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Healthy Sleep Routines
Healthy Sleep Routines
Journal

Healthy Sleep Routines

How to Improve your Child’s Bedtime Routine Bedtime routines set the tone for the whole night. The way your child falls asleep influences how she sleeps overall. In fact, we find most night wakings and early rising issues relate, in some way, to the patterns and expectations parents and caregivers set in the wind-down to bed. Here are some important factors to keep in mind for your little kid’s pre-sleep routine: Wind down before the routine. A full hour before bedtime, start “winding down.” Turn off bright overhead lights or pull curtains or shades (depending on the season) to simulate the setting sun. Turn off all screens and shift into to slightly slower, calmer mode. Before moving into your child’s room for their bedtime routine, say goodnight to the kitchen, living room, to the world, the other parent or sibling and so on. These simple steps send both physical (the sleepiness hormone melatonin starts to rise) and psychological (prevents FOMO) signals to your child that the entire household and even the world are getting ready for bed. Social and engaging. Add steps to the routine that involve telling stories, singing songs, saying highs and lows of the day, or something else your child enjoys and looks forward to. This will keep them clear on the intention of the routine (it’s a sequence of fun and interesting steps, but the goal is not to “put them to sleep” — you will not be reading books until they drift off). And if the end of the routine is enticing, your kids are more motivated to get through the routine and into bed. Get creative about that last step. Contained and clear: Make a visual chart that clearly shows the steps of the routine. This really helps little kids, because they like to know what’s coming and feel capable and involved in the routine. Rather than always being told what to do, kids can follow their chart and feel like part of the team. Write it down, including how many books and songs, kisses goodnight, and so forth. (Note: this is not a “rewards” chart!) Have a clear “last step”: It’s really important that kids know where the end of the routine is, and that you’re both clear on the fact that they are awake when you leave the room. If you’re finding it hard to extricate yourself, or your child is popping out of bed repeatedly, you can enroll in the Little Kid Sleep Class to learn our 3 strategies for improving sleep, which are all designed to help your little one feel confident and able to sleep independently. The key is to be warm, responsive, respectful AND also clear and decisive about the bedtime practices. Sample routine. Here’s a routine for a 4 year old that we like. Notice it has all the important elements: • Bath • Pajamas and teeth • Say goodnight to house • Read 3 books • Sing 1 song • Say your highs and lows of the day • Kisses goodnight, see you in the morning! The bedtime routine is so powerful, and when parents call us for sleep help, it’s the place we start in order to uncover what’s getting in the way of a full night’s sleep. Smart pre-bedtime planning will help you ensure you and you little one enjoy the routine and all the sleep that comes after it! HEATHER TURGEON and JULIE WRIGHT, DECEMBER 17, 2021

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