Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekly Column: Tips For Smoother Bedtimes

Recently, I described the benefits of early bedtimes. Here are some ways to actually make it happen!

Develop a respect for your child’s need to sleep. If your baby is yawning and rubbing her eyes, it’s clear that she’s tired; don’t keep her awake unnecessarily. If your toddler is suddenly throwing tantrums over the tiniest details, he’s tired; get him to bed. Keeping your child stimulated past the point of exhaustion is a sure way to make them fight bedtime. Over-tired children don’t rest easily, so try to get them to bed before exhaustion sets in.

A nightly routine can help a child recognize that sleep is imminent. A bath, pajamas, stories, songs…whatever your routine is, stick with it. Even a partied-out toddler will understand what happens next if you do the same thing every night. He’ll know that after a bath, he gets dressed, rocked, and put to bed. He’s less likely to fight bedtime if it doesn’t sneak up on him.

Don’t underestimate the importance of calming down. Little ones can’t switch off their behavior like adults can – their transitions are slower and harder won. If they’re running around wildly before bedtime, they’ll probably still be running around wildly at bedtime. While you can’t flip the ‘calm-down’ switch for them, you can encourage them by being quiet and calm yourself, playing slow music, or telling a story. Do whatever you can to slow them down for bedtime.

Finally, don’t be dragged into a battle of wills. Set rules for how many ‘last’ hugs or drinks of water will be tolerated, and don’t deviate. They’ll eventually know that when it comes to bedtime, the rules aren’t negotiable.

Hopefully, they’ll soon realize that bedtime is nothing to be fought against, and that their parents are geniuses for hatching such a wonderful, restful concept.

(Online version here.)


  1. I think I have found a fellow sleep obsessed mama with you. We are VERY tight on the sleep schedule. (Sometimes I think I need to relax a bit actually).
    My tot just moved into his big boy bed about a month ago. I think because we have always had smooth, early bed times this was easy as pie.

  2. We've always had early bedtimes and regular nighttime routines for our kids and I swear by them! Great tips!

  3. I so agree with you. We SWEAR by our bedtime routine - it's what keeps us sane and happy. For two parents with full time jobs, the routine provides the structure and much needed down time to de-stress and to pursue our passions outside of family life.

    We didn't used to have this when our daughter's horrendous sleep habits hijacked our evenings, and now, we can't imagine life without a sleeping baby by 7:30, sometimes even before 7 if she's really tired.

  4. We've been so off our schedule lately, Penelope's been *asking* to go to bed and then dropping gratefully into sleep as soon as we put her down. I'm totally with you on the importance of early bedtimes and good sleep routines, but apparently, if all else fails, complete and utter exhaustion gets them to sleep pretty well, too! :)


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