Sleep Care

Children and Bedtime Routines

We all know that children will use any excuse in the book to prolong from being tucked-in for bedtime. “I don’t wanna go to bed! Nobody else in 3rd grade has a bedtime! Can I have a cookie? Will you read me a story? I need my Teddy Bear!” The list goes on and on. Instead of a nice, evening of relaxing and winding down from a busy day, bedtime often becomes a struggle. But the benefits of creating and maintaining a bedtime routine for your children definitely outweigh the struggle.

Children need between 9-10 hours of sleep each night to grow and develop as they should. Studies show that children who are sleep deprived are more likely to become over-weight later in life. Additionally, napping throughout the day is not an adequate replacement of lost hours during the night. This is due to differences in quality of sleep from night to day. Short naps during the day do not provide the depth and restoration that children need and would otherwise get during the night. Establishing a reliable bedtime routine at a consistent time each night will ensure that they are getting to sleep each night and allowing for the rest their bodies need.

Bedtime can also be a daily opportunity to continue building a nurturing and loving relationship with your child. Use this opportunity to review the day and talk about important things between you and your child. When your kids know that bedtime is a time for undivided attention, the stage for real and intimate learning and bonding may be created. However, the downside of this intimacy is the inability to let

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go of it and to want more. It is important for parents to set limitations, make children aware of them and enforce them. The most important aspect of a successful bedtime routine is repetition and structure. These two elements help kids feel safe. Sporadically following this routine creates for confusion. Being consistent with your bedtime message allows children to feel safe and build confidence in their world.

Bedtime can also be associated with story time. Associating sleep with stories can instill a love of language in your child. Try to read aloud to your child every evening. If this isn’t possible, two or three nights a week will be ok. It is important to continue reading to them aloud even when they gain the ability to read on their own. Your child will have plenty of opportunity for individual reading in school and additional places. The intimacy created by reading aloud while he or she is following along cannot be replaced. It is best to continue this aspect of the bedtime routine until the child declares independence from it.

In an ideal life bedtime would go off without a hitch and everyone would be stress free and smiling. However, we know this isn’t the way life works. The goal isn’t to be perfect in executing the routine. It is more important that both parents and children to have an idea of what is supposed to happen at bedtime and to consistently complete the routine. A complete and successful bedtime routine will add significant emotional strength to your children and your family.

Here are a few “Do’s and Don’ts” to establishing and maintaining your child’s bedtime routine.


Spend time unwinding with a quiet activity 30 minutes before bedtime.

Demonstrate consistency. Use the same routine every night.

Make reading together a part of the bedtime routine.

Allow a nightlight.

Leave the room while your child is still awake.

Reassure your child you will check on him or her throughout the night.

Impose consequences for refusal to sleep.


Make television a part of the bedtime routine.

Have caffeinated drinks with dinner.

Allow interruptions to the bedtime routine.

Lie down together or rock your child to sleep.

Hold children who fight bedtime or constantly call for you during the night.

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