The Ultimate Guide to a Better Bedtime Routine for Kids

Little girl laying in bed sleeping after her parents read this guide to a better bedtime routine for kids.

Back to school means back to a bedtime routine for kids. But that is easier said than done…

“Come on, Bobby. It’s time for bed.” I said in a tired voice. 

“I don’t want to go!” He replied with the most adorable pout ever. 

I rolled my eyes and tried again, “You need your rest, little man!”

“But mommy! Can’t I stay up just a little later?” he pleaded with me.

Growing more irritated, I said, “It’s late. You need to sleep. You have school tomorrow.” He has been resisting all night long, and now it’s 11:30 pm. 

The light from our TV illuminates his pouty face as he refuses me again with a big fat, “No!”

He has already…

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  • Gotten another glass of water (because his throat is “too dry to go to sleep”).
  • Went to pee for the third time
  • Been tucked in twice

How many times has this scenario happened at your house? Getting your children to go to sleep can be a challenge for most parents.

If you are like me, it has happened too many times to count. What it took was creating a good bedtime routine for my kids. 

 
 
 

Better Bedtime Routine for Kids

How many times has this scenario happened at your house? Getting your children to go to sleep can be a challenge for most parents.

If you are like me, it has happened too many times to count. What it took was creating a good bedtime routine for my kids. 

 

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential for all living beings. Even a small disruption in your sleep can cause serious issues. 

Studies have shown that countries that practice daylight savings time have more accidents when the clocks change, especially when an hour of sleep is lost. 

Poor sleep can cause:

  • Accidents and injuries
  • Behavioral problems
  • Changes in mood, such as stress, irritability, depression, and anxiety
  • Memory, concentration, and learning problems
  • Having a slower reaction time, such as when playing sports or when driving
  • Overeating and binge eating
  • Gaining weight, mainly due to poor sleep affecting the hormones that impact metabolism and weight loss

If your child has any of these symptoms, it might be time to crack down on a bedtime routine. 

 

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

A common question parents have is when their child should go to bed. Of course, the answer will depend on the age of the child. In general, school-aged children typically need nine to eleven hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, other activities can have an impact on their bedtime. 

Evening Activities that Impact a Child’s Bedtime Routine

  • Homework
  • TV
  • Gaming
  • Texting
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Work (for teens)
  • Dinner
  • Socializing with friends

Even young children want to stay up late and watch TV. They are afraid that they might be missing out on lots of fun. Even when they are obviously tired or over-tired, it can be tough to get them to fall asleep.

 

Do Kids Really Need a Bedtime Routine?

With kids, it is all about routines. A good bedtime routine for kids is going to train your child’s body and mind to promote sleep. If every night is different, it is going to be hard for them to fall asleep.  

A daily bedtime routine you stick to every day, even on the weekends, can go a long way towards helping your child fall and stay asleep.

You should set up evenings in such a way that they signal the lead-up to sleep. A good bedtime routine will let them know the end of the day is near.

Practical Steps for a Bedtime Routine for Kids

#1 Start Early

The earlier you create a bedtime routine, the better. A toddler’s bedtime routine will look different than one for older kids. As most children grow older, you will need to adjust bedtime routines because of the additional activities they may have in the evening.

 

#2 Regular Bedtimes

Establish a regular sleep schedule, seven nights a week. When a child doesn’t go to bed at the same time over the weekend, it can cause more bedtime battles on the weekdays. 

It may be challenging, but carrying out bedtime routines on vacation can help, especially during the long summer holidays. It is best just to keep the same sleep time year-round.

 

#3 Set Wake Time

Just like having a set bedtime, your child should also have a regular wake-up time seven days a week. Having an irregular wake time can disrupt bedtime routines because children are not used to it.

If your child wakes earlier one morning, you will have trouble settling them back to sleep for their regular bedtime. Consistent wake-up times seven days a week can help promote healthy sleep habits.

 

#4 Exercise During the Day to Fall Asleep Faster

 It helps to move your body during the day to fall asleep easier. But, you don’t want to exercise too close to bedtime, or it can have the opposite effect. 

Instead, try to schedule physical activity at least a few hours before your child’s bedtime routine. For example, you can try a family after-dinner walk if you can’t fit in exercise earlier in the day.

 

#5 Is Your Child’s Room Setup as a Sleep Environment?

Create a sleep environment in your child’s room. With the décor, try to eliminate all the bright and bold colors, which can keep a young child energized and alert during their nightly bedtime routine.  

It is best for your child to sleep in the dark, without a night light or very dim night light. Light from computer screens can affect a child’s sleep too.

Balance the temperature in their room with a fan or de-humidifier. Remove access to electronics, so they are not tempted to use them after bedtime. 

Allow young children to sleep with a teddy bear or other security object if it helps them fall asleep.

 

#6 Before Bed Meals and Drinks

As you may have already noticed, kids have small bladders. Therefore, too much liquid before bedtime will lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom in younger kids.

High water content foods may do the same thing, such as: 

  • Watermelon
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers

Some foods are natural stimulants or have added caffeine. Try to avoid giving your child these foods and drinks too close to bedtime. 

