Good Night, Sleep Tight! A Stress-Free Guide to Bedtime

What Are the Benefits of Bedtime Routines?

Your bedtime regimen may sometimes feel like the movie 50 First Dates, but all the repetition is worth it. "Not only do nighttime rituals help children transition to a more relaxed bedtime mind-set, but allowing kids to know what to expect helps them feel in control," says Jocelyn Joseph, MD, chief of pediatrics at the MIT Medical Center. "Without that, they can have a hard time falling asleep and are more likely to act out." Create a routine that works best for your family, and even if it means starting an hour before bedtime, make sure you allow enough time for each task. Rushing through the process will make it more stressful. Get inspired with this sample routine.

1. Clean up toys, or do a quiet activity together such as a simple puzzle.
2. Give your child a warm bath.
3. Get into pajamas.
4. Brush teeth.
5. Bring in a small cup of water for her bedside, to avoid the "I'm thirsty" excuse for getting out of bed.
6. Switch to dim lighting in the bedroom. (Darkness triggers melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.)
7. Read books. Tip: Tell her ahead of time how many you'll read, i.e., "two short books," so there's less room for stalling.
8. Talk quietly together for no more than five minutes if your child still needs to settle down. One idea: Discuss the high point and low point of the day. Don't get sidetracked by big topics. You can always say "We'll talk about it in the morning." Just make sure you follow through.
9. Say good night to a few favorite stuffed animals.
10. End on a positive note. Sing a favorite lullaby and give her a kiss.

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