Bedtime can be a source of stress in many homes.  Parents are tired and anxious to get their little ones to sleep so they can finally rest as well.  Children may not be ready to settle down.  This can turn into a power struggle that seems to repeat itself night after night.

Having a predictable routine is an important part of a successful bedtime.  Your child will come to know that the same things happen every night, in the same order.  Steps of the bedtime routine may include a snack, bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, playing quietly, reading a story and spending some quiet time together, and then shutting out the light.  Every child’s bedtime routine may look a little different, but the key is consistency.

When establishing a bedtime routine, keep in mind a few important factors:

  • Be sure you are not trying to start too early or too late in the day.  Think about the amount of sleep your child needs.  Children typically require between 10-13 hours of sleep, but that varies greatly.  If you need your child to be awake at a certain hour in the morning, set a bedtime that will allow an adequate amount of sleep before that time.
    • Once you have a set sleeping and waking time, stick with it.  Staying up late or sleeping in will have an effect on the next night’s sleep, and it could be days before you are back to normal.  Of course, there are times when this cannot be avoided, and you simply need to work through it.
  • Give frequent reminders so your child knows what is coming next.  “After your bath is done, it’s time to put on your pajamas.”  “As soon as you are under the covers, we will read a story.”
  • Burn off extra energy before bedtime.  Once you have started settling into the bedtime routine, try to keep a calm, soothing environment.
  • Try to stay on track.  If you always read two stories before bed, stop at two.  Otherwise, you are likely to hear, “Just one more!” until you have gone through a stack of six books and a half an hour past bedtime.
  • Settle the rest of the household somewhat at bedtime.  Your child may resist going to sleep if he thinks he is missing out on the fun outside of his bedroom.  As he is getting ready for bed, you might also want to change into more comfortable clothes for the evening.  Once the bedroom light goes out, try to keep the noise level lower in the rest of the house.
  • Focus on tomorrow.  Help your child go to sleep thinking not only about the fun she’s had today, but also about what she is going to do the following day.  Look at this as the last step of the bedtime routine.  Just as putting on pajamas follows brushing her teeth, tomorrow’s plans follow tonight’s sleep.
  • Design your bedtime routine to fit your family’s needs and your child’s personality.  The daily consistency is more important than the actual steps you go through.  As your child grows, changes will need to be made as bedtimes get later and he becomes more independent.  Find ways to continue to use the quiet time at the end of the day to connect with your child, no matter his age.