A healthy sleep schedule is important for everyone, especially our little ones. Yet many researchers have evidence that as much as 20 to 30% of babies and toddlers have trouble sleeping. For preschoolers and school-aged kids, it can be challenging to adjust to a new sleep schedule. Whether you’re ready to establish a new routine or just adjusting to a new one, no matter their age, it's essential your child gets enough sleep. But that can seem easier said than done.
If you’ve wondered how you can help your kids get on a healthy sleep schedule, we have some great guidelines for you that may help. While no child sleeps precisely like another, and what may work for one may not work for another, it is good to establish healthy sleep habits now so they're equipped with what they'll need as an adult later. So if you'd love to know how to help your child maintain a healthy sleep schedule, read on.
What is a Bedtime Routine?
A bedtime routine is a consistent, repetitive set of activities carried out before bed every night. These activities prepare your child for sleep by helping them wind down and relax. Bedtime routines give our children a sense of security and teach them the necessary steps to help them fall asleep on their own as they grow older.
Preschool and school-age children with healthy bedtime routines tend to have better readiness for school, and often, well-rested kids do better academically and socially. Research has shown that children who follow a bedtime routine are more likely to fall asleep earlier, take less time falling asleep, sleep longer, and wake less frequently during the night. Bedtime routines are also an excellent way to teach children the first steps of self-care.
Repetition of washing and tooth-brushing help establish healthy patterns for working memory, attention, and cognitive skills. These benefits from childhood carry on toward adulthood—which is why it's also recommended for adults to maintain a healthy bedtime routine.
Can I Build a Sleep Routine for a Healthy Sleep Schedule With My Baby?
Yes! If possible, it is recommended to start building a sleep routine for your baby as early as the first year. So, how do you start a good sleep schedule when they are babies? No matter what activity you choose to begin or end a bedtime routine with your baby, start early enough in the evening to make sure you get through the routine at a pace that works for both of you.
Let them work off their energy first. If your baby seems to have more energy before bedtime, let them get it out of their system. Have fun with them while they play with their Critter Pets Bear stuffed animal or bounce in a bouncer, then follow these simple steps to start building a sleep routine with your baby:
1- Keep it simple: wash up, diaper change, clean jammies, and a story or song.
2- Make sure bath time is relaxing. Soaking in warm water is usually a great way to help babies relax and unwind. After washing up, it’s time for a fresh diaper. (If a bath doesn't work well at bedtime, try washing faces and hands, wiping gums or brushing baby teeth to start building healthy habits!)
3- Put them in their coziest, comfiest leggings or onesie pajamas from LazyOne. Choose a cute, super soft option to make cuddles even better.
4- Read a book or sing a soft lullaby. Often, the sound of a parent’s voice is soothing to babies and one of the most traditional and time-tested ways to help a baby drift off.
5- End your routine in your baby's bedroom. Many babies do not initially understand that their crib or bedroom is for them to sleep, not just for 'mom or dad to leave.' Consistently ending the routine here is the first step toward your little one understanding the bedroom as a lovely, cozy, safe place to be.
Building Sleep Routines for Toddlers to School-Age Kids
The most essential aspect of your kids' bedtime routine is being able to maintain it consistently. As they get older, you may adjust the timing, but choosing two or three of the same bedtime activities to follow each night will make it easier for them to fall asleep. You can also start winding down by dimming lights and turning off screens at a consistent time before beginning the bedtime routine.
Here are some activities that may be part of a good bedtime routine for young kids:
- Shower or bath and brush their teeth.
- Potty train or go to the bathroom (or a diaper change, if needed).
- Read a book together.
- Sing a song or lullaby.
- Massage, cuddle, or rock them for a brief time.
- Talk about all the activities of their day in a gentle, soothing manner.
- Introduce them to journaling or meditating if they are old enough.
Remember, you may not need to do all these activities, just doing a few is fine.
Many of the things you can do with your children at bedtime help them build healthy habits. As they grow, you can transition to more self-led or independent activities such as reading with them in the bedroom, then letting them read a book on their own quietly in the living room. Once they are in bed—every night at the same time—make sure their room is dark, quiet, cool, and free of distractions. A healthy sleep schedule is similar from baby, to toddler, to school-age, all the way to adulthood.
Tips for Bedtime Routines that Help You Get Quality Sleep at Any Age
The environment we go to sleep in, as adults and as children, affects how well we sleep. Multiple studies have shown a connection between blue light and poorer quality sleep. Therefore, it is vital to stop using TVs, computers, tablets, cellphones, handheld video game devices, and other electronics that emit blue light an hour before bed. Here are a few more recommendations you can follow to ensure your sleep environment is designed to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Use dark, heavy curtains, sometimes called blackout curtains, to eliminate outside light.
- Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature, not too warm or too cold.
- Eliminate as much noise disturbance as possible to keep the room calm and quiet.
- Reserve the bed for sleep or bedtime routine activities like book reading to help maintain its association with relaxation and comfort rather than anything resembling "work."
Building a nightly routine can be challenging. Still, with a bit of effort and consistency, you can help your child build the fundamentals to deeper, better quality sleep that will continue to assist them for the rest of their lives.
If you notice issues with your child's alertness during the day, don't be afraid to talk to your pediatrician about their sleep schedule and discuss healthy habits. Good luck LazyOne Momma and Poppa Bears! Have a good and cozy sleep routine night!