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  • Danielle Elwell

How to Create Bedtime Routine You Can Start Tonight!

One of the easiest ways to begin establishing a healthy sleep foundation is by implementing a nightly bedtime routine. The purpose of a nightly routine is to help your child wind down and cue their body for sleep. When implemented consistently, your child quickly begins to recognize the steps and will anticipate what is coming. This familiarity of a consistent routine brings children a sense of control and security because they know what to expect every time.


Fun Fact: children are able to recognize routines as early as 8 weeks of age. It is never too early (or too late) to start!

Research has shown having a consistent bedtime routine often results in your child going to bed earlier, falling asleep more quickly, waking less frequently through the night, and sleeping for longer stretches. Additionally, a bedtime routine comprised of consistent and repetitive behaviors has proven to benefit overall sleep quality and length of sleep, not only for children but caregivers as well! If your little one is sleeping longer, usually parents are too ;)



How can you create a simple bedtime routine for your little one? Follow the guidelines below to start a bedtime routine with your little ones tonight!


I generally recommend keeping bedtime routines simple and not more than 20 to 30 minutes long. While I don’t want you to stress too much on time, I recommend sticking to no more than 30 minutes simply because the goal is to cue the body for sleep through the routine; a longer bedtime routine often results in an overtired child.


A bedtime routine should consist of a series of repetitive behaviors or activities such as feeding, bath time, changing into PJ’s, and reading. How your routine is structured will vary depending on your family and even the caregiver. It’s okay if one parent does things slightly different from the other. (Your child will learn the difference between the two routines) How you structure and order your routine isn’t necessarily the point – remember the goal is cue the body for sleep. Your child will quickly learn that this set of routine behaviors means sleep is coming soon!



When structuring your bedtime routine try focusing on these 5 things:

  1. Keep it simple and between 20 – 30 minutes total (including feedings)

  2. Should take place mostly in your child’s bedroom

  3. Focus on low stimulation (dim lights, choose calming activities, and speak in low calming tones)

  4. Include stories, songs, or soothing games

  5. Set a book limit (1-2 books) to avoid extra stalling


Activities I always recommend avoiding before bedtime are screens. Blue light emitted from screens disrupts the circadian rhythm and often affects quality of sleep. As a general rule, I recommend limiting screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.


Not sure where to start? Here’s an example routine. You can use this as a foundation and tailor it to fit your family’s needs.

It is never to late to begin implementing healthy sleep habits! If you are looking for a simple change, start here. Not quite sure how to begin? Contact me today and I will help you establish consistent routines that will benefit the whole family!



 

Mindell JA, Williamson AA. Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development and beyond. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;40:93–108.