10th April 2019
"In this blog I will jump into the bedtime routine and what i have found has helped me over the years to form a successful bedtime routine." - Sandra Davidson (Chief Child Development Officer)
The bedtime routine
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the bedtime routine, I thought I would delve into why we need sleep and why it's particularly important for young children. After a tough day of learning at Little Beehive Nursery, you first and foremost, need sleep to rest and relax. In doing so, you give your body some down time to recover for the next day. Did you know, your brain needs just as much downtime as your body? If not, more! When you sleep, your brain uses this time to sort and store all the new information it's taken on that day. When you're at Nursery, that can be a lot of new information to store! During sleep, your brain sorts and transfers new information and memories from short term storage, to long term – a process called “Consolidation”. Source
How much sleep does my child require?
Good question! When you’re younger (not that we aren't still young…) You need a lot more sleep, as this is the time the body develops and grows the most! This NHS guide gives a great insight into how much sleep you need at different ages as you develop and grow. For your convenience, we have created a very simplified version for you!
Babies (Over 6 weeks) – Day time: 3 Hours Night time: 11 hours
Toddlers – Day time: 45 Minutes - 2.5 hours night time: 11.5 Hours
Pre-School – Daytime: N/A night time: 11 Hours
As you can see, children need a lot of sleep! More than most of us could dream of getting in a night. It’s not only important that your child is getting the recommended hours of sleep to ensure they aren't cranky in the morning… Lack of sleep has also been shown to have a negative impact on your child's health; a study found that a lack of sleep can potentially affect the developing brain. This study, however, was very small.
When it comes to bedtime, there is no set way. I could tell you what works for my children and me, but what works for me, may not work for you. What I can do, however, is give you some guidelines that most children will benefit from (you probably will too!) Below, I have listed 6 points that I think are vital to keep in mind when plotting a bedtime routine…
Some of the greatest strategists in history might struggle to put together a full proof bedtime strategy. However, it's vital to have something in place for you to follow. Set a bedtime, I would recommend a “get ready for bedtime” an hour to thirty minutes before “sleep time”, this will give you time to get teeth brushed, pjs on, and ready for a bedtime story. Studies show the importance of no screen exposure an hour before sleep time, giving the brain time to wind down, consider this when you are planning your bedtime strategy.
If you are co-parenting, it is important to discuss your strategy beforehand and work as a team. If you are beginning a night-time program after having some difficulty with your child, explain your new expectations, if your child is old enough, they should be able to understand and co-operate.
If you’re separated, it's even more important to have a dialogue with your co-parent or guardian, sticking to a routine wherever they stay is vital to maintaining that routine long term.
Don’t expect to get this right first time, but with a little trial and error, you will find the perfect plan for your little one.
Set a regular bedtime and wake time
This might seem obvious, and you might already have done this however it's vital a regular bedtime and wake up time, this sets and aligns expectations for both you and your child and allows you to plan the bedtime routine accordingly. On top of this, make sure you have a time in mind that you want to start this process, the “get ready for bed” period, I used to make this 1 hour before my children had to be sleep, it gave me plenty of time to get them ready and sorted for bed.
As you’re probably already aware, getting into bed isn’t as simple as asking them to do so. Make sure you give yourself enough time to sort out all issues your children might throw at you!
The digital curfew!
Ok… Perhaps don’t phrase it as the digital curfew! However, the idea is to make sure all screens and devices are turned off for 1-2 hours before bed (this goes for adults too!). According to the national sleep foundation using electrical devices before bed can delay your body's internal clock and suppresses the release of sleep-inducing hormones. Why not replace devices and screens with story time, a fantastic way for you to get valuable one on one time with our child while also introducing them to the fantastic world of literacy.
The right sleeping environment
This might sound strange, but the quality of sleep we get can greatly rely on the room we are in. Make sure your child's room isn’t causing them to have an irritated sleep. A few quick checks would be bed quality (such as a bad mattress), the temperature at night and blackout (i.e. making sure during sleep, their room remains dark and limited light is getting in). All of the above if not right, can cause irritated or irregular sleep, meaning, even if you are putting them down at the right time, and getting them to sleep, they might be waking in the middle of the night and overall having poor sleep.
I touched on this briefly earlier, however, in my opinion, a bedtime story is one of the most important aspects of bedtime. Not only do you get to spend precious quality time together, but you also start an early interest in literacy. Depending on their age, pick a book that is right for you and them, take into consideration content, skill level and interests when deciding.
I also enjoyed leaving it on a cliff hanger to let their imaginations take over just before they drift off, they would spend the next 24 hours pondering and imagining what might happen next! If it was a particularly good book, they would be the ones asking me if it was time for bed yet so they could find out what happens!
I personally use a fantastic subscription book service called “the Willoughby book club”. This custom subscription service delivers books to you monthly dependant on your interests and likes, and they have kids book options too! A great way to keep a steady flow of new books coming into your children's bedtime routine.
Now you have found the strategy that works for you, implement it and stick to it! Children love routine, they thrive on it, and it works. Routines set expectations and help train behaviour; a nightly bedtime routine helps the body learn to be sleepy at the correct time, just like reading in bed may put some of us adults to sleep - even when we're out of bed! The structure of bedtime routines can be a very special time, it prepares your child for the next day, gives you some priceless one on one time and creates a feeling of security and control in your child's wellbeing. Routines can limit the stress at bedtime, I can't say you will get a stress free bedtime following these steps, but they should help you on the path for a more relaxed bedtime experience.
I could go on forever with changes you could implement that may improve your child's bedtime routine. However, everyone is different, and it’s about discovering what works for you and your family. Above are my 5 key points that I have found to be the most important over the years. However the most important thing I can tell you is, make sure bedtime is not a dreaded time of the night, turn it into a fun activity that ends with a story and a kiss goodnight, these are some of the happiest times for you and your child, the one on one time is irreplaceable. (If you have any questions all of our branch lead practitioners are more than qualified to help you out at Cupar, Newport, Srathkinness (St andrews), Kirkcaldy, Montrose. Or email me on Sandra@littlebeehivenursery.co.uk and i will get back to you as soon as possible.