Tips for a healthy bedtime routine

By: Mollie Shauger | Wednesday, August 28, 2019 | Child Care and Family

A dad reads to his daughter. Credit: iStock

If you’ve ever had a poor night of sleep, you know how difficult it can be to get through your daily routine. Sleep is essential for our health and well-being, and it’s especially important that kids are rested and recharged for school each day. Establishing a bedtime routine can help ensure they are getting the sleep they need.

“It’s hard, but even on the weekend going to bed and waking up at the same time has been found over and over again to be incredibly helpful for memory and cognition,” says Stephanie Anderson, director of the West Essex YMCA’s Peanut Shell Early Childhood Learning Center in Livingston. 

Sleep can play an important role in memory, both before and after learning a new task, according to research. Inadequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgement and our perception of events. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these tips to help your child develop good sleep habits early on:

  • Make sufficient sleep a family priority. Set a good example by having a regular bedtime for everyone in the family.
  • Keep to a regular daily routine. A consistent schedule for other activities, meals and naps can support a smooth transition to bedtime.
  • Be active during the day. Routine exercise can help kids get to sleep and stay asleep longer. It can also reduce the chance of developing sleep disorders.
  • Monitor screen time. The AAP recommends keeping all screens - TVs, computers, laptops, tablets, and phones - out of children's bedrooms, especially at night. Also, don’t let kids fall asleep in front of the TV, Anderson notes.
  • Create a sleep-supportive and safe bedroom and home environment. Anderson suggests using blackout curtains, sound machines or weighted blankets. For older children and adults, listening to books on tape or reading a book, writing in a journal, using a mediation CD meditation and/or doing yoga poses known for relaxation can also be helpful.

Instead of ‘no’

“If you have a young child who keeps getting up, or has a lot to say, make sure that you have your responses locked and loaded,” Anderson says. Instead of saying “no,” she suggests responses such as: “You can have water in the morning, not now.” “Two books, two songs, lights out.” “Tell me the end of the story in the morning over pancakes!”

The food effect

Also, be mindful of certain foods that can be harmful for sleep, such as caffeine and sugar. Higher-fat foods like cheese pizza, and even some citrus fruits like grapefruit can prevent children from getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep problems 

According to the AAP, the most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnea, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. Consult a pediatrician or specialist if you suspect your child has a sleep problem.


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