Bedtime Routines That Help Children Sleep

Ways to help your child relax and get ready for a good night's sleep

A good bedtime routine can help children sleep

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When it comes to children and sleep, a good bedtime routine is a key to success. And the younger your child is when you start, the better. A May 2015 study published in the journal Sleep found that having consistent bedtime routines, and starting those routines at a young age, makes it more likely that your child will go to bed and stay asleep. The multinational study surveyed more than 10,000 mothers and found that a regular sleep schedule and nightly routines were linked to earlier bedtimes, falling asleep more easily, and reduced night wakings.

It's especially important for school-age kids to get enough sleep each night because not getting enough shut-eye can not only affect how well they're able to learn and concentrate in school but may also affect their mood and behavior. Ironically, as kids start reaching school age, they're more likely to be tempted by all kinds of distractions that can interfere with both going to bed on time and falling and staying asleep. The allure of things like texts from friends, computer, and video games, and of course, TV, can all lead to kids fighting bedtime and make kids more tired the next day.

The best part of establishing regular routines is that it will bring you closer. Not only are nightly routines a great way to transition kids into a good night's sleep, but many of these rituals are also great ways to bond with your child, and really connect with him at the end of the day. 

Establishing regular bedtime routines is a great way to bring you and your child closer.

Some Routines to Incorporate Into Your Nighttime Routine

  1. Straighten up his room. Putting away his things and getting things organized—even if just to clean up some clutter—can make his room more tranquil and calm, and the act of putting his own things away can help your child subconsciously get ready for peace and quiet.
  2. Get things ready for school. Help your child pack her school bag, pick out clothes for school, and get her gear for any extracurricular activities. Check the weather report, and get any jackets or rain gear, and put them by the front door. Doing this helps your child mentally feel ready to rest because she knows that things are all set for the next day.
  3. Take a warm bath, brush teeth. Few things can compare with a warm bath or shower to get a child ready for sleep.
  4. Read a book. Whether your child is a beginning reader or a bookworm, you can read side-by-side or read to him from a good book for school-age kids.
  5. Dim the lights. Set the mood for sleep by turning off your child's light and turning on a night light.
  6. Play soft music. It can be Bach, a simple relaxation CD (the kind they play at a yoga studio during the relaxation part at the end), or the sounds of soothing waves lapping the shore. Whatever your child prefers, the combination of low lights and soft soothing music are sure to get your child feeling relaxed and sleepy.
  7. Review the day and/or prayer. Going over the day with your child each night is a great way to keep connected, much the way family dinners can be great for a child's healthy and happy development.
  8. Yoga stretches. This can be something as simple as a few downward dogs and cobras. Just stretching the muscles a bit at the end of the day is a great way for kids—and parents—to relax and unwind.
  9. Do a relaxation technique. This routine works like a charm, especially if your child is the kind of kid who is prone to stress and anxiety. Here's how it works: Have your child breathe deeply as she imagines that her body is becoming heavier and heavier and "sinking into the mattress." Then, softly and quietly prompt her to relax and breathe out stress while concentrating on each muscle and body part, starting with the head and going all the way down to the toes.
  10. Tuck him in with his favorite comfort stuffed animal. Lastly, tuck your child in with his favorite comfort object and say good night.

A good bedtime routine is not only a wonderful way to help your child relax and get sleepy, but it's also one of the best opportunities to reconnect with your child after a busy day. It will strengthen your parent-child bond and help your child get the sleep she needs—a win-win all around!

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.