Creating the Perfect Bedtime Routine
No matter the age of your little one, a simple and positive bedtime pre-sleep is one of the easiest ways to make bedtime a breeze rather than a battleground. As well as being a valuable tool day-to-day, a familiar routine can make all the difference when there is a bedtime change for your little one to contend with, such as sleeping away from home or being settled by someone else.
The time is right
It is never too early to start a bedtime routine, so, if you can, commence one within your baby’s first few months. For very young babies, stick to just a couple of short, consistent steps.
It is also never too late to begin reaping the benefits of this trusty sleep-hack! So, if you don’t already have a routine in place, now is a great time to introduce one.
All light on the night
For sleep to come easily, we want a high level of sleep-inducing melatonin to be present at bedtime. This super sleep hormone begins to course through the body when the light level drops so drawing the curtains or dimming the lights in the run up to bedtime can help those little ones who find it particularly hard to wind down ahead of turning in for the night.
All children will benefit from not being exposed to screens, whether on TV, tablets, smartphones or laptops, in the last hour, ideally two, of their day.
Go with the flow
To keep things predictable and calming, flow from the living area to the bathroom to the room where your child sleeps, with no detours in between. In particular, avoid any return to the living area, which a little one will associate with wakefulness and playtime rather than sleep. If getting dressed for bed is sometimes tricky, try doing this in the bathroom so that once in the bedroom, things can be calm and stress-free.
Around 30-40 minutes from heading upstairs to beginning the process of falling asleep tends to be optimal for most children.
A space for sleep
Babies and younger children typically sleep best in a room that is as dark as possible. A fear of the dark can creep in during toddlerhood, and is most likely around the age of two as a child’s imagination develops a little more. If you choose to use a nightlight, stick to a red bulb, which is the colour least likely to inhibit restful sleep.
Some little ones find the constant low-level hum of white noise comforting as they settle to sleep. Keep the volume low to protect delicate ears and always check whether the device needs to be placed a certain distance away from your baby.
A baby-friendly pillow spray, made from high-quality essential oils, can help to provide another multisensory cue for sleep. Older children often love to take charge of the spritzing which can be a great way of making bedtime fun and inviting.
Keep it consistent
The more consistent a child’s pre-sleep routine, the more secure it makes them feel about bedtime. The same steps, in the same order at roughly the same time, each night, creates a predictability and flow that young children find comforting. Bear in mind that routines are dose-dependent – the more you do them, the better they work!
Lauren Peacock is a sleep consultant, and founder of Little Sleep Stars. She is also a member of the Association of Birth & Baby professionals.