The topic of many a parent’s conversation is sleep. How much does your child sleep? What time do they go to bed? Do they sleep through the night? The first step to finding the Holy Grail of parenting (a good night’s sleep!) is to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
Benefits of a routine
A bedtime routine is important for both children and parents. Establishing a routine from an early age will help regulate your child’s body clock, help them fall asleep more easily and ensure they have a better quality of sleep. It can instil good sleep habits that should stay with them throughout childhood. For parents it means a stress-free bedtime and a good night’s sleep for the whole house.
When to start
It’s never too young to introduce a routine; some studies have shown babies to be receptive to routine from as early as 6 – 8 weeks old which is when their circadian rhythm starts to develop. Similarly, if you haven’t got round to introducing a routine yet, it’s never too late to start. Bad habits can be changed with a little bit of effort and patience.
How to do it
- Consistency is key – whatever you decide to do for your bedtime routine, it’s important to be consistent each night. Once your little one understands that this routine leads to bedtime it will become a lot easier. It’s ok to relax your routine for special occasions or holidays, but try and stick to it as much as possible so as not to confuse their sleep pattern.
- Timings – depending on the age of your child, bedtime should be somewhere between 6.30 and 8.30pm. Your routine should take up to 30 minutes in total, although this can be flexible to suit your preferred way of doing things.
- Wind down time – as you get closer to bedtime it’s important to let your children wind down and refrain from too much stimulation. That’s not to say you can’t have fun before bed, but keep it relaxed with story time or lullaby singing and quiet games that encourage them to sit still. Keep screen time to a minimum in the evening as the artificial lighting from televisions and iPads disrupt melatonin production making it harder for their brains to switch off.
- The three Bs – bath, bottle and bed – starting your evening routine with a relaxing bath can be a great way to encourage little ones to wind down. Toys in the bath can be great fun but remember not to let them get too hyperactive. After getting changed into pyjamas it’s time for a bottle or cup of milk (depending on their age). This comforting part of the routine really helps your child relax. This is also a great time to do some reading together before putting them to bed with a kiss and a cuddle.
- Lights off – a lot of parents have a nightlight set up in the nursery. Whilst some children won’t sleep with the lights off, if you can encourage no lights it’s much better. If you must have a nightlight try and find one with red tones rather than blue/white/green, as these lights can disrupt melatonin levels and contribute to sleeping problems.
Remember practice makes perfect and consistency is key – it might take a few weeks of patience and planning but the ease of bedtime once you have established a routine that works for you makes it all worthwhile. Good luck!