When my daughter was a baby, every single night her bedtime routine ended with reading Goodnight Moon. As she got older, the books changed. We moved on to Dr. Seuss and chapter books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a favorite. Then there were the years of my husband reading aloud the entire Harry Potter series, well past when she could read to herself. Her bedtime routine always started with a bath and ended with reading. To this day, she still takes a shower and reads before turning out the light. We all cherish those times. Not only was it one of the best parts of our day, but it also helped her wind down from a busy day and set her up for a good night’s sleep.
We know that a bedtime routine is a key element of healthy sleep practices. For years, pediatricians have recommended that all families institute a bedtime routine. We now have the science behind this recommendation. Bedtime routines really do help children sleep better. In a large global study we were surprised to find that less than half of all families have a nightly bedtime routine. But for those families that do, their children sleep much better. They fall asleep faster, they wake less often at night, and they get more sleep! We also found that this relationship between a bedtime routine and a good night’s sleep is “dose-dependent,” meaning that young children sleep better and better for every additional night a week that they have a bedtime routine. So having a bedtime routine seven nights a week is better than 5 nights a week is better than 3 nights a week!
We also know that instituting a bedtime routine helps solve sleep problems. A study conducted found that just instituting a bedtime routine for young children who have sleep problems helps not just at bedtime but also throughout the night. Within just one week, little ones not only fell asleep faster but they also woke less often at night and slept for longer stretches.
What kind of bedtime routine should you have for your child? The one that works best for your family! The bedtime routine that we used in the study had 3 steps – a bath, massage, and quiet activities (such as listening to music, reading stories, snuggling, or singing lullabies to unwind). Make your bedtime routine one that you and your child love