A Three-Step Bedtime Routine
July 24, 2014
It has been said before and we will say it again, a bedtime routine is essential. Right... so how do you do that? You probably have a routine already without realizing it. Most of us are creatures of habit.
Decide upon the actions and the order in which you want to carry them out with your child before bed. Around the age of three, you can ask your child what these actions are. This will show whether or not your child has assimilated some of the routine. Nanny Secours invites you to check out their educational tools for more suggestions.
Decide how long it should take to do everything. There is no point in dragging it out, thirty minutes to prepare for bed is more than enough time. The starting time will depend on your child’s bedtime, based how much sleep the child needs for his or her age.
From birth until about 6 years, children need 16-17 hours of sleep per day to 13-14 hours per day. Until the age of 12, children need on average 10-12 hours of sleep per day. Teenagers need the same amount of sleep, but their sleep is lighter.
Always repeat the same actions, evening after evening. Some parents say they dislike routine, but your children NEED it. To help your child sleep better, it is essential that you give enough time and attention to this part of the day. You will come out the winner! A child who has slept well is much more easygoing.
- Choose subdued lighting to allow the production of melatonin, the "sleep hormone," which helps the child feel sleepy by causing signs of fatigue such as itchy eyes, yawning, etc. Bright lights will stop the production of melatonin.
- Provide a calm environment that is conducive to sleep by speaking calmly, softly and slowly, as well as calming activities such as reading or puzzles, and avoid things that are stimulating for your child. If your routine includes television or music, try to keep the volume as low as possible.
- You child should always fall asleep on a positive note. This is not the time to talk about things that did not go well during the day. Choose another moment to do so. If you take the time to talk to you child about something positive that happened during the day, something he or she did that made you proud, your child will fall asleep peacefully and develop self-esteem.
- Have realistic expectations with regard to the time it takes your child to fall asleep. It takes fifteen to twenty minutes for a child to relax his or her body and when the child is calm, it can take between fifteen minutes and one hour to fall asleep.
- Talk about sleep in a positive manner. If you talk about how much you enjoy sleeping, there is a good chance your child will associate sleep with something positive. You can also explain the benefits of sleep: sleeping well is just as important as eating well. Moreover, both of these help you grow!
- Do not ask your daycare centre to prevent your child from having a nap because you think he or she will sleep better at night. Evidence shows that naps do not affect night time sleep in most children. This only teaches the child to fight sleep and can adversely affect the child’s ability fall asleep at bedtime. Even in adults, being overtired is no guarantee of a good night’s sleep.
- Children should fall asleep on their own, in their own bed, ideally before they reach one year of age. First of all, this prevents the child from associating sleep with being in your arms, because babies make this association very quickly. You run the risk of creating a habit that your baby will have to break at some point. Secondly, a child who falls asleep in a certain physical environment (for example: in your arms, in a rocking chair, under your peaceful gaze) will feel unsettled when it wakes up in a bed WITHOUT you! The child will want to return to that initial environment, while crying, its only means of communication. However, it is important to specify that every child is different and there is no miracle formula that works for every family. This method may not work for some families. The most important thing is to be comfortable with the method you choose. Trust your instincts! However, if you are not comfortable with your routine and would like to change it to meet your family’s sleep needs, feel free to consult a family coach in your area.
Hélène Fagnan, Family Coach
Founder of Nanny secours (French only)