Why You Shouldn’t Just “Wing It” At Bedtime
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is Representative and Director for the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants (IACSC) and serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute. She and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto, Canada with their 3 children (1+twins!) You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Macleans, Prevention Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families (baby to adults) overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram and Facebook.
You probably have a bedtime routine of your own and don’t even realize it. Maybe you wash your face, brush your teeth, and read a book. Or you take a shower and drink tea. I have one friend who loves to wind down by brushing her dog.
It’s the familiarity of that routine, no matter how simple, which can help us to fall asleep more easily.
It works the same for kids, they thrive on routine and having one at bedtime can help them enter dreamland faster.
Which is why you should never just ‘wing it’ at bedtime, doing different things each night.
If you haven’t been using a bedtime routine with your little one, the good news is that it’s never too late to start.
Make sure you give yourself enough time – between 20 and 30 minutes – because rushing through a bedtime routine can make everyone involved feel stressed and nobody wants that. We also don’t want our bedroom lasting too long or else we increase the risk of our little ones entering that dreaded overtired zone.
Give your kid(s) time to get ready for bed without it being a power struggle or a race against the clock. Even on the nights where you’re running late, and are tempted to rush, take a deep breath and remind yourself it will save time in the long run.
Decide what’s right for you. Bedtime routines take many shapes depending on family priorities, but generally follow a similar pattern. For a toddler, a bedtime routine might look like this:
- Bath (You don’t need to bathe your toddler nightly so this step may slide in and out of the routine as needed)
- Potty time / Diaper change
- Brushing teeth
- Choosing a favourite stuffed toy or comfort item to bring to bed
- Story time
- Bedtime song(s)
- Cuddles and quiet time
- Saying good night
Feel free to create your own routine that works for your family. If singing isn’t your thing, maybe use the opportunity to ask your child about their high and low points of the day.
This is the most important step – leave your child’s room before he or she is fully asleep. That way, if your child wakes up in the middle of the night, he or she won’t be wondering where you went will be more likely to fall back asleep independently.
Lastly, bedtime routines allow you to have some one-on-one time with your child so you can both reconnect and unwind at the end of a hectic day. Because not only will a bedtime routine help your child fall asleep more easily, it’s also time to bond. And that’s a win-win!