Why is bedtime so hard? Even if your child doesn’t resist getting into bed, she may have trouble slowing down and falling asleep. Periodic sleep problems are a normal part of childhood. Luckily, with preparation and consistency, you can help reduce energy levels and soothe your child so she’s better prepared for a good night’s rest.
Healthy Sleep Environment
Better sleep starts in a healthy sleep environment. Children are prone to distraction so anything that grabs their attention should be put away if at all possible. While your child may like to watch TV or play on an iPad before bed, it’s recommended to turn electronics off two to three hours before bed and remove them from your child’s room. The bright light from their screens stimulates the brain like sunlight, which suppresses sleep hormones. Even having them in the room can be distracting enough to keep young minds turning.
You’ll also want to keep the room comfortably cool, dark, and quiet to reduce all other distractions. Kids are often more sensitive than adults to climate conditions and changes. Humidifiers or dehumidifiers, for example, may help your child sleep more comfortably.
The All Important Bedtime Routine and Bedtime
Bedtime routines are like gold—beautiful and valuable. A good bedtime routine will help take your child from active and playful to calm and relaxed. It’s a transition time that also helps the brain recognize when to start the release of sleep hormones. Try to begin the routine at the same time and perform activities in the same order each night. A few activities to consider include:
Cleaning Up Toys:
Toy clean up is part of learning responsibility, but it’s also a signal that playtime is over. This is a great way to get your routine started because it’s physically active but it means the day is ending.
A Warm Bath:
A warm bath taken 60 to 90 minutes before bed can help trigger the sleep cycle. When your child takes a warm bath, the premature rise in body temperature causes the body to cool itself off faster than normal, triggering a sleepy sensation. A note of caution: For kids who treat bathtime like a visit to the water park, a bath before bed might have the opposite effect. If your child gets hyper during and after a bath, leave it out of the bedtime routine.
Changing Clothes and Personal Hygiene:
Changing into pajamas and brushing teeth go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. Mostly because it should happen in a consistent order within the routine. Changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, and using the bathroom is best done after movement activities like picking up toys but before your final quiet time and lights out.
Reading a Book:
Reading is quiet, focuses your child’s attention, and gives you time together. Don’t be alarmed if your child doesn’t want to sit in bed or on your lap while you read. Books with fun bold pictures and a good story can still grab your child’s attention even if she’s wiggling on the floor.
Music has a powerful impact on our mental state. A few quiet songs together signal the brain that it’s time to sleep. Children like repetition so try using the same songs in the same order each night.
Yoga works well for physically active kids because they’re using their bodies while reducing their activity level. They also learn deep breathing techniques, which can reduce their heart rate down. You might need to practice a few poses with your child so she knows what she’s doing come bedtime, but it can be a nice way to end your day together.
Children need time to adjust to a bedtime routine. It might take a week to two for your child to get used to and respond to the routine. But, with consistency, your child should start falling asleep faster.