Remember as a teenager how you could simply lay down, close your eyes and be deep in sleep within a matter of minutes? Even into my 20s, sleep always came easy for me. But now with four small children waking up at unpredictable times, sleep has become frustrating at best and elusive at worst.
Even when the kids do happen to sleep all night long, I often lie awake worrying about what I’ve got to do the next day, a deadline I have to meet, my daughter’s history assignment that’s due tomorrow, is baby Joey breathing okay, and what am I going to concoct for the kids’ lunch tomorrow with only cottage cheese, raisins, and a muffin mix? It’s safe to say that lack of sleep is the number one complaint of most parents.
We’d all like to get more sleep. We’d like our children to get better sleep. We’d like sleep to become a seamless affair rather than a battle. If you find the stresses of daily life keeping you awake at night, have difficulty falling asleep even when you’re exhausted, or wish your kiddos would develop better sleep habits, the first place to start is with a regular bedtime routine.
Why the bedtime routine is more important than you think.
You don’t just go to sleep, you have to plan for sleep. Experts at Harvard Medical School say that calming bedtime routines are essential to both children and adults for getting a good night’s sleep. The bedtime routine is more important than you think for two reasons:
- You can prevent many minor sleep and behavior problems with a schedule of relaxing activities near bedtime.
- Keeping a consistent bedtime routine, even on weekends, keeps your internal clock in check and helps you fall asleep and wake up more easily.
This goes for kids and adults alike. If you’re a parent, you probably already have a bedtime routine in place for your children, but what about for yourself? Lately, I have fallen into some bad bedtime habits—namely eating too much chocolate before bed and watching too many seasons of Prison Break on Netflix. And I wonder why I lie in bed for sometimes hours waiting to fall asleep.
Sleep doctors say do these for better sleep:
- Create a comfortable sleep environment: During a recent Facebook live parenting video, we talked about our kids’ sleep routines and one reader had a fantastic idea. She said part of their family’s nightly routine was to clean the room before bed. This helped them go to sleep and wake up in a more peaceful fashion.
- Establish a calming pre-sleep routine: For kids, this might include a bath, pajamas, a small drink, teeth brushing, a story, kiss and hug, and then bed. For adults, a healthy routine may be harder to pin down, but could include relaxing on the couch for a bit, face washing, teeth brushing, reading, bed.
- Limit light exposure at bedtime: Get your senses ready for bed by dimming the lights.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine: Especially in the evening, avoid stimulants that could keep you awake.
- Identify factors of your nightly routine that may be keeping you from quality sleep. Are you letting the kids stay up to late? Binging on Netflix longer than you should? Eating too much right before bed? Bringing your anxiety level up when you should be bringing it down? Examine what’s keeping you and your family from getting quality sleep and work on changing it.
Why your child’s bedtime routine is more important than you think.
Kids will do anything to delay sleep and we’ve heard it all. I’m not tired yet. Can I just finish this show? One more book pleeeease. I need a snack, I need a drink…where’s my teddy?
But letting children stay up late is not doing them any favors. You may seem like the nice parent or the fun grandparent now, but too many nights of too little sleep can lead to bigger issues like behavior problems and even lower test scores. So why is a healthy childhood bedtime routine more important than you think?
- Research suggests that consistent bedtime routines are just important for their developing brains as the number of hours they get¹.
- The repetition and structure of a regular bedtime routine helps your children feel safe and secure².
- It is one of the best times to nurture your relationship with your child.
Although often a struggle, bedtime one time that kids get your undivided attention and they love every minute of it. You can snuggle, read a book, and talk. Kids will often save their most sensitive questions for this time.
Reading at bedtime is also way more important than you think. Don’t skip the stories. Reading at bedtime with your child instills a love for language at an early age that will benefit them well into adulthood. Oh, and don’t stop when they learn to read on their own! My mom read books like the Harry Potter series and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to us as older children. Even though we could have read them ourselves, we loved the sound of her voice.
Developing a regular sleep routine for yourself and your kids might be a lot of work, but it is 100 times worth the effort! So dish…what’s in your sleep routine and what bad habits do you need to kick to the curb?