The importance of a bedtime routine from Sleep by Kate Johnson
In the next of her series of guest blogs Kate Johnson, Sleep Consultant shares her advice on how a good bedtime routine can help with sleep. Kate will be covering a different topic on ‘sleep’ each month, please feel free to email your questions for Kate to answer.
So this month I thought it would be a good idea to focus my blog on routine. October can quite often be a difficult month for those little ones who have recently started school, and also those who are affected by the lower natural light levels. Hopefully, if you haven’t established a solid bedtime routine, this post will help you to get into a consistent routine at bedtime to help with positive associations at sleep time.
All children thrive on a routine in the day. This is also true at bedtime! Many people will follow a loose routine at bedtime, but do you do the same thing every night? When I am doing 1:1 consultations in peoples homes, we tend to start with the time that your little ones should be in bed, and work backwards! An example is shown below for a little one whose parents would like to be in bed by 7 pm. The bedtime routine should last no more than an hour.
6 pm – All electronics off, and quiet activities for 15 minutes. These activities can include anything that is based on hand-eye co-ordination like jigsaws, colouring-in, threading or tinker trays. It can be a lovely time to spend some quality time with your little ones, and it will give them a positive interaction before bedtime too.
6.15 – Supper time. I am a firm believer in supper. It fills little tummies ready for nighttime sleep, but it also gives you some control over slightly older children who claim they are hungry as soon as their heads touch the pillow!! I always opt for something like oats, banana, peanut butter (100% peanuts), cheese and crackers, yoghurt, milk and cherries. The best thing you can do is to include your child in the preparation of their own supper. It will provide another opportunity to get some quality 1:1 time with your little one, but also they will really enjoy it!
6.30 – Bath time. Most parents include a bath as part of their bedtime routine, but did you know that the drop in body temperature following a bath helps your child to fall asleep easier? Bath times are not for everyone as some children find bath times very stimulating. Or some children have skin complaints that are made worse by a bath every day. You could swap your quiet activities and bath time round, or you could just wash faces and brush teeth.
6.45 – Pyjamas, stories, hugs and kisses! Keeping this all to the same length every night helps with consistency. If you decide that you are going to read two stories one night, then your child will expect that the following night and will get confused when you don’t want to do that every night. Decide how many stories to read and then stick to it! Particularly whilst you are establishing your routine.
7 – Bedtime! Lights out, and leave the room. Unfortunately, this can be the time when your child makes the most amount of fuss – and it is understandable! Nighttime can be anxiety-producing for little ones as they are uncertain about what happens when they actually fall asleep. It is the time when they are alone for the longest period of time, and they are not sure why you need to leave them. Reassure them that you will be doing some jobs and then sleeping yourself and that when they wake up in the morning you will be ready to give them a big cuddle!
All children are different, and I know that night times are a source of stress for both parents and children or babies. If you are needing help with some self-settling techniques or implementing a routine with your little one, then get in touch! I am always happy to help.
If you have any questions at all or need some support, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me @sleepbykate.