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Bedtime routines equal good sleep habits for children

Bedtime routines equal good sleep habits for children


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SALT LAKE CITY — Establishing a bedtime routine for children has more benefits than taking the stress out of bedtime. It can become a special bonding experience between parent and child, and it can alleviate future sleep problems.

“Establishing and maintaining good sleep habits helps your child fall asleep, stay asleep, and awake rested and refreshed,” says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Because it is easier to begin a good bedtime routine when a baby is young than to try and change poor sleep habits of a toddler or preschooler, parents should start sleep routines as early as 4 months old. However, since sleep is so important to growing children, it is never too late to start a bedtime routine.


Consistency and routine are required to change sleep behaviors. Parents must discuss their strategy with each other before implementing a sleep routine so they can work together as a team.

Sleep should be a family priority. Consistency and routine are required to change sleep behaviors. Parents must discuss their strategy with each other before implementing a sleep routine so they can work together as a team. If children are old enough to understand, parents should explain new expectations to them.

A bedtime routine could include taking a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, taking a last trip to the bathroom, saying prayers and reading a bedtime story. The routine only needs to last 10 to 15 minutes.

Dr. Vincent Iannelli, a pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, asserts, “There is no absolute right way to set up a bedtime routine. Some kids like to hear a bedtime story, others may want to talk about their day, and some may just want to say their prayers and go to sleep. As long as your child falls asleep easily and sleeps all night, then your bedtime routine is likely working well.”

Kids thrive on routines. In the WebMD article "Guidelines for Your Child's Bedtime," Breus says, “Routines set expectations and help train behavior. A nightly bedtime routine helps your child learn to be sleepy. … The structure of bedtime routines also associates the bedroom with good feelings and provides a sense of security and control. Routines can take the stress out of bedtime and help make it a special time, especially if you have more than one child.”

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The important thing is to start the bedtime ritual at the same time each night and perform the tasks in the same order. Consistency is the key to good sleep habits later in childhood. Though a child shouldn’t choose the time he goes to sleep, it is good to offer him some choices in the routine. He could choose which pajamas to wear or what books to read. Giving the child choices will help him feel better about bedtime.

Iannelli cautions parents not to “drag out” the bedtime routine. Breus says, “Kids will always have that one last thing — kisses, hugs, a drink of water, using the bathroom. They can be quite inventive. Do your best to anticipate all this and get it done before getting in bed. And let your child know that once they are in bed, they have to stay in bed.”

If a child is continually having difficulty drifting off to sleep after they’re in bed, Iannelli says parents should “stop stimulating activities 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, such as playing video games, watching TV or talking on the phone.”

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Main image: Bedtime routines equal good sleep habits for children. (Photo: Sheryl Johnson)


Sheryl C.S. Johnson Blogs at sherylcsjohnson.blogspot.com>.

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