Improve your Child’s Bedtime Routine

Top 10 Ways to Improve your Child’s Bedtime Routine

by: Jamie Cassoff, PhD

by Dr. Pamela Mitelman
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Here goes, How to Improve your Child’s Bedtime Routine


Quality Time

It is important to give your full attention when carrying out a bedtime

routine. Although you do not want to drag it out, it is important that your child feels like

they are spending good quality time with you at this point of the day. If you feel like your

bedtime routine is rushed and that you are ‘racing against the clock’ to get your child into

bed on time, consider starting a few minutes earlier the following night. Starting the

routine 5-10 minutes earlier may make all the difference for you and your child.


Sleep Conducive Environment

Ensure that it is dim and quiet in the bedroom

environment during your bedtime routine. One aspect of an effective bedtime routine is

allowing your child some time to wind down before going to sleep. Diming the lights (or

turning them off completely) as well as ensuring that outside noise is eliminated (or

turning on a sound machine) can help facilitate drowsiness and prepare the body for



Easily Replicated

Consider planning a routine that you can be consistent with for naps

and night time sleep. It is important that each step of the routine can be replicated

throughout the day for all sleep periods (abbreviated version for naps). Sometimes, if the

routine is too long or complicated, it may be difficult to be consistent, which is what

makes a routine effective in the first place. A useful routine is one that is predictable for

your child in that each step is a separate cue for his/her body that sleep is on its way!



Limit Moving from Room to Room

Try to keep the routine in as few rooms in the

home as possible. It may be tempting to jump from the family room, to the bathroom, to

your child’s bedroom and then to your bedroom for a final snuggle, However, research

shows that the more effective routines take place in only one or two rooms of the home.

If possible, try to go straight from the bath to your child’s bedroom for the remainder of

the bedtime routine so that they can have the opportunity to wind down and relax in one

location. For naptime, when bath time does not happen, you can go straight to the

bedroom for the entire naptime routine.


Consistency Among Caregivers

Pass on the information regarding your routine to

caregivers. Usually children will do just fine with others putting them to sleep IF they

follow the same steps as you do for the bedtime and naptime routine. If your child is used

to a particular song or story before sleep, ask the caregiver to replicate it so that your

child continues to experience a consistent series of events before sleep.


Avoid Being Overtired

Ensure that your child is not overtired during the routine. You

may notice that there are some nights or nap periods where your child is more tired than

usual – maybe his/her previous sleep period was cut short or he/she is just having an off

day. In these cases, it is okay to do an abbreviated version of the routine. Try to go

through each step but in a speedier fashion so that he/she still experiences each cue for

sleep. It is important that you do not drag out the routine such that your child is overtired

when placed in their sleeping place.


Refrain from Overstimulation

Refrain from offering stimulating activities as part of

the bedtime routines. As part of a bedtime routine, it is common to include songs, stories

and other potentially exciting activities for a young child. If you notice that a step of your

routine is more stimulating than relaxing for your child then you may consider

eliminating it as part of sleep time routine and offering it during ‘playtime’ instead. For

example, story time tends to be more of a ‘playtime’ activity for young babies and is

usually introduced as a bedtime routine step during the toddler years.


Tired but Awake

Ensure that your child does not fall asleep during bedtime (and

naptime if applicable) routine. The goal of the routine is to cue your child that sleep is

approaching but not to put them to sleep. For younger infants, putting them to sleep

drowsy but awake and not to the point that he/she is completely asleep is recommended.

For older infants and all children, tired but awake is suggested. If your child falls asleep

during the routine then it will be harder for him/her to stay asleep once they are in the bed

or crib. The ideal state is ‘drowsy but awake’ by the end upon entering his/her sleeping



Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Do not underestimate the value of a consistent

bedtime routine. Research has shown that bedtime routine is very effective in promoting

healthy sleep for children. The consistent series of events before each (nap and) night

time sleep provides them with soothing and predictable cues that make the transition

from wake to sleep easier and more enjoyable for them. Families who employ ‘sleep

training’ strategies but do not have a consistent bedtime routine are usually unsuccessful

is promoting consolidated sleep for their child.


Flexibility and Getting Back on Track

: Be flexible and realistic on days when

implementing the routine is not possible. Life events such as sickness, teething, family

occasions and travelling happen. Do not be too hard on yourself if you have to modify or

even skip routine on those days. The important part is that you go back to the routine as

soon as possible. It may take some time to get back on track but your child will benefit

from the predictability and soothing nature of the routine within a few days.

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