No matter how tired they might be, children seem to never want to go to bed. As parents, we're sure you've heard every possible excuse as to why they should get to stay up just that little bit later, but with an efficient bedtime routine putting your child to bed will no longer feel like a battle every single night.
Keep reading to view the benefits of establishing a bedtime routine and learn how to create one for your child.
Childhood is the most important time in a person's life for mental and physical development, and ensuring your child gets enough rest at night is vital for their health (both short and long term). Children need more sleep than adults, and the younger they are the more they will require.
Introducing a bedtime routine means a sense of structure will be added to your evenings, and parents will find they have much more control over how many hours of sleep their child will receive.
Well-rested children are also known to function much more efficiently, and sleep deprivation can have damaging effects. Just as adults often find it hard to concentrate after a bad night's sleep, children will struggle too. Scientists at UCL have found that sleep deprivation at such an early age can reduce the brain's ability to process and retain information
, while another study linked lack of sleep to even wider health issues such as obesity
Instilling good behaviour
Bedtime routines are a great way to improve your bond with your child, teaching respect and trust at an early age. This basic form of self-discipline can do wonders in later life, and it's a ritual that can continue long into their teens.
If your children are irritable or hyperactive, they may be showing signs of sleep deprivation. A strict bedtime routine may be the key to preventing this bad behaviour.
With enough rest, it's more likely that your child will wake up happy and refreshed. This means you'll be left facing an alert and (hopefully) cheery child in the morning, rather than a grumpy kid who probably wishes they'd gone to bed a lot earlier (even though they'll never admit it!)
Creating a bedtime ritual
How exactly do you develop a bedtime routine, we hear you ask? Every child is unique, so you'll need to create a ritual that works well for them, but here are a few tips to help you get started.
Set a time, and stick to it
Choose an appropriate bedtime for your child, and don't stray from it. This creates a solid foundation for the rest of the routine, and once your child learns that you're unlikely to budge on their bedtime, their pleas for 'five more minutes' will begin to decrease.
As we've mentioned, a bedtime routine ensures your child gets enough sleep every night. Make sure you send them to bed early enough - once children become overtired the stress hormone (cortisol) is released into the body, causing restlessness and making it difficult for them to sleep.
After dinner, begin settling your child down for the night. While bath time can be great fun, try to keep the splashing and squealing to a minimum. Keep the water warm, try adding a soothing, child-friendly bubble bath and make sure their towel and pyjamas are nice and toasty.
Follow up by asking your child to take two more steps: wash their face and brush their teeth. Each step will quickly become a signal that will subconsciously remind your child that it's almost time for sleep.
Provide a warning
If you choose not to send your child straight to bed after their bath, don't forget to give them a bedtime warning. This can be 30, 20 or even 10 minutes before it's time for your child to go to sleep - whatever you think works best.
Giving them notice helps to instil the routine and lets your child know you haven't forgotten that bedtime is looming!
Time to wind down
Whether you're in the lounge or the bedroom, dim the lights and silence any loud noises - replace the TV with relaxing music and speak quietly. Overstimulation can prevent children from feeling tired and make sleeping difficult.
Say no to technology
Depending on their age, you might be finding it difficult to tear your kids away from their tech too. Put boundaries into place, and make sure your children know when it's time to put their tablet or phone away. Give them a separate warning for this, and repeat every night.
We suggest removing tech from their room too, as distractions like this can prevent children (and adults!) from falling asleep and upset the bedtime routine. In fact, our guide on creating a space for sleep
goes into detail about the detrimental effects of screen time at night, and there are many more tips on how to create the ideal sleeping environment for your child included too.
Make things comfortable
Help your child feel at ease, and comfort them with a bedtime story or a lullaby. If they have a favourite toy, or some other kind of security blanket, keep this on hand too.
Most importantly, never forget that repetition is key. Carry out your bedtime routine in the same order, at the same time, every evening.
Don't forget to browse our other guides to help your child sleep even more soundly at night. From creating an ideal sleeping space to tips on how to get your child to make their own bed
, you'll find everything you could ever need over on our blog
Images: ©iStock.com/PeopleImages; ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages.