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5 Bedtime Routine Tips

With a well-designed routine, bedtime can be a calming, relaxing and peaceful time of night for your family. Identifying the right bedtime for your child and establishing a pre-bedtime routine that promotes relaxation are just a couple ways to simplify this nightly ritual. Follow these tips to devise a plan to get your child to sleep peacefully every night.

1. Establish a Bedtime

Routines are good for kids. They tell them what to expect and when so they won't be surprised or frustrated by anything unexpected. Knowing precisely when they will go to bed every night is the first step toward establishing a healthy bedtime routine for your child. Set the right bedtime by considering your child's age, needs and schedule. Preschoolers might need 10 to 13 hours of sleep, while middle school-aged children might require 9 to 11 hours. Use recommended sleep times as a guide, but rely on your judgment as well. You probably have a sense of how many hours of sleep your child needs based on his or her demeanor. Start with your family wakeup time and work backward. If you wake up at 6:30 a.m. and your child needs 10 hours of sleep, an 8:30 p.m. bedtime is just right. Get older children involved in setting their bedtime so that they are making smart decisions and hold them accountable for sticking to their bedtime.

2. Prepare Your Child for Bedtime

Don't surprise your child with bedtime. Instead, give a few warnings leading up to bedtime so that your child knows that it's approaching. If your after-dinner routine includes a walk around the neighborhood, tell your child that it will be time to get ready for bed after your walk. If he or she is busy playing with toys in the playroom after dinner, give warnings 15 and then 5 minutes before bed to prepare your child. This step smooths the transition into bedtime activities for parents and kids alike.

During this pre-bedtime wind-down period, make sure that your child's needs are met. You don't want to put a hungry or thirsty child to bed, as that might result in late-night requests for food or drink. Opt for a nutritious snack that will help your child sleep. Give the snack about 45 minutes before bedtime so that you have plenty of time for bathing and reading. Focus on a snack rich in protein and carbohydrates and stay away from sugar. Some options include cheese and whole wheat crackers, peanut butter toast on whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal and milk.

3. Take a Bath and Put on Pajamas

Your child's belly is full and it's time to begin the bedtime routine. Turn down the lights to create a calming atmosphere for this phase of bedtime. Incorporate a bath into bedtime to calm and soothe your child before bed. A warm bath doesn't just get your child clean; it also gives him or her a chance to unwind. After the bath put on pajamas and brush hair and teeth. Take care of any tasks that might awaken your child later in the night. Make sure he or she goes the bathroom, and ask if your child needs a glass of water beside the bed. These small tasks before bed will minimize sleep disruptions.

4. Enjoy a Soothing Pre-Bedtime Activity

One final transition between bath and lights out can help encourage a good night's sleep. Select a relaxing activity to do with your child before bed. For most parents, reading is an option that everyone enjoys. Young children enjoy snuggling in bed with mom or dad and reading a few short books. Older children might prefer to read a favorite chapter book by themselves. This activity promotes relaxation, encourages sleepiness and helps to ensure your child enjoys a well-earned good night's sleep.

5. Turn Out the Lights

At this point, your energetic child is hopefully ready to doze off after a long and active day. Tuck your child in, give him or her a kiss goodnight and turn out the lights. Make sure that any comfort items your child needs are in place. Perhaps he or she sleeps with a favorite stuffed animal or prefers a special blanket. Turn on any nightlights and white noise or sound machines to ensure your youngster drifts off to sleep peacefully and quickly.

Establishing a set bedtime and a regular routine ensures that your child knows what to expect every night. The comfort of this familiar routine can help you avoid any bedtime pitfalls and ensure that your child gets the right amount of sleep every night. As a result, your child will wake up refreshed and recharged for the day ahead.