Bedtime Routines for Kids
Who Love to Stay Up
If you have a child who loves to stay up, odds are great that the bedtime routine can present some interesting challenges, especially if you crave some adult time to wind down. More importantly, sleep plays such a critical role in your child’s healthy development that most pediatricians and parents agree that earlier bedtimes are generally helpful. Establishing a bedtime routine makes it easier for you to ensure your child gets enough rest while providing the subtle cues that tell her body to start winding down and readying for a night of sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
Skipping a bedtime routine and letting your child stay up late might not seem like a big deal, especially if you’re a night owl who treasures those quiet nighttime hours snuggling or hanging out on the sofa. Before your child starts day care, school and early morning activities, her sleep schedule can be as flexible as you need it to be, but once you have to start setting an alarm, night owl kids often suffer the effects of insufficient sleep.
Much like adults, tired kids often experience grumpiness and difficulty concentrating. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- Nine to 13 hours of sleep for children between the ages of two and three
- Ten to 12 hours of sleep for kids between the ages of three and five
- Eight hours or more for kids between the ages of five and 12
This rest is crucial for promoting energy and overall wellness in addition to supporting a positive mood and efficient learning. Getting plenty of sleep helps promote growth, heart health, healthy weight, a stronger immune system and a longer attention span. In fact, kids who don’t get enough sleep before the age of three are 300 percent more likely to display hyperactivity by the age of six.
The Gradual Approach
Pottery Barn Kids knows that for every kid who naturally heads to bed when the sun sets, you’ll find another kid who loves staying up late. If your child is part of the latter group, it takes work to establish a good bedtime routine that gradually backs up her bedtime. If she’s starting school or daycare or a summer activity, you don’t want to wait until the night before to begin working on a new routine. Make sure your child gets enough sleep for early mornings by gradually shifting her schedule. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Many experts suggest that your child’s exposure to light directly affects the hormones that control her internal clock. Give her lots of bright, natural light and activity in the morning and dim the lamps to create a darker atmosphere as bedtime approaches.
- Start the ritual 15 minutes earlier every three days or so to begin putting your child to sleep earlier until you reach the desired bedtime.
- Create a soothing nightly ritual for your kid’s bedtime routine: a warm bath and a quiet bedtime story or two can help set the stage for a sleepy child.
Employ a Different Strategy
Not all kids respond to a gradual approach. Maybe you’re fielding repeated requests for water and stories or nightly tantrums that leave you both feeling worn out. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and even a little guilty over your child’s bedtime routine, it might be time to try a different approach.
For example, try letting your child decide when to go to sleep. While this might sound like a little too much responsibility for a kid, some parents find that it’s an effective method. In this new routine, introduce the idea of bedroom time as a wind-down time to let your child slow her pace. Turn off stimulating activities and give your child some choices, such as:
- Whether he wants a drink in the kitchen or bedroom
- Whether he needs an extra pillow or blanket
- Whether he wants to enjoy a bath first or a story first
- Whether he likes the light to be on or off