There’s a reason why new parents are famous for getting little sleep. Babies often have an erratic schedule. Even once they get older, little kids may become more independent and strongly oppose a regular bedtime routine. That being said, a regular routine is essential not only for your sanity as a parent but for your kids’ development.
To set up a routine, you must get it down as early as possible. Otherwise, your children will be just as rambunctious and unpredictable as they get older. Here are some lessons about creating a perfect bedtime for young children and how making a routine is good for them and you.
When your baby sleeps, their brain and body go to work to build towards the development goals they’ll need as they grow. During rest, babies’ brains develop their memory, language, and executive function — all of which are essential during early childhood development.
Getting your baby to fall asleep may first seem impossible, which is why a routine is so important. Your child needs to get enough sleep to grow big and strong. Aim for these sleep intervals:
Constancy is important when creating the bedtime routine because going through the same steps daily can signify to your baby that sleep time is coming. Once a routine works, stick to it and follow the same process every night so your child isn’t caught off guard.
Routine and consistency are also important for mom and dad's health. Get the routine down now so the process doesn't take so long every night. Then, once your child is resting, you can take time for yourself. The free evening hours allow you to do some of the chores you can’t do while watching a child during the day. You can also spend time with your significant other during this time. Although this may seem like a minor goal, you and your partner need one-on-one time more than ever before to strengthen your relationship during this stage of life.
Due to their development, the sleep routine is essential for newborns and babies, so you’ll want to nail a routine down early during this stage. Many good routines start with a bath, which you can provide about 90 minutes before their bedtime. By putting them in warm water, you can clean them and stimulate blood circulation, which can cool your baby’s core — a process associated with sleep. We even prefer coolness as adults. It’s one of the reasons why many of us search for the cool side of the pillow.
You can also feed your baby 15 minutes before laying them down. That way, they won’t lie down with a grumbling stomach, and the feeding itself can make them tired.
As you lay them down, provide some light and soothing entertainment via a lullaby or reading a book out loud. The lullaby creates calming music that can lull your baby to sleep so they start to relax. Read them a book suitable for their age in a nice soothing tone. In addition to calming them into a relaxing state, reading words can stimulate their imagination and their eventual vocabulary.
As your children become toddlers and reach age four, you must modify their sleep routines to match their growing bodies and new habits. During these years, add some healthy processes into their bedtime routine, including brushing and flossing their teeth and combing their hair. These important habits will be essential in their routines far beyond childhood, and will help ensure your children can maintain healthy hygiene for years to come. Plus, the routine will get their minds used to the idea that the time to sleep is quickly approaching.
You’ll also need to add more modifications to this routine once your children become independent enough to watch TV or play video games on their own. Screen time should generally be avoided an hour before bedtime. Exciting shows and video games can be so stimulating that they keep your kids up at night.
However, even “calming” TV time can be harmful to your kids, as the blue light from the screens can impact their overall health. Blue light is dangerous because it can dry your child’s eyes and strain them, leading to fatigue and blurred vision. Even worse, blue light ignites the production of the hormone cortisol, which promotes alertness, so it will be harder to fall asleep.
Once your children are at the age of understanding, you should also sit them down and provide guidance about the other dangers of digital devices and spending time online. New risks associated with AI and deep fakes, along with the issues that have always existed, like pornography and cyberbullying, can do a terrible number on our kids. Watch what your kids do online, and turn on the parental controls that prevent your children from seeing what they shouldn't.
Continue to have your kids start their routines and lie down in their beds at the same time every night to perfect their circadian rhythm. If they ever have a bad night, don’t let it cause a major riff and return to the routine the next night.
Create a healthy bedtime routine for your little angel, and they will go on to live happy, healthy, and well-rested lives.