Tantrums. Incessant whining. Crying. “No! I don’t want to go to bed!”
These are often the things parents put up with many nights in their efforts to get their kids to sleep. It’s a struggle that has been immortalized in popular culture, from Peter Pan to Monsters, Inc. But as fun as it may be to watch it on screen, the reality is, bedtime can be a real nightmare.
That’s why establishing a good bedtime routine for kids is essential, not just for the child’s well-being but for the parent’s sanity too.
So what can you do to get some peace and quiet at the end of the day? That’s something Andrew Newman, founder of Conscious Bedtime Stories, is an expert at.
In the Little Human’s Bedtime Connection Rituals program by Mindvalley, he shares how an ideal bedtime routine for kids can foster a conscious connection between you and your child. Because the thing is, we all know how important getting quality rest is. But it’ll take some effort on your part, as the parent, to get there.
Why Is a Bedtime Routine for Kids Important?
It’s no secret that, as a society, we’re sleeping less and less. New-fangled gadgets with blue lights and late-night Netflix binges are just a few culprits.
If there’s one challenging thing all parents face, it’s a cranky kid in the morning. And the kid can’t be blamed, really, because even adults wake up on the wrong side of the bed when they don’t get their beauty sleep.
Children’s anxiety and inconsistent sleep schedules make it hard for them to get a good night’s sleep. This, as you might expect, can cause a lot of problems.
There’s a ton of research out there to support this. One study, in particular, found that “children who get an insufficient amount of sleep in their preschool and early school-aged years have a higher risk of poor neurobehavioral function at around age 7.”
The great thing is, a bedtime routine can help your child wind down for the night. It’s predictable. It’s consistent. And according to Andrew, it sets them up for how the next day’s going to be.
5 Little-Known Benefits of a Bedtime Routine for Kids
“Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep,” as Dr. Michael Breus, better known as The Sleep Doctor, says. And with good reason.
Having a sleep schedule has many benefits, the most obvious being an increase in sleep quality and a decrease in morning grumpiness. But what about the ones that aren’t so obvious?
So let’s take a look at five surprising, science-backed benefits of sticking to a nightly routine:
1. Improves emotional regulation
When we, as parents, are well-rested, we tend to be in better moods. The same goes for our children.
Research shows that a good bedtime routine for kids can help them learn how to regulate their emotions and feel more in control of their feelings. Case in point:
- A study published in Sleep Medicine found that with a nightly ritual, the children had more positive moods in the morning.
- Another study found there was “increased emotional and behavioral difficulties” for the children who didn’t have a regular bedtime or had changes in their schedules.
When a child knows what to expect, like reading a book or taking a bath, they’ll feel more secure. This helps them feel more in control and confident in their environment, which can improve their emotional health in the long run.
2. Boosts language development
Think back to when you were young and your parents would read a book to you before bed—Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and countless others.
While they may just be a few simple pages of beautifully imagined tales, bedtime stories for kids are a great way to expose them to language.
According to a study on language-based bedtime routines, the researchers found that singing, reading, and storytelling before sleep can have a significant impact on a child’s language abilities and vocabulary.
Not only that, reading with your child can allow you to ask questions, discuss the story, and pique their creativity. And it can also encourage a love of learning and reading, which can benefit them academically.
3. Increases academic performance
A consistent nighttime routine equals a good night’s rest. Proper sleep equals brain development and functioning. And that translates to better concentration and focus, which can help improve their academic performance.
In fact, researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal found a link between better sleep quality and higher grades. Their results show that kids who got a good night’s sleep did better in math and languages.
As Dr. Breus says, “You can last three days without water, thirty days without food… You can last seven days without sleep.” So make sure your child gets some.
4. Enhances creativity
Imagination is the beginning of creation, according to playwright George Bernard Shaw. And he’s on point.
Drawing, storytelling, or imaginative play can stimulate their minds and boost their creativity. Plenty of research has shown it, including a 2022 study that shows how vital sleep is to creative performance.
That’s why, in the Little Human’s Bedtime Connection Rituals program, Andrew suggests parents spend the last 20 minutes of the day snuggled in bed, connecting with their children over a great story.
5. Strengthens parent-child bonding
We sometimes go to sleep with unresolved issues from the day, whether it be something that happened at work or a spat with our partner. And when we wake up the next morning, those issues are still there.
That’s why Andrew has this saying: “The last 20 minutes of the day actually belong to tomorrow.”
