In theory, bedtime should be the most relaxing part of the day. The whole family can wind down, reflect and turn in for peaceful sleep. If only that were the reality! For many families, bedtime is a delicate dance that can take hours of negotiating, storytelling and begging for “one more hug." We’ve collected some of the best nuggets of wisdom for turning bedtime into a go-to routine that leads to the best sleep possible. Read up, try it out and sleep tight, Lully community!
1. Make Your Child’s Bedroom the Ultimate Relaxation Environment
We take so many subtle cues from our environment. For example, how much better is your work when your desk is clean? For kids, the right room setup can dramatically change their ability to sleep. Our biggest pointer? Keep the room cool. A child’s bedroom should be between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. You may also want to untuck your child’s sheets a little so they can pop a foot out of the covers. Sounds strange, but it makes a big difference in regulating body temperature.
Other ways to make your child’s bedroom cozier:
-Consider a fun lamp to use just for bedtime. (Rainbow lamps are always a hit.) This will allow you turn off the bright, overhead light while reading stories.
-Try blackout curtains to curtail their instinct to wake up with the roosters.
-Add lavender oil on their pillow to provide a soothing scent.
-Try a fan to create white noise for kids who hear too many bumps in the night.
-If your child has anxiety related to autism or needs extra comfort at night, consider a weighted blanket.
2. Make Bedtime the Same Time Every Night
Life is busy, and it can be especially tricky to get your kid to sleep at the same time every night. But planning for the same bedtime night after night can help regulate your child’s circadian rhythm, which dictates when they feel tired and when they feel alert. As you plan sleep and wakeup times, remember that the ideal sleep duration for a child is 9-12 hours each night. (This chart has more detailed info on that.) Aim for a 30-minute window rather than an exact time so that your routine won’t be too hard to follow.
To find the perfect bedtime, analyze how your family tends to operate. Some families are “morning people,” who get a lot done before school or work, and others are “night people” who prefer using evenings to have fun and be productive. If your child likes to stay up a little later, don’t worry—that might just be their nature. If you can design a routine that fits rather than fights their nature, you may be facing less of an uphill battle.
3. Rethink Naptime
Many parents plan their whole days around their child’s naptime. After all, if you miss one while out and about you may face a cranky kid throwing a tantrum at the grocery store. If your child is having trouble sleeping at night, you may want to consider moving their nap up to an earlier time in the day. Some parents might want to cut out naps altogether. Lots of kids naturally lose the instinct to nap between ages 3 and 6, and that’s ok! Just think how well they’ll sleep at night once the day is done.
4. Eat and Drink with Peaceful Sleep in Mind
If only life allowed for sugary treats right before bed (or all the time, really). Unfortunately, sugary and high-fat foods can mess with our sleep cycles. If your kid gets hungry at night, try foods that contain tryptophan (like turkey) and starchy foods (like crackers or bread). Avoid too many liquids, which may cause your child to need a midnight bathroom break, or even trigger a night terror. Caffeine, this goes without saying, is a major nighttime no-no. Sorry soda!
5. Get Bodies Tired First, and Minds Will Follow
When you watch a kid run around all day, you probably think, “They’ll sleep well tonight!” Why do we never think this about ourselves after a hard workout? This connection between exercise and sleep applies to kids and parents alike, so make sure you’re keeping your whole family active. The CDC backs this up too, recommending kids ages 6-18 get an hour of exercise a day. Get out the trampoline, the basketball hoop, the soccer net, whatever. Just get the whole family moving! Bonus: You’ll all enjoy a stress-busting endorphin boost to boot.
For a peaceful bedtime bonus, segue evening activities into relaxing baths.
6. Shut Down Screens Two Hours Before Bed
This sleep hack can seem like a bummer in modern life, where the after work/school instinct is to hit the couch and binge-watch shows while looking at your tablet or phone. As relaxing as it can feel to wind down this way, it may not be leading to the best sleep habits. The light from these devices may be messing with our ability to create sleep-inducing melatonin. But what to do if not play video games and watch Netflix all night? Try these soothing activities instead: reading books, cuddling (pets count too!), soaking in the tub, listening to mellow music, plain-old talking, or even kid-friendly meditation exercises.
7. Choose a Bedtime Security Object
Remember being a kid and being unable to sleep without your favorite teddy bear or “bankie?” There’s nothing like a beloved object to hold at night to soothe you to sleep, especially for kids. Work with your child to identify the perfect teddy or stuffed animal to be their bedtime best friend. One that fits well under the crook of their arm might be especially comfortable for kids who sleep on their sides. Together, make up stories about their bedtime object and its magical powers to fight monsters or whatever makes your child afraid of the dark.
8. Focus on Mindfulness
Mindfulness may sound like a high-minded concept that involves meditating in a candlelit corner. The truth is, mindfulness is a simple, sensible approach to everyday life. Some basic tenets of mindfulness include being present in the moment and treating yourself with compassion. At bedtime, teach your child to observe their thoughts without judgment, picturing them floating by like clouds. This is a great chance to hear what’s on their mind and how they feel about it. Then teach them to appreciate the physical comfort of being in their bed in the dark. Meditate on the soft feel of their covers or the calming light in the room. This mindfulness exercise will help calm them down and fight any anxiety or pressure surrounding sleep. Remind them that there is no "right way” to fall asleep, just their way.
9. Pick a “Goodnight” Song
Work with your child to pick a calming song to listen to together at night. You can sing it to them or play it on your phone, whatever you prefer. This will create an association between a favorite song and a feeling of sleepiness that will speed up bedtime in the future.
10. Empathize with Your Child
When your kid just won’t go to bed no matter what, resist the urge to get frustrated or mad at them. Instead, try a thought exercise. Think back to a night when you had trouble sleeping or were afraid of the dark as a kid. Remembering what it feels like to be a small kid who is still unsure of their place in the world will help you approach them with compassion. Once you’re in that kid mindset, think of what would have comforted you.
We hope these tips help make bedtime easier for you and your family. Please share your bedtime hacks with us, too!