Establishing bedtime routines can start at any age. Most parents begin introducing a routine when their child is around 4 months old and then make appropriate changes as the child grows. These tips can help encourage good sleep habits so that you and your children all get the rest you need:
- Stick to a bedtime: Consistency is important, even on the weekends. Nap time can affect bedtime, so schedule naps wisely, according to your child's age. (For tips on naps: click here). As kids get older and start to give up their naps, they may go to bed at night earlier than they did as toddlers. Encourage older kids and teens to set a bedtime that allows them to get the full hours of sleep they need.
- Winding down/relaxation time: Prepare your child to sleep by having a wind-down period 15-30 minutes before the bedtime routine. A reliable set of steps that happen every night cues your child's brain and body that it's time to sleep. Some ways to help children relax include: a warm bath, relaxation stretches or massage, reading a book, or singing a lullaby.
- Bedtime routine: The bedtime routine can include changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, dimming the lights, speaking in soft voices, and a goodnight kiss or cuddle. For infants, help them learn to fall asleep on their own by putting them in their crib when drowsy but still awake, so they don't get used to falling asleep in your arms.
- Avoid screen time: At least an hour before bedtime, electronics should be turned off. Creating an environment that's favorable for sleep means kids' bedrooms should be free of televisions, computers, or mobile devices. (This is good advice for the whole family!) Overusing media devices can decrease the amount of sleep kids get by: delaying children's bedtimes, keeping kids' brains engaged and less able to fall asleep, and disrupting kids' natural sleep rhythms due to light emissions from screens.