The Secret to a Successful Bedtime
If you have read anything about children and sleep, I'm sure you've seen the advice to establish a bedtime routine. This advice may seem unimportant and frivolous. Really? A bedtime routine is going to solve all of my child's sleep problems?
You're right. It's true that establishing a bedtime routine for your child isn't going to solve all your child's sleep problems if they aren't sleeping independently. But a bedtime routine has been scientifically shown to be an important process to help us transition from day to night and from awake to asleep.
If you are having trouble getting your baby or child to sleep at night, you're probably making one big mistake during this routine. I'll address that mistake at the end of this post so keep reading.
In fact, a bedtime routine is important for teens and adults, too. I'm going to talk about routines for babies and children but you can absolutely apply the same recommendations to everyone.
You most likely have a bedtime routine, too, that involves brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, etc. But it's good to have some enjoyable activities be part of the routine instead of only maintenance actions that take a few minutes.
Creating a sleep sanctuary in the bedroom is key, too. See the guest blog post I recently wrote on mombureau.com for how to create a relaxing and sleep-inducing environment for your child.
Why is a bedtime routine important?
A routine before bed cues our brain that sleep is coming. Consistency with a bedtime routine is actually reassuring to children. They know what to expect and so they feel more secure and safe.
How long should the routine be?
20-30 minutes long is ideal. If there's a bath in the routine, then the routine may be more like 30-40 minutes long.
What should I do in the routine?
A bath is a great first step to the routine because it's so different from anything else that happens in the day. After a bath and brushing teeth, the rest of the routine should be in the bedroom. Dim the lights to encourage melatonin production. And enjoy some bonding time with your child, reading, singing, and cuddling. You can also incorporate massage or prayer as well.
So, whatever relaxing and enjoyable activities you want to include are great. Just keep it consistent and do them in the same order every night.
Here's an example routine:
7:15 read books
7:25 sing a song
7:30 in crib or bed
What should I avoid in the routine?
Avoid playing or roughhousing in the routine. There's plenty of time for playing any other time during the day. We want the routine to be relaxing and a chance to unwind. We don't want him to get overstimulated and make it harder to fall asleep.
Also, no screens at least an hour before bed. And definitely not during the routine. The blue light from ipads, phones, and computers suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep.
Who should do the routine?
Well, ideally, it should be anyone. I recommend starting with you and your partner alternating nights. If you're breastfeeding, then mom can start the routine with nursing. And then dad can take over for the rest of the routine.
Once baby is used to mom and dad putting him down for bed, it's much easier for baby to then accept grandma and the babysitter tucking them in. Again, other people following the routine will be comforting to your baby because he will know what to expect even if it's someone different.
Now that you've read all about the bedtime routine, here's the most common mistake that parents make in the routine: putting your baby to sleep. The routine is a cue and is not meant to actually put your baby to sleep. If you are helping your baby fall asleep, your baby is most likely going to have trouble falling asleep at night, sleeping all night and taking naps during the day.
If your baby is falling asleep during the routine and it's causing other sleep issues, you can sign up to get my free 5 Secrets to Get Your Baby Sleeping Through the Night. Or book a call with me to talk further.
I want to know-what's your bedtime routine? Feel free to reply to this email and tell me!