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Limiting and managing bedtime stress

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This blog will talk you through the elements involved in creating a stress-free bedtime. This is a goal many parents aim to achieve as part of their sleep plan when working with me, and it’s surprisingly simple to implement. Children of all ages thrive on routine and predictability, which helps them feel safe and secure. When I work one-on-one with families, I recommend establishing a consistent bedtime routine from the start, which is entirely achievable, and I fit this around your family. To help you build a bedtime routine and avoid bedtime battles, I’ve outlined some healthy sleep habits for children of all ages and how to establish a good bedtime routine based on your child’s age.

Why Have a Bedtime Routine?

When your child’s body and brain start associating activities like baths, stories, brushing teeth, and putting on pajamas, done in the same order at the same time every night, it becomes much easier for them to fall to sleep. There are also scientific benefits, such as the effects of body temperature regulation from having a bath.

A good bedtime routine sets the tone for the entire night and you can be on your way to that stress-free bedtime.

In 2017, Dr. Guy Meadows conducted a study on school-aged children for a Panorama program. During the study, children slept an additional hour per night for a week, resulting in:

  • 66% increase in problem-solving ability
  • 57% improvement in memory test results
  • 44% increase in attention and focus

Without a consistent routine, children may feel anxious because they don’t know what to expect or where the boundaries lie, which can prevent them from sleeping well.

An effective bedtime routine should be consistent and not too lengthy; otherwise, a sleepy child might catch a second wind, making bedtime even more challenging.

Healthy Sleep Tips

  • Turn off screens: Blue light from screens inhibits melatonin production, so avoid screen time for at least one hour, ideally two, before bedtime.
  • Regular exercise and outdoor time: Daily physical activity and exposure to sunlight help regulate the body’s internal clock and improve sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugary foods before bed: These stimulants should be avoided close to bedtime.
  • Ensure darkness: Darkness promotes melatonin production, so consider blackout blinds or non-adhesive window film for the bedroom.
  • Create a calming bedroom environment: The bedroom should be free of distractions and maintained at a comfortable temperature.
  • Offer a ‘sleepy snack’ and quiet playtime: Provide a low-sugar, easy-to-digest snack and some quiet activities before starting the bedtime routine.

Toddlers

  • Sleep needs: Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, while preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours.
  • Routine duration: The bedtime routine should last 20-30 minutes to avoid catching a second wind.
  • Suitable bedtime: Ensure bedtime isn’t too late, as overtired children take longer to settle.
  • Nap importance: Toddlers typically drop naps between 2.5-3 years old, but until then, they need 4.5-5.5 hours of awake time.
  • Consistent bedtime routine: Include activities like a bath, putting on pajamas, and reading stories. Put your child to bed awake to promote self-soothing.

School-Age Children

  • Sleep needs: Children aged 6-13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Determine bedtime based on their wake-up time.
  • Digital-free time: Avoid screens at least one hour before bed, substituting quiet games or hand-eye coordination activities instead.
  • Bedtime routine: Include a bath or shower, followed by reading or relaxation exercises. Keep bedrooms screen-free at night.
  • Routine duration: The entire bedtime process should last no more than one hour, with no more than 30 minutes from bath to bed.

The key to a successful bedtime routine is consistency, providing structure when your child needs to feel safe and secure. This doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

If you have a good bedtime routine but your child still struggles with sleep, please reach out! My sleep plans include a bedtime routine, but a good routine alone may not resolve sleep issues. Book a free, no-obligation chat to discuss working together and answer any of your questions.

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