There’s no doubt that parents of children of all ages understand the importance of sleep. Aside from preserving parental sanity, a child’s sleep is critical for their development. According to the CDC and the Sleep Foundation, adequate sleep is crucial for preventing poor mental health, obesity, type 2 diabetes, a weakened immune system, and both attention and behavior problems. Yet somehow, about 30% of children in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep.
A good bedtime routine is one that promotes relaxation and is solidified by consistency. These steps should be executed every night at roughly the same time. Our bodies naturally sleep and awaken at the same time each day when we are consistent with our routine. Furthermore, kids thrive with routines. It allows their still-developing minds to feel secure in knowing what comes next.
- Bathtime - A warm bath is a great way to increase blood circulation, causing the body to expel heat. Doing this before bedtime will lead to a cool-down period, cuing the body to start winding down. Submerging the body in water can also reduce inflammation, stress, and anxiety.
- Clean-Up Time - For older children, this means straightening the room and getting their backpacks ready for school the next day. For smaller children, this could be as simple as getting those few toys back into the bin and crawling under the covers. At the infant stage, this could involve placing your baby in the crib for a moment while mom or dad picks up a few things in the nursery.
- Wind-down Massage - Boy, are these kids lucky that they have science on their side these days. Yes, we all know that massages lead to relaxation. But science also shows that massage helps children’s nervous systems understand that it is time to wind down. Studies have also shown that toddlers who are given a quick massage at night fall asleep faster and engage in less bedtime-stall shenanigans than those who were simply read a story. Skin on skin contact has the added benefit of promoting bonding between parent and child.
- Bedtime Story - There is so much that can be gained from reading a short story right before bed. Reading stories boosts cognitive development in children and ingrains a long-term love of reading. It gives kids something to think about as they drift off to sleep and, maybe even more importantly, allows children and parents some quality time that is void of distractions. As children get older, reading before bed is a great habit to have established as reading actually tires the eyes and readies you for sleep much faster than scrolling through social media or watching T.V. Too tired to read yourself? Cuddle with your child while listening to bedtime audio stories with Storypod’s Sammy Songbird.
- Kiss Good Night and Turn Off the Lights - Now that you’ve executed a perfectly curated bedtime routine in which your child feels secure, relaxed, and loved, it’s time to top it all off with a good-night kiss and a switch off the lights. Everyone sleeps better in the dark, so eliminate as much light as you can with curtains and maybe the softest of night-lights. Tell your babies you love them and begin your well-deserved wind-down routine. Relax in the knowledge that your child is reaping all the health benefits of a proper night’s sleep. And hey, maybe adopt some of these steps for yourself. Parents deserve clean rooms and massages, too!