Establishing A Bedtime Routine

To get children back to school means shifting them from your summer schedule to the school schedule. During the summer, your children may have stayed up late at night, slept late in the morning and been able to relax or play during the day. But to prepare for school, they’ll need to get to bed earlier at night, wake up early and be ready to concentrate during the long school days.

Here’s a summary of a few ways that may help your child ease into a good night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening. For dinner, give your children milk, which has natural chemicals that cause sleepiness. Avoid sodas that have caffeine, which causes wakefulness.
  • Choose calm activities between dinner and bedtime. Activities that are too stimulating—such as wrestling and playing video games—are better to do during the daytime and on the weekends. On weekday evenings, try taking a walk, reading together, playing quiet games or cards, doing art projects or playing music before bedtime.
  • Limit television, movies and video/computer games:
    • Avoid violent games and shows. Games and shows that involve bad guys, chasing and shooting may contribute to children’s fears and nightmares.
    • Avoid television, movies and video/computer games at night. Although children may appear to sit calmly in front of the screen, these activities are over-stimulating. They can cause difficulties falling asleep and nightmares that disturb your child’s sleep.
    • Keep the television and computer out of the bedroom. A screen in the bedroom is a constant reminder of the excitement of video/computer games as well as television shows and movies. This can make it difficult to fall asleep.
    • Allow your child to choose which pajamas to wear, stuffed animal to take to bed, etc.
    • Have a consistent bedtime routine that starts 30 minutes before your child needs to fall asleep. A bedtime routine will help your child know what’s coming next so he feels more secure and comfortable falling asleep. For example, you might give him a bath, read a book, cuddle with a teddy bear and give him a sip of water before putting him to sleep.
    • Set a regular bedtime that allows enough time for sleep. Based on the amount of sleep your child needs, calculate back from the time he has to get up in the morning to set an appropriate time. For example, if you have a 5-year-old who needs 11 hours of sleep and has to wake up at 7 a.m., he should fall asleep by 8 p.m.
      • Sleep chart below:

  • Tuck your child into bed for a feeling of security.
  • A child should not need a parent to help him/her fall asleep. The child who falls asleep on his or her own will be better able to return to sleep during normal nighttime awakenings and sleep throughout the night.


Re-posted from August 2009



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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Parents

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