“If we want tomorrow morning to start off great, we can set that up as we go to sleep,” he says. “We want to clear out the difficult moments for us as adults, [and] we want to model that in a way that our kids are getting the same experience.”
One research study suggests that regular nighttime routines can help reduce stress for parents. In turn, it can positively affect their child’s emotions, behavior, and readiness to learn.
Bedtime Dos and Don’ts
A very common question among parents is, “How do I establish a bedtime routine for my child?” There are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
Here are a few to help you establish one for your child:
- DO be consistent, even on weekends. Children thrive on routine and structure. So having a regular sleep and wake-up schedule helps regulate their body clock and improves their overall well-being.
- DO establish clear boundaries. This includes setting limits on activities before, such as no screen time or rough play. A bedtime routine chart for kids is a great way to define what’s expected of them before going to bed, such as brushing their teeth and putting away toys.
- DO create a calm, soothing environment. You can create this ambiance with soft lighting and white noise, as well as setting the thermostat to the cool, comfortable temperature of around 65-70°F.
- DON’T use any gadgets. The blue light from electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. So if they’re on their iPad or phone, it can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- DON’T engage in stimulating activities, like watching TV, playing video games, or listening to loud music. This can overstimulate your child’s nervous system, making it harder for them to doze off. Instead, consider doing meditation or bedtime yoga for kids to wind them down.
- DON’T give any caffeine or sugar before going to bed. With Starbucks on almost every corner and sugar in everything, it’s not uncommon for teens and kids to get access to both. However, help them understand why these substances should be avoided, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Keep in mind, bedtime routines for toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, and adolescents can vary. Their needs really depend on their age and personalities.
Bedtime Routine for Kids: 3 Tips From Mindvalley Experts
Putting your kids to sleep is one parenting skill to master. And given that Andrew suggested spending 20 minutes at the end of each day getting ready for bed, it doesn’t seem like a lot of time.
So what’s the best bedtime routine? While “best” is quite subjective, he does have three ritual pillars you can do that can best serve your child’s well-being.
Every parent knows how wonderful it is to hug and cuddle with their child. Dr. Breus, who’s also the trainer of Mindvalley’s The Mastery of Sleep Quest, explains there are plenty of benefits to it, including:
- Relieving stress and anxiety,
- Lowering blood pressure,
- Strengthening the immune system,
- Alleviating pain, and
- Strengthening relationships.
According to Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist, we need four hugs a day to survive, eight to maintain, and 12 to thrive. So if you’re a new parent or one who’s been around for a while, this is a great “trick” to get your kids to sleep… and perhaps, even yourself.
Breathing exercises are a great way to calm the mind and body, especially before bed. Andrew suggests doing a simple one with your kid. Here’s how it goes:
Take three deep breaths, and with each, say:
- I breathe for me,
- I breathe for you, and
- I breathe for us and all that surrounds us.
This can help both of you relax. And if you want to level up the experience, incorporate calming scents, like lavender or chamomile, with an aromatherapy diffuser.
This is a tool that so many people practice. And if you’re familiar with it, it’s all about bringing yourself and your child into the moment.
There are many ways to practice it—gratitude journals or going around the dinner table and saying what you’re most appreciative of, for instance.
What does Andrew do? He likes to check in with his family with these questions:
- What are you thankful for?
- Who are you thankful for?
Another thing he suggests is expressing your love and appreciation for your child as you’re putting them to bed. Tell them, “I love you,” “I’m so glad you’re here,” and “You are enough,” which reinforces positive beliefs and can help boost their confidence and self-esteem.
And get this: even if they’re asleep, their brain can still pick up what you’re saying. A 2019 study published in Nature Human Behavior found that even though the participants were asleep, their brain activity picked up on the meaningful phrases that were being played rather than the meaningless ones.
Rest Up, Level Up
Sleep isn’t just about feeling rested in the morning—it’s an essential part of your child’s growth. And creating a bedtime routine that works for you and your child can help set you both up for success in all areas of your lives.
If you’d like more pointers on sleep (for your child or yourself), you can find guidance from Andrew Newman and Dr. Michael Breus at Mindvalley. When you sign up for a free Mindalley account, you can access the first few lessons of Dr. Breus’ The Mastery of Sleep Quest. (The Little Humans program is available for Mindvalley Members.)
As you go to sleep tonight with your little one, remember to snuggle, breathe, and be grateful so you can, as Andrew says, “sleep with a full heart.” Good night, dear one, and sleep tight.