 

Avoid Foods With Natural Stimulants or Caffeine 

  • Soda
  • Chocolate
  • Refined sugar
  • Foods rich in Tyramine such as cheese and cured meats

Too much food or hard-to-digest foods can cause your digestive system to have to work overtime. That can cause the quality of your child’s sleep to suffer. So try to have dinner at least a few hours before the regular bedtime routine.  

 

Avoid Hard to Digest Foods

  • Deep-fried foods
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Large steaks
  • High fiber fruits and vegetables
  • Pizza

A light snack before bed is fine and can help prevent them from waking up hungry. Let your child try one of these bedtime snacks to sleep longer. 

Try These Bedtime Snacks

  • Oatmeal
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Bananas with peanut butter

#7 Relaxing Activities to Add to Kids Bedtime Routines

An excellent adult bedtime routine typically involves activities that help you to wind down before bed. The same concept will work for your child.

Activities to Include Before Bed

  • Coloring
  • Reading a bedtime story
  • Bath time
  • Puzzles
  • Playing with playdough, putty, or slime
  • Writing in a journal
  • Telling stories
  • Setting out clothes for the next day
  • Meditation or stretching
  • Building with legos
  • Quiet play with a stuffed animal

Taking time to relax as a family well before bedtime will help your child be ready for sleep by the time their head hits the pillow.

Do You Still Read a Bedtime Story to Your School-Aged Kids?

 

The biggest lure of getting a child to sleep earlier might be the bedtime story. But many parents stop reading bedtime stories when their child reaches age 7. As long as they still enjoy it, why stop? 

If you want to make a significant impact on your child’s educational achievement, you should read to your children regularly. 

Books help improve your child’s reading skills, vocabulary and allow them to explore their imagination. Through books, children can learn about history, art, nature, science, and even math. 

Bedtime stories are also a great way to help relax your child into falling asleep. Children love one on one time they get to spend with you. Your child may not remember the toy he got on their birthday, but he will the time you spent reading bedtime stories every night.

Even ten minutes of reading six nights a week can add up to an extra hour of teaching and learning. Read The Surprising Benefits of Reading 20 Minutes a Day.

Common Sleep Problems in Young Children

But what if your child truly has trouble sleeping. There are a number of possible causes. For example, it could be an activity during the day, a lack of good sleep habits, or even a health issue you are not aware of yet. 

If you have noticed these sleep problems in your child, it might be time to follow up with a pediatrician for advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

  • Does your child snore? 
  • Do you hear your child’s breathing pause when asleep or gasping or wheezing sounds? 
  • Does your child have problems with sleep duration, like not sleeping through the night?
  • Are there unusual events during sleep, such as sleepwalking, nightmares that occur over and over, or night terrors?
  • Does he have trouble falling asleep even though you know he is trying? 
  • Is there a huge fear or reluctance to go to bed?
  • Does your child have trouble staying awake during the day or nods off at home or in the car? 
  • Is your child bedwetting?
  • Does your child get up multiple times a night, such as to go to the toilet?

Nightmares, Sleep Walking, and Night Terrors

Sleepwalking

My oldest daughter used to sleepwalk. There was one time after my husband’s mother died that we spent the night at their house. The room was in the attic and had those narrow stairs that dropped down. 

She walked down those stairs and tried to go out the front door. Luckily we were all still awake to guide her back to bed. 

You have to take extra precautions when you have a child that is a sleepwalker. 

Night Terrors

My youngest son had night terrors for ten years. He would have episodes that were so scary. He would appear to be fighting off attackers in his sleep. And he wouldn’t remember any of it.  

We took him to the doctor, but she said there wasn’t really anything we could do other than keep him safe. He did finally outgrow it shortly after becoming a teenager. 

The important thing with night terrors is not to try to wake the child up. They are not awake and can harm you or themselves if they see you as a threat. Just keep them safe. 

 

Nightmares

Children will have the occasional nightmare. Sometimes avoiding scary books and movies can help. Also, you should limit the amount of news they see on TV. The news can be just as scary! 

Think about the topics you discuss at the dinner table. Watch out for family conflicts that will cause your child to feel anxious. 

Some children have nightmares that are based on reality. For example, when a big dog chased them. When this happens, it can be hard to get back to sleep. To deal with this at the time of the event, try to soothe them but not make a big deal about it. It is also helpful to distract them like with a story. 

Similarly, if they have a nightmare, don’t make them relive it by telling them about it. This might cause them to dwell on the dream and make it a recurring one.

Reassure them that it was only a dream that came from their imagination, and then distract them with talk of more interesting topics.

Do not engage with the dream’s content by hunting for “monsters” under the bed or in the closet. This might make them even more scared.

Have them picture a safe, happy place, which should counteract their fear and help them understand that their minds can create monsters and paradises alike.

 

What is Your Child’s Bedtime Routine?

I hope these practical steps help your child to have a good sleep and a fantastic bedtime experience as they grow up! What are some tips or tricks you’ve found success with your kids? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Little girl laying in bed sleeping after her parents read this guide to a better bedtime routine for kids.
Do you have trouble getting your kids to go to sleep? Then, you need to read our ultimate guide to a better bedtime routine for kids now!

Shannah Holt

Shannah Holt

Shannah Holt

Shannah Holt

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