This post is contributed by Corinne Burghardt, SlayAtHomeMother.com.
Bedtime – I used to dread it. With our two kids, there was usually some kicking and screaming, a few seconds of cuddles and kisses, and then some extra whining thrown in at the last minute followed up by a heartbreaking cry once the night light was turned on and the door was closed. I would throw myself onto the bed, mentally exhausted and hanging on by a thread.
What am I doing wrong? Why is this so hard?
Truth be told, looking back, I can count about 5-7 things I was doing wrong each night. I was causing my own misery, and didn’t even realize it!
The Importance Of Bedtime Routines For Children
Establishing a bedtime routine is healthy for kids, and parents too! It isn’t about establishing a bedtime, but about establishing consistency. Kids thrive on consistency; a schedule. They know what to expect, and it helps create the stable environment they crave. Just like you have to mentally prepare yourself to avoid chatty Susan this morning at the company Keurig (seriously, why is she always there?), kids need to prepare themselves for the next activity or event. Consistency in your child’s life gives them a sense of security.
Sleep is also incredibly important for their health…
Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. – Rachel Dawkins, M.D., Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital; 2018
To get started on the right path to helping your child sleep better at night, and developing a sense of security and consistency, let’s take a look at your current routine…
Consider Your Current ‘Routine’
What are some of the things you already do to get your children ready for bed? You might already be helping them brush their teeth, giving them a bath, and selecting a comfortable pair of pajamas for them to wear. This is something of a routine that you already have in place.
Now, take those random before-bed activities and put them into a predictable sequence:
- Give your kids a bath
- Help them brush their teeth
- Pick out PJs together
- Put them to bed
Simple enough – but the sequence of these activities is what helps create the consistency I mentioned earlier. Now that you’ve placed the different bedtime to-do’s in order, your kids will start to understand that after doing these things in order, going to bed is next and they will be expected to sleep.
Add In Or Take Out Activities To Suit Your Children’s Needs
Personally, my kids love bedtime stories. But I hardly ever read to them because they get so riled up and excited while I am reading to them that they don’t end up sleeping for another hour after I’ve finished reading them a story.
It would probably make me sound like a better mother to tell you that I read them bedtime stories every night and they sleep like angels (like I expect other people’s children probably do), but it isn’t practical for us in our bedtime routine.
If your kids sleep better after a bath and story time, then that is a great place to start with setting up your child’s personal bedtime routine. Just know that your bedtime routine is going to look different than the mom next door because every child is different and needs different things!
Pick A Suitable Time To Have Them Go To Sleep
This one is important, probably the most important point in establishing consistency and routine for your child(ren).
Picking the actual time your child goes to bed is 75% of bedtime. The other 25% is just doing things in order so your child understands they are going to be sleep now, and it’s time to settle down into Dreamland.
I’ve found the time a child goes to bed to be different for just about every mother and household, especially those with kids who are different ages.
If your 2-year-old needs to go to bed an hour earlier than your 9-year-old, you’ll need to do some trial-and-error and see how you can work out a good bedtime routine for the both of them. For example, they can brush their teeth together and have a tickle fight, but once your 2-year-old lays down to sleep, your older child can start getting their backpack ready for school the next day or help pick up their toys from the living room floor before going to sleep.
In my home, both my toddler and my older son go to bed at the same time of 8:00 p.m. I have tried to lay them down at 7:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p..m, 9:00 p.m., and have even tried a series of laying them down at different times altogether, but have learned that the best time for them to fall asleep is 8:00 p.m.
I have family members that don’t put their kids to bed until 10:00 p.m. and that works for them! I don’t quite understand it, but it just does.
Once you figure out the timing that works for your kids, schedule, and household, the rest is cake!
Ensuring They Are Comfortable When They Go To Sleep
All of this hard work establishing routines, schedules, bedtime activities, and times to sleep are worth nothing if your child is uncomfortable when they sleep.
Here are some tips to make your child comfortable to sleep:
- Wearing the right pajamas to bed (something they will be comfortable in all night long)
- Setting the thermostat to about 68 degrees can ensure the whole household sleeps soundly through the night
- Consider bedding (do the sheets on your child’s bed make them sweat, or are they slippery and feel uncomfortable to your child?)
- How old is your child’s mattress? Are the springs too uncomfortable? Consider laying on your child’s mattress for about 15 minutes on your back to test it out. If your child has trouble falling asleep or sleeps in for a bit in the morning, their mattress may be to blame. They could be having trouble falling asleep because their mattress is uncomfortable, or sleeping in because they are finally sleeping after having trouble falling asleep on their mattress. A video monitor can help you keep an eye on your child to see how much tossing and turning they do before falling asleep.
- Plug in a night light, even if your child is older. Night lights are great to have for a child’s bedroom so they can see their floor when getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom or to help them find the door if they need to come find you to tell you about a bad dream they’ve had.
- During the winter months, consider plugging in a humidifier, especially when your child has a cough or a runny nose. Some humidifiers allow essential oils to be placed in them with water so you can diffuse some lavender or eucalyptus while they sleep.
- Run the ceiling fan while your child is sleeping – most kids sleep better with some air circulating through the room.
- If your child has been having recurrent bad dreams, try to talk about them before bed and have some face-to-face conversations about why they might be having the dreams or what they’re feeling (at home and at school). Sometimes talking about dreams helps, and then remind them of something they can think about instead if those nasty nightmares come back. (For my oldest son who loves potty humor, we make jokes about how skittles are actually unicorn poop…).
- Before leaving the room, remind your child what they have coming up the next day. If they have a fun day at Legoland with Grandma coming up tomorrow, remind them what fun they’ll have!
- If your child still has trouble getting up to use the restroom during the night and wets the bed, cover their mattress with a disposable liner from a dollar store, and be sure to have a clean set of sheets and a comforter ready to go. Consider putting them back in pull-ups for a while longer if they aren’t quite ready to sleep in underwear.
Remember That You CAN Do This
If you’re struggling with bedtime, know that you aren’t alone! Parenting, in general, is a trial-and-error process, and bedtime is another one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types of experiences. Especially when you factor in multiple children.
Remember to tweak your new routine as needed, and do your best to ensure that your child is comfortable enough to successfully sleep through the night.
And if you need help selecting a newer mattress for your child’s room (because the one your sister-in-law gave you two Christmases ago just isn’t working out for your child), Gardner-White not only has a wide selection of modern and affordable furniture sets, but also a great selection of mattresses to fit your budget and needs. And help your child (and you) get the sleep you both deserve with a 180-day sleep guarantee and same-day delivery.