Editor's note: this article was updated on August 7, 2018.
Are you tired of the nightly struggle of putting your toddler down to sleep? Sure, sometimes they drift off on their own with zero effort on your part, and sometimes… not so much. Arguing about bedtimes, dragging their feet on the way to bed, and calling for you to come back after you’ve said good night are just a couple examples of what you probably expect on difficult nights.
But there is a solution! If you’re wondering how you can get your child to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep longer, here’s what to do: create an effective bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is a repeatable sequence of pre-bedtime events that will help your little one transition from being awake to being asleep. It begins with a reminder or notification that bedtime is approaching, followed by a bath, a snack, brushing teeth, or anything else that you feel is necessary to prepare your child for sleep.
Bedtime routines are extremely effective for increasing quality and length of sleep in young children. The positive results of using a regular, consistent bedtime routine can be seen in only a week or two. When you’re implementing a well-established bedtime routine, your little one should drop off to sleep every night without a fuss!
Wait, you’re probably thinking, I already have one of those. Why isn’t it working?
Sometimes, a bedtime routine needs a little work to get it just right for you and your family. The first thing you should do when evaluating your bedtime routine is examine the hiccups you face regularly when putting your child to sleep. Does he or she often complain of hunger midway through the night? Consider incorporating a small, carbohydrate-rich bedtime snack like bread and cheese into your bedtime routine, before brushing teeth. The carbohydrates will make them tired, and the cheese will keep their blood sugar stable through the night!
If you want some little-known secrets for an extra-effective bedtime routine, we’ve got you covered. Try implementing a few of these tips into your bedtime routine if your current one isn’t quite doing the trick.
Tricks for an Effective Bedtime Routine
- When planning your bedtime routine, think of it as starting long before the sun even sets. Studies show that increased exposure to sunshine and the outdoors is positively correlated with increased sleep quality. And on the reverse, increased exposure to screens (such as from phones, TVs, and computers) has a negative effect on sleep in both children and adults. So try trading out screen time for time in the sun and watch your bedtime routine work like a breeze.
- Light plays an even bigger role than you think! Bodies release a hormone called melatonin to signal that it’s time to sleep at night. What triggers melatonin? Darkness! It’s actually proven that spending more time around artificial light near bedtime will decrease the amount of overall sleep you get. Rethink your child’s nightlight; setting it on a timer so that it turns off automatically after your child has fallen asleep can help him or her stay asleep longer.
- A specific routine of bedtime activities, like storytelling and/or playing soft music, can help signal to your little one that it’s time to drift off. Using the same stories and songs regularly can be extra effective in helping them get to sleep faster.
Bedtime routines are not universal. You’ll have to do some trial and error before you find the routine that really works for you and your family. But hopefully, with these tips and with some routine development, the number of difficult bedtimes you encounter will lessen!
When all else fails you can also try Genexa Sleepology for Children – a new children's sleep aid that comes in tasty chewable tablets for kids ages 3+. It's organic, clean, non-habit forming, and melatonin-free. Try it today!
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