The Do's and Dont's for your baby's bedtime routine
We all know the importance of getting a good night's sleep to improve overall health and well-being. But putting your baby to sleep is more often a challenge than a pleasure. To fully understand and address this struggle, it's important to know what factors make it hard for children to catch those much-needed Zs.
So why do kids put up such a fight when it's time to hit the hay? Aside from any illnesses or extenuating stresses, there are several answers that will help you manage your baby's bedtime and develop an effective strategy for improved sleep. By understanding the basics of sleep resistance and establishing good bedtime routines early, you'll be setting your child up to form and maintain healthy sleeping habits as they get older.
Before you start practicing a new bedtime routine, or make changes to an existing one, experts advise that it is important to first understand your child's current sleep habits. Try keeping a sleep diary for several weeks before implementing any changes, taking note of your child's sleep and wake times, exercise routines, screen and sun exposure, food intake, and current bedtime habits. Once you have this information, you can start to formulate a plan that will work best for you and your baby. Consider the following Dos and Don'ts:
Start Early: Sleep routines will inevitably change as your child grows up, but it's vital to establish a healthy routine when they're young so they can carry good habits into adulthood.
Make It Consistent: One of the most important factors to getting a good night's sleep is establishing and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. This means figuring out the best bedtime for your child, and having them consistently go to bed at the same time each night - that way both their body and mind will associate that time with sleep every night, and begin to prepare for it.
The bedtime routine should be simple, and age appropriate. For example, you could start with a warm bath, pajamas, brushing teeth, then a bedtime story. Whatever the routine is, make it enjoyable and something for your child to look forward to each night before bed - this will help them look forward to bedtime, instead of throwing a tantrum.
Give Them Some Control: While establishing boundaries and discipline are a vital part of child-rearing, it's also important to give your child some control over their sleep routine so they won't be too resistant to it. This could mean letting them pick out their pajamas, what book to read, or which stuffed animal they'd like in bed with them.
Don't Give In: When your child asks to stay up later or finish one more story, hold firm to your established bedtime. Keeping a consistent routine will pay off in many ways, leading to a better night's rest and improved overall sleep hygiene.
Don't Watch TV: The blue light emitted from TV and smartphone screens is known to negatively affect sleep patterns and reduce the production of melatonin or sleep hormone. Experts recommend avoiding screen time for at least two hours before bedtime.
Don't Eat or Drink Before Bed: The digestive process in general can wreak havoc on sleep, particularly when dealing with food or drink that's high in caffeine and sugar. Try restricting these kinds of stimulants before going to bed for a smoother night's sleep. Additionally, having too much to drink before bed could increase the risk of your child wetting the bed, or waking up throughout the night to go to the bathroom.
Getting a toddler to go to sleep is a challenge for most parents, but there are plenty of tools and strategies you can try to implement for an easier bedtime routine. Hopefully this article has offered some insight into what's causing the problem and how you can approach its solution. Remember that consistency is key to successful planning, so start with a set nightly routine and try working from there.
Written by Christine Huegel, sleep researcher and writer at Mattress Advisor.