A bedtime routine is not only good for grown-ups. It’s been proven that it can have multiple benefits for your child as well. Here’s why!
Have you ever wondered: what’s the trick in raising a well-behaved, happy, and healthy child?
There’s one trick I know about that every parent should do with their child before the age of seven.
The trick in question?
A consistent child bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines are important for children. In fact, a good bedtime routine can be the difference between good sleep habits and a lot of sleepless nights.
Top 5 benefits of a child bedtime routine
Opportunity to build and nurture your relationship with your child.
Bedtime is perfect for providing the quiet and relaxing space you and your child need to create a long-lasting bond.
There’s something about giving your little one a warm bath, reading him his favorite story, and humming his most-loved lullaby. If you have a toddler, a bedtime routine is also a time when you can have a conversation with your child, teach him new words, listen to him repeat a story, or let him ask you questions.
In short, a consistent bedtime routine can strengthen your bond and initiate a healthy conversation pattern that can persist through to adulthood.
Repetition and structure help children feel safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a bedtime routine can make kids feel safe when they know what to expect. Routines and rules help bring structure to the home and make life more predictable.
When your child follows a consistent bedtime routine, he knows what to expect and is aware of his boundaries. When you bath him, dim the lights, and start reading him a book, he knows it’s time to get ready to sleep.
At first, you can expect your little one to be anxious when you put him down to fall asleep on his own. But with time, a bedtime routine will help him know he’s safe and secure. With this, you’ll lower his anxiety and promote a sense of calm that’s necessary for him to go to sleep.
Even if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he’ll know he’s safe and secure and return to sleep on his own.
Your child will fall asleep easier, stay asleep for longer, and wake up rested.
One global study of 10,085 children aged 0-5 years found that a bedtime routine is related to a range of positive sleep outcomes, including:
- An earlier bedtime
- Decreased sleep onset latency
- Reduced nighttime awakenings
- Increased sleep duration
Similarly, the absence of a child bedtime routine is related to increased night awakenings.
The sleep outcomes seemed to improve as the number of nights that a child followed a consistent bedtime routine increased. These findings only confirm the importance of consistency when it comes to bedtime routines and sleep benefits.
Another study analyzed language-based bedtime routines or routines that involve reading, storytelling, and singing. It found that having a language-based bedtime routine at age 3 was predictive of increased nighttime sleep duration at age 5, by about 0.2 hours.
A consistent bedtime also results in better behavior during the day.
The benefits of a bedtime routine go beyond improved sleep. Apart from helping your child sleep more soundly, a bedtime routine can result in improved behavior during the day.
One study published in Pediatrics from 2013, found that having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children’s behavior. The study analyzed children aged 3 to 7 years old.
As a child’s routine becomes more inconsistent, the worse his/her behavior.
A serious problem seemed to be going to bed late. Children who went to bed after 9 p.m. experienced more behavioral problems that those kids who went to bed earlier.
In researchers’s opinion, behavioral problems occur because irregular bedtimes interrupt a child’s normal, 24-hour circadian patterns. As a result, a child’s physical and mental functioning is disrupted.
Sleep is a critical part of the maturation of parts of the brain that regulate behavior. A low-quality sleep can negatively affect a child’s brain development, creating effects that can linger on into later life.
Broad child development.
Although bedtime routine-related studies mainly focus on the quality of sleep, some studies have tried digging deeper.
One study, trying to determine whether bedtime routines can positively affect a child’s general development, analyzed a total of 50 families with children between 3 and 5 years old.
It found that kids with consistent bedtime routines perform better in tests of:
- Executive function
- Working memory
- Cognitive flexibility
The kids in this group also scored higher in school readiness and had better dental health.
Research also found that routines are associated with enhanced language development, academic achievement, and social-emotional and behavioral functioning.
For example, giving a bath to your baby and playfully talking to him can aid language development. A massage is heavily touch-oriented, and the benefits of touch range from immune system strength to brain development.
Moreover, singing lullabies can have many language and literacy benefits for a child, and can help build a relationship between the child and parent.
Establishing a consistent child bedtime routine can have multiple benefits for the child and the parents.
A bedtime routine is a wonderful way to build a relationship with your child, make him feel safe, and ensure he will sleep soundly throughout the night.
In addition, a consistent bedtime routine can have a range of positive impacts on a child’s overall development, including language development, cognitive flexibility, and executive function.
If you’re worried that your child’s bedtime routine is unstructured, don’t get discouraged. The negative effects of inconsistent bedtimes can be reversed. Start with your bedtime routine today and watch your child’s overall health and development improve.