In a recent review of sleep research, researchers found that having a good bedtime routine "gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy sleep every day."
Additional research links bedtime routines to improved dental health (when oral hygiene behaviors are incorporated into the routine) and higher levels of school readiness (when reading is incorporated).
Activities to Incorporate in Your Child’s Bedtime Routine
According to Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute , children should spend at least 30 minutes preparing for bed, but one hour is optimal . However, there is no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine that’ll work for every night for every family. Instead, parents should tailor their child’s bedtime routine to best fit their family’s particular lifestyle needs. Below are some activities, organized by duration, to help you tailor a bedtime routine that’s best for your child.
• 30+ min activities
• Hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas)
• Preparing for the next day (getting school bags ready, packing lunch, setting out clothes)
• 15+ min activities
• Reading (See The Benefits of Reading to Children: From Prenatal to Adolescence)
• Singing popular nursery rhymes / playtime songs
• Listening to calming music: Research shows calming background music can improve sleep quality in kids.
• Mild exercise, stretching, tai chi, or yoga: (See Physical Activity In Children Improves Their Sleeping Patterns)
• Scalp massage or back rub: Research says massage may help infants sleep more, cry less and be less stressed
• 5+ min activities
• Highs and Lows (i.e. ask, “what were your favorite and least favorite parts of today?”):
• Gratitude Exercises (i.e. ask, “what are 3 things you were grateful for today?”): Research demonstrates the emotional, physical, and mental health benefits of having an "attitude of gratitude".
It’s not always as simple as completing the routine and kissing your child good night before turning out the light and quietly exiting the room. Some nights, you may end up having to say good night to your child, telling him or her to get back into bed numerous times, especially in the beginning stages of getting your child accustomed to the routine.
-from ACPeds Parent Talk