This post is written in partnership with Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness. All opinions are my own.
Did you know that bedtime can help your kids be less stressed? No one wants to be stressed out. Kids are just as prone to stress as adults, and some of that stress can have lasting effects. Getting enough sleep can have a profound effect on kids’ (and adults’) stress levels. As a mom of 6, I know how important a solid bedtime routine is. These bedtime hacks will help make bedtime stress-free for everyone and help your kids get the sleep that they need.
Bedtime can be a serious challenge sometimes. Despite that, it is so important to have a consistent bedtime routine. Kids need between 9 and 14 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age. That can be hard to achieve if kids are staying up late and in the habit of fighting bedtime.
We all know what it feels like when we don’t get a good night’s sleep. For me, my ability to deal with stress goes WAY down. I can only imagine what my kids go through when they don’t get the sleep that they need.
Stress can have an impact on everything from behavior to your kids’ health. As we mentioned here in an earlier post, severe, prolonged stress can be toxic and have a lasting impact on kids’ health. I’d recommend that every parent takes the ACE quiz to find out if your child is at risk of stress-related diseases in the future.
What can a consistent bedtime routine do?
I’ve talked to many parents who know that quality sleep is important for kids but who also don’t have a consistent bedtime routine established.
We used to be pretty lax about bedtime until I realized that some of the behavioral issues we were having with our kids were directly related to the fact that they just weren’t getting enough sleep.
Once we made sleep a priority, my kids felt less stressed during the day and were able to tackle some of the things that were so overwhelming to them before.
This year, my kids are hitting big milestones. My twins are going to preschool for the first time. My older daughter just started first grade. My boys, who are older, are all hitting big milestones of their own.
Getting great sleep this year definitely isn’t optional.
What makes up a great bedtime routine?
There are a few key elements that make up a successful bedtime routine. Doing this consistently really helps our nights (and mornings) go smoother and drastically reduces my kids’ stress levels.
Our bedtime routine looks something like this:
- 30 minutes before bedtime — shut screens off. Even young kids may be in the habit of watching TV or playing on tablets. Before bed, shut that down. I like to plug everything into a charging station at a set time each night, and my family knows once everything is plugged in, it’s off limits. (Just make sure your chargers are not counterfeit to avoid a fire risk.)
- 25 minutes before bedtime — brush teeth and put pajamas on. Getting into pajamas and brushing teeth helps kids mentally get into bedtime mode. It signals to their brain that it is time to relax and helps them shut down for the night.
- 20 minutes before bedtime — read books together. Storytime is one of my kids’ favorite parts of the day. We’ve had so much fun discovering some great books together, and after a busy day, it’s so nice to be able to just cuddle up together with a good book.
What do you do if you have kids who fight bedtime?
Some of my kids have been awesome about going to bed at night. Others have . . . not.
When you have kids who struggle with bedtime, it’s time for some tried and true bedtime hacks. With six kids, we have had plenty of opportunities to learn what works and what doesn’t. Experiment a bit and figure out what works best with your kids.
- Lay out pajamas when you get dressed in the morning. It’s not uncommon to lay out clothes for the next day when you are getting ready for bed. How about making bedtime easier by laying out pajamas in the morning when you get dressed?
- Rub your child’s forehead during story time. I used to run a home daycare, and the parents were always shocked that I could get their kids to take a nap. This is how I did it. We’d listen to soft music, and if there was a child who didn’t look like he would fall asleep I would sit next to him and softly rub his forehead, from the top down. This kind of forces kids eyes to close and within a few minutes, they are relaxed and sleepy. It hasn’t failed me yet.
- Play white noise. I’m a HUGE fan of white noise, for both my kids and for me. It makes such a difference in your ability to tune out everything around you and shut your brain down. Different white noise sounds work for different kids. I personally like the sound of airplane white noise. My daughters prefer ocean sounds. Play around a bit until you find something that works.
- Give them a bath before bedtime. Baths naturally make us sleepy. They help even the most active kids slow down and physically prepare for bed. A warm bath followed by nice, cozy pajamas always seems to do the trick when kids have trouble unwinding. I’ve often read bedtime stories to my kids while they were in the tub if we were short on time.
- Take time to play during the day. Often, when we have bedtime issues, it is because my kids just want more time with me. If I take the time to do something fun with them during the day, they are much more willing to go to bed when bedtime rolls around.
- Give a prize to the first person to fall asleep. With multiple kids, they sometimes feed off each other and make bedtime tricky. On especially hard nights, I’ll offer a prize for the first person who falls asleep. The prize is something simple, like a treat for breakfast, or getting to be the first person in the car the next day (which is apparently a big deal at my house). There’s something about making it a competition that makes my kids all fall asleep so much faster.
- Have a small snack before bed. My kids often realize they are hungry while they are lying in bed trying to fall asleep. You can counter this with a quick snack before you start your bedtime routine. My kids like apples and cheese or a piece of toast. Whatever your kids like, choose something quick, easy, and with a decent amount of carbohydrates to help tide them over until morning.
Hopefully, these tips will help make bedtime easier at your house and help your kids get the sleep that they need. Getting a good night’s sleep is such a great way to counter stress and is such an important habit for kids to develop while they are young. Sleep may not be able to solve all of the stressors in your kids’ lives, but it certainly goes a long way towards helping.
Remember to take the ACE quiz to find out what your child’s score is and whether previous stressors could cause problems later in life. For more tips on countering stress for kids, visit stresshealth.org.