The bedtime routine is a wonderful way to help children associate a few calming activities with falling asleep. The routine provides a strong cue for sleep. So the child will know that they do A, B then C and then they fall asleep.
Most adults have routines that cue them for sleep too. Have you ever tried to fall asleep without brushing your teeth or tucking your blanket around you?
Your bedtime routine does not need to be complicated or long however it is important that it is consistent. Experts suggest 3-5 relaxing activities that take no longer than 30 minutes. For some children a short, simple routine of PJ’s, lights out, night-night words and a tuck in, might be enough to trigger sleep. While other children may need more preparation.
If your bedtime routine is on the long side, your child may only associate the last few steps with bed and sleeping. Long and complicated bedtime routines may also stimulate your child and keep them awake longer than they need to be, leaving your child over tired. Not only can this make it more difficult to fall asleep but it can cause night disturbances and waking before 6am.
It’s a good idea to watch your children’s sleepy cues each night. That way if you see them looking tired or yawning you can start your bedtime routine early and possibly shorten the steps so you get them to bed before they are overtired. For example you might read 2 pages of a book instead of 2 books.
Bedtime routines are an important step in promoting better sleep. However, depending on your child a 2 minute routine may be just as effective as a 20 minute routine. Routines that are too long may not be effective in promoting better sleep.