Establish a Good Bedtime Routine in 5 Easy Steps

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Child sleeping with a teddy bear at bedtimeAhhhh. The toddler bedtime struggle.

It is no joke.

If your family is anything like mine, schedules went out the window with the holiday festivities, family get-togethers, and traveling. And likely, a lot of screen time for parental survival, if nothing else (I feel this deeply).

So how do we get back on track and get the entire family more restorative sleep?

All kids, especially toddlers, in particular, seem to know how to push our buttons. They pull out all the stops when it comes to stalling tactics. They will drive us to the brink of insanity, and when we are about to lose our minds, they say something sweet and loving. Seriously, how can you be mad?

Let’s discuss some tips to help make the bedtime routine more peaceful and less of a battle.

Consistency

Consistency is the #1 most important advice for seeing changes in your children’s sleep.
Kids crave and thrive on consistency and routine. It helps them feel safe to know what is coming next (even if they don’t realize it).

It is incredibly important to say what you mean and mean what you say. Empty threats will only show our children there is wiggle room,; if they keep pushing, we will eventually cave and give in.

Limit Screen Time

No screen time after dinner will help with the bedtime battle.

This means no tv, tablets, computers, or phones. The blue light emitted from these electronics can interfere with natural melatonin production and interfere with our children’s ability to fall asleep.

Instead of relying on the television, try to set aside 30 minutes after dinner to connect with our kids after a long day. Get on the floor with your child and do a puzzle or color, read some books, and talk about the highs and lows of their day.

This is especially important for families where parents work and children are at daycare or school. “Filling their cup” before bedtime can help cut down on the bedtime battle because our children’s need for our attention has already been met.

Incorporate Stall Tactics Into the Schedule

Our kids always have a million excuses for last-minute needs or wants. We know they’re fine, but the lights are out, and now they want a bedtime snack, one last book, or one last hug or song.

  • If your child plays the hungry card, plan for a bedtime snack right before starting the routine. Let your child know that this is the last opportunity for a snack. Think low sugar, high protein, and carb. This will also help ease your mind about sending your child to bed hungry.
  • If your child needs water, give them a leakproof water bottle and allow them to drink when needed.
  • If your child plays the “I have to potty card”, ensure that you make a potty visit right before lights out. Set an alarm for lights out so if your child asks for one more book or song, you can say, “it is 7:00, and we have to go to sleep.” The good news is we can always read and sing more songs tomorrow!

Early Bedtime

When our children are overtired or wake too early, an early bedtime is your best friend.

Do not panic! Trust me.

An early bedtime is never meant to be a permanent solution and does not mean our children will wake up even earlier. An early bedtime should be temporary and it will help your overtired child catch up on that important Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep.

If bedtime is too late, we run the risk of our children getting that rush of cortisol or “second wind,” which results in the bedtime battle and earlier morning wake-ups.

Give Yourself Grace

Lastly, remember to give yourself grace and understand that no one is perfect. We all have those days when we are just trying to survive, and the tv is on all day.

I get it. I’ve been there (I AM there more than I care to admit!).

Forgive yourself, remind yourself you are doing the best you can, and tomorrow is another day for us to try again!

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Sarah is a Coastguard wife and moved to Pensacola from Charleston, SC in the summer of 2022. She's a mother to 4 little ones - 5 year old twin boys, 3 year old daughter, and their new Frenchie puppy, Lucy. She is a certified child sleep consultant with Bella Luna Family and is currently in school to become a certified child behavior consultant. Sarah's sleep journey began 5 years ago, when her boys were 5 months old and only sleeping one hour at a time. She reached out to a twin mom sleep consultant and it changed her life, setting her on the path to help others in the same way. She works with families all over world to help them to be happy, healthy and well-rested. When she is not working with families to be well rested, she enjoys quality time at home with her family, losing herself in a good book, baking, Peloton and trying to keep her plants alive.

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