, and allow him or her to choose the order of activities for bedtime. For example, perhaps packing lunch for the next day, followed by a bath or shower, then pajamas, teeth, nightlight on, and story. I’ve found it helpful as well to take 5 minutes to just talk about our days before lights out.
4. Quiet the House
Children often want to know what’s going on, and hearing noises but not seeing them can exist as a major bedtime distraction. Quiet the house before bedtime by turning off televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. Wait to run dishes or laundry until your little one enjoys a solid slumber. This may be a perfect time for older siblings to work on homework, read a book, or enjoy another quiet activity.
5. Avoid Screen Time
While tempting to put on a show while cleaning up dinner, or to help settle children down, watching television or playing on the iPad can actually hinder sleep. The brightness of the screen can interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle and delay melatonin release, which helps the body ease into sleep. An increasing number of reports suggest that screen time, whether through iPad or smartphone use, can contribute to insomnia.
6. Stretch it Out
Our bodies sleep better without tension; therefore, incorporating some easy stretches before bedtime can increase the quality of sleep. Stretching both works to release muscle tension and improve circulation. Basic stretches such as touching toes, butterfly, head rolls, and back stretches can be very useful prior to bedtime.
7. Read a Bedtime Story
When it comes to bedtime books, select books that focus on bedtime for younger children. Libraries are wonderful resources to explore a variety of books about bedtime, sleep, and dreaming. While classics such as Goodnight Moon are familiar to many, others including Mo Williams Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, Sandra Boynton’s Pajama Time!, Jane Smiley’s Twenty Yawns, and Carl-Johan Ehrlin’s The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep are excellent alternatives.
8. Deep Breathing
Once snuggled in bed, try a few deep breathing techniques to settle the mind. Consciously focusing the mind on the breath helps to relax the body as it relaxes the mind. Try taking 20 deep breaths together, slowly inhaling and exhaling. Guided meditation may be helpful during this time as well. Check out Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids by Whitney Steward for a great nighttime meditation.
Try several or all of these techniques to see what works best for your child. And since every child is different, different routines may work best for different siblings. Do you have any tips and tricks to make bedtime easier? Share them below!