Here goes, How to Improve your Child’s Bedtime Routine
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
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.