Do you find yourself dreading bedtime every evening and feeling like, “Oh no, bedtime is coming again.” It’s a battle, it’s exhausting, and you just want your little ones to go to sleep happily.
In this blog I’m going to be talking about routine, particularly the bedtime routine. Why it’s important, when you can start it, and what it should look like..
Routine. Bedtime routine. What should that look like for kids? And why is it important?
The thing with a bedtime routine is it sets the scene that sleep time is coming and not just a nap, but that big, long sleep time. So even for us, as adults, teenagers, older children, we all really benefit from having that routine at bedtime. It also really helps to encourage the circadian rhythm, which is the body clock to stay into a nice, healthy rhythm. Meaning we tend to know instinctively when it’s night time, when it’s daytime. And studies have shown that even as adults, if we have a consistent bedtime every evening, we go to bed at the same time every evening, start the day at roughly at the same time every day, we are more likely to get better quality sleep, fall asleep more easily, and just feel fresher and brighter when we wake for the day. So it’s important to instil this in our little ones right from the get go.
Bedtime routine with children, it’s like an instruction. It’s like a trigger. It’s a cue. So not only does it give them that rhythmicity, it’s time to go to big sleep now, we have a big sleep, we start the day, we have meals, we have naps maybe. It’s time for that big sleep again. It creates that rhythmicity and health in sleep. So it’s really important and you can actually start a bedtime routine from as early as just a couple of weeks. So once you have your new baby home and you feel like you’ve got over the childbirth part and you’re starting to think about these things. It’s not really too early because a bedtime routine with a newborn is just going to be simply setting the scene with a few triggers and cues, a darkened room, perhaps that last milk feed, a lullaby, maybe a gentle rock or a placing down, the steps you do to put that little one down for sleep at bedtime is a bedtime routine.
It doesn’t matter how subtle it is, but those little triggers and cues from the environment can make a huge impact on a new baby and set them up really, really well for healthy good nourishing sleep. You can never start too soon.
What actually can you put into a bedtime routine?
Well, that is going to change and evolve as your little one grows. I’m sure what you do in your bedroom routine has changed over the years as well. So it will change. But with children, the key thing to remember with bedtime routine is to do the same steps in the same order at pretty much the same time for bedtimes. So for example, once you decide bedtime is coming, that’s the start of the bedtime routine and it ends with them going to sleep. So everything we do needs to be leading towards sleep.
We want to come away from the normal busyness of the daytime and the atmosphere of daytime, which might mean we go from being downstairs in kitchen, living room, busy areas to we say goodnight to any other family members and one person so that it’s less stimulating, take the little one to the bathroom. You do your bathroom activity, whether that’s a bath or a shower or just a little wash, whether it’s baby massage, applying lotion or kick about with no nappy, again, whatever stage your little one is at, your routine steps may look slightly different, but bathroom activity will happen. They’ve all got to brush their teeth at some point. So we’re going to have our bathroom activity and then from there into the room that they will sleep in. Now this bit is important. So many people will go and do the bathroom a bit and then go and watch some TV or take them to another room or then see another five family members and it’s all stimulating again.
We want to use the bath time piece as the beginning of this wind down and of this calm ready for sleep. So from there to the bedroom, in the bedroom we have those last few steps of the routine. So that may still include a milk feed. The last milk feed of the day. It may not. The little one might have a little bit of water. They may have a bedtime story. Depending on their age, it can start with a little feely touchy book thing, pointing at things, to short stories, to sort of bigger stories as they get older. But again, with stories, limit that to what feels comfortable. Is it one story? One story’s good. I would go for one, but just make it the ideal length for the little one’s age. If the story is too short pick a longer one, rather than having two or three short stories. Because little ones, especially toddlers and preschooler age are going to go, “Oh, one more, one more, one more,” and try and delay and keep that going. So sticking to one is a really good idea.
What’s next? Do you tuck them in, say goodnight? This will evolve at different ages and stages. With a baby, it may be a lullaby and a place down. With a young school-aged child or a preschooler, it might be a bedtime story and a tucking in and a little goodnight ritual. The most important message that I want to get across though, is whatever it does, what it will evolve, but whatever it looks like, keep to those same steps in that same order. So your little one comes to know exactly what to expect, what’s going to be next, and that the end result is night-night, lights out and time for sleep.
We really hope this has helped you understand the importance of routine, why we even do bedtime routine. What’s it even for? How soon you can actually get started with this. It’s never too late either by the way if you think, “Oh, we’ve never had a routine and my little one’s three.” That’s okay. Start now. Just start implementing it from tonight and what you can include in your routine.
Next week, I’m going to be going deeper into what to do when you have a toddler who’s getting up and down and getting out of bed at bedtime.
We’re here if you need us, and you can book a free discovery call if you want to know more about getting a good night’s sleep even with the clock change.