My youngest is a night owl. She seems to pick up energy in the evening, right when I’m most tired and most ready for all the kids to be in bed. It’s not all her fault — she’s had a much less consistent evening routine than my older kids had. We’re out several evenings a week for sports and activities and when her older siblings stay up with friends or to study, she naturally wants to stay up as well.
But sleep is so important to our children’s health. If, like me, you want to get back to a good bedtime routine, here are 7 tips for kids’ bedtime.
1. Ensure kids are getting enough sleep.
How much sleep is enough given your child’s age and wake-up time? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9-12 hours of sleep each night for kids between 6 and 12 years and 8-10 hours of sleep each night for kids aged 13- to 18-years-old. With early wake-ups for school, parents need to make sure kids are going to bed early enough to have a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
With early wake-ups for school, parents need to make sure kids are going to bed early enough to have a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
2. Keep a quiet hour before bedtime.
Once children are staying up later, allowing them to go into their rooms to read or do a quiet activity can help their mind and bodies wind down toward bedtime. My mom told us we could either go to bed or stay up an hour later and read. Which do you think we chose? This quiet time also allows parents to have evenings together without kids to reconnect.
3. Limit screens at night.
Computers, phones, gaming and even some television can keep kids wired so that falling asleep is more difficult. Have kids turn their cell phones over to parents and keep computers and gaming devices in family spaces. This cell phone contract can help you manage your child’s cell phone.
4. Choose evening extracurriculars carefully.
Too many evenings out coupled with early wake ups means my kids aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ve learned to choose our extracurricular activities carefully, trying to limit those that keep kids out late on weekday nights.
5. Establish a routine.
A bedtime routine helps prepare kids mentally and physically for sleep. Kids know what to expect so there is less complaining and pushback at bedtime. Our routine starts after dinner with baths, brushing teeth (the kitchen is closed), a prayer and then reading, listening to audio books, or playing quietly until bedtime.
6. Keep the lights out.
This has been a hard one for us because I raised babies on night lights. But research shows darkness is critical to a good night’s sleep. Consider starting bedtime out with a night light and then turning it off before you go to bed or keeping the nightlight in a hallway or bathroom.
7. Watch what they eat.
Make sure kids aren’t getting chocolate or caffeine before bedtime. And apparently your grandmother was right — warm milk can help us get to sleep because it contains tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid.
What is one change you could make to ensure your kids get adequate sleep?