Ease Into Sleep With Bedtime Routines

Bedtime Routines

Any parent knows that getting their kids to sleep can be a nightly struggle. In fact, a 2023 Penn State College of Medicine study found that “25% of children, 35% of adolescents and 45% of young adults suffer from insomnia symptoms.”

In children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, hearing impairment or deafness and visual impairment or blindness, the incidence of sleep disorders is even higher, with some studies finding that as many as 86% experience them.

Now that school is back in session, it’s more important than ever that children get a full night of good quality sleep. Here are some of the best ways to approach bedtime battles.

Establish a routine
Create a visual schedule for your nightly bedtime routine and share it with your child. A typical routine might be bath-time at 7 p.m. followed by pajamas, book, tuck-in and good night at 8 p.m. Stick to the schedule – even on weekends.

End electronics use early
Stop screen-time well before starting the bedtime routine. “Smartphones, tablets, computers, television screens, and some e-readers give off short-wavelength blue light that is very similar to sunlight,” according to sleepfoundation.com. “Not only does this light make people more alert, it also deceives the body into thinking it is still daytime.” It goes without saying—that’s the last thing we want at bedtime!

Make the bedroom conducive for sleep
Your child’s bedroom should be cool and dark with comfortable, soft bedding that doesn’t irritate sensitive children’s skin. Put toys away so they don’t present distractions. If your child needs some light to feel comfortable, use a nightlight. Tools such as white noise machines and weighted blankets may also encourage relaxation and sleep.

Choose bedtime snacks carefully
If your child wants a snack before bed, stick to foods and beverages without sugar or caffeine. Good bedtime snack choices include nut butter on whole wheat bread, banana, plain yogurt, apple slices and cheese.

Ask your pediatrician about melatonin
Only with your doctor’s approval, consider giving your child melatonin about 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime. According to healthychildren.com, “melatonin is a natural, hormone-like substance produced by an area in the brain called the pineal gland. It is released naturally at night and tells the body it’s time to sleep.” Discuss dosage amounts with your pediatrician before starting any supplement use.

Teach relaxation techniques
Some children respond positively to massage or relaxation exercises such as these from the Sleep Foundation. Relaxation exercises help children to calm their bodies and minds so they can drift off to sleep more easily.

Have a busy day
Encourage your child to spend as much time engaged in active, outdoor activities as possible during the day. That way, they’ll be more likely to fall asleep at night.