Creating a Bedtime Routine

A good bedtime routine is just as important as a good morning one.

There are many reasons why your child may have problems at nighttime; including medications, a messy room , or anxiety problems. You're the lucky one that gets to play detective to try and determine why your child is not sleeping.

Use the observation log to discover what is root cause of the problem, and that will give you direction in how to deal with it.

At our house, bedtime is the most difficult part of the day. Actually, the transition between being awake and going to sleep is the problem. She’s great until she realizes that she’s going to have to close her eyes…and be alone…in the dark.

Any variation in the bedtime routine takes WEEKS to rebuild. We struggle with the following issues: confidence, anxiety, and restlessness.

Each of the members of our team has given us great suggestions along the way to help build a successful bedtime transition from awake to asleep.

Advice From the Experts

1. Create a sleeping room, not a play room. Electronic devices and TV all work against you. Their room needs to be relaxing, soothing, and specifically designated for sleeping.

2. Create an evening schedule that works for you, and stick to it as much as possible. I know, I know, it sounds so boring FOR ADULTS, but it is very soothing for children.

Don’t make it too complicated; you may be required to repeat it down to the last detail every night. Your routine could follow a sequence that begins after school!

Our evening looks like this: Homework, free time, dinner, TV (one program), baths, drinks, meds., reading and lights out.

3. Warm baths are our friend. There is something so relaxing about playing in a bathtub that a shower doesn’t quite replicate. Some evenings, our bath may take an hour, and there have been some Saturday mornings spent in the tub.

4. We have a one trip limit to the kitchen for drinks, medicine, and bedtime kisses, then off to bed to read.

5. Give a short verbal cue a few minutes before lights out. Give more kisses, hugs, and leave a small light on if needed.

6. Music is a powerful tool, and one that will help your child RELAX! Find a good relaxation CD for younger children. It could be classical music, lullabies, or even books on CD (just make sure they’re not scary!). I like to use my iPod and audible books to create a playlist of stories and music for my girls. It’s pretty neat.

You Can Do It

Kids with confidence issues need to be reminded that they can do it, and they do every night. They need a cheerleader. Refer to previous nights. “Do you remember when…?”

They don’t need to hear scary stories or watch exciting cartoons! Everything is nice and calm. Your message in words and actions is that you have confidence that they can do it!

To help relieve anxiety, one of our doctors taught the CALM massage. It is not a rubbing massage, it’s a squeezing one. You start with their feet and give them a firm squeeze while saying calm very quietly. Work your way up their body, and by the time you get to the top, they should be in a state of relaxation.

They may need you to check on them frequently, reminding them each time that they’re still awake that they can do it. Go team! My daughter is comforted by the fact that eventually I’ll be back. I tell her everything I need to do before returning to check on her. I also tell her that if she cries, I won’t be able to because it will hurt my ears. By the time I get back to her, she’s usually asleep.

As for restlessness… that’s a hard one with many different approaches. Kids need a chance to get tired! They have energy to burn! If your child naps during the day, and won’t sleep at night, you need to reduce or eliminate the nap. Make sure that they are getting the opportunity during the day to run and play.

If none of these suggestions work, AND you have been CONSISTENT in the implementation, then you should contact either your medicating psychiatrist or your pediatrician.

On My Playlist

In addition to a variety of relaxing music, I have several stories on my playlist to play at bedtime. Our favorites include:

1. Tiki Tiki Tembo

2. Stone Soup

3. The Brave Little Bear

4. Aesops Fables

5. Junie B. Jones

6. Ramona