Many children misbehave at bedtime but it doesn’t have to be the last straw in an already tiresome day!
When my 2 children were young, I dreaded bedtime. Every day was a new test of my patience and by sundown I desperately needed a break.
They’re not bad kids. I just didn’t know then what I know now about managing their behaviour problems from PANDAS, ASD, and Dyspraxia.
Through much trial and error (and then even more trial and error), we eventually found a bedtime routine that works for everyone. One that gets the kids to bed easily and helps them stay there. And one that keeps my husband and I calm and relaxed so we can enjoy what’s left of our day.
Just how long does it take for you to get the kids settled in bed for the night?
An hour? Two?
What else could you be doing with that time if you could tuck the kids in with less effort?
How would it feel to have an hour to yourself every evening? You could read a book, have a bath, or even have an adult conversation with someone (that was a rare occurrence in our house for a while!)
As well as gaining an extra hour or so in your day that you can use for valuable self-care, your kids will have a more settled sleep as well. And a more settled sleep means that both kids and adults will be less cranky in the mornings, so that routine should go easier as well.
I’m about to share the top 7 tips for reducing bedtime stress that made the biggest difference in our home. Some of these you may have heard before and some might be new to you, but these tips are “tried and tested” by the Dissanayake family and are both child and adult-approved!
7 Ways To Reduce Bedtime Stress (And Sleep Through The Night)
1. Prepare ahead of time
When I say ahead of time, I mean throughout the day.
If your child is still young enough to need a nap during the day, make sure there’s ample time between naptime and bedtime for them to be tired enough to sleep.
Same goes for dinner time and any snacks before bed. Make sure they have enough time to properly digest dinner before bedtime. Lying down could be causing an upset tummy that manifests as not wanting to go to bed on time. If time isn’t the problem, it could be a particular food causing the problem.
Did you know that more sunlight in the early part of the day and less artificial light at night makes it easier for kids to fall asleep? These are things that need to be prepared before the sun goes down in order to have a smooth bedtime. You’ll also want to pay attention to things like the temperature of the room, making sure they love the feel of their bed (comfortable pillows, blankets, etc.)
And finally, make sure they have everything they need for bed right there inside their room. No more using the excuse of needing to get a particular book or toy to avoid laying down.
2. Stick to a schedule
Choose something that will work everyday and stick to it. Don’t let weekends be different from weekdays.
Of course, kids hate to stick to schedules because it feels like they have no choice in the matter. You can counter this by letting them choose other things at this time of day. Even if the choices are minor, it helps them feel more in control and less likely to throw a tantrum.
Things like choosing which toys to take to bed, which pajamas to wear, which book to read, what colour to set the night light to, and other such choices will help them feel less out of control.
3. Start one hour before bedtime
Kids need some wind-down time so make this part of your routine. Start an hour before their official bedtime and again, stick with this religiously. All these little wind-down rituals will make sure your child’s brain recognizes “Oh, okay, this means we’re going off to bed soon.”
Click over to this post for my favourite bedtime rituals that you can start using tonight.
If you find yourself getting home less than an hour before bedtime, start the wind-down rituals then. I know we said earlier that you should stick to the bedtime religiously but we all know life gets in the way sometimes and things happen.
It’s better that your child stays up a bit later so that they can have that whole hour of wind-down time. It helps prepare their brain and body for sleep which will also help them stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
4. Look after yourself and your energy levels
Ever notice that bedtime always happens at the end of a long day when you’re running out of energy too?
As busy mummas, it’s easy to put ourselves last and say we’ll take care once everyone else has been taken care of. But it’s important to keep your own batteries charged too. Otherwise, it feels like our children are pushing every single button we have. When in reality, they’re just trying to figure things out and we’re feeling triggered because we’re run down.
With these 7 tips, bedtime should become easier and less stressful so you have more time for self-care. But there are also little things you can do during the day to keep your energy up. Fuel your body and brain with the right foods, take a nap if possible, and remind yourself that you’re doing a fantastic job of raising your kids!
5. Eliminate the electronic nasties
If you must have a tv in your child’s room, make sure it gets unplugged every night before bed. Make it the first task of the wind-down routine. And yes, it does need to be unplugged because you don’t want any lights showing at all.
Unplug all the electronics. Computers, stereos, ipads, and anything else that has a light that remains on when on standby. The only thing that’s acceptable in the bedroom is a diffuser that doubles as a nightlight. That’s it. No exceptions.
Cellphones and computers are the biggest offenders because they give off high-frequencies even when they’re not in use. Anything with Wi-Fi is the same (routers, modems, etc.)
One that often gets overlooked is power strips or anything that has a “brick” as part of the charging cable (like those “wall warts” that you plug into the outlet or the block in the middle of your laptop cable). Many people don’t notice but they give off a high pitched whine whenever they’re plugged in and it can be quite nerve wracking when you’re trying to fall asleep (even if you don’t consciously hear it).
6. A long leisurely bath before bedtime
How relaxed do you feel after a long soak in the bath? Your child is just the same. The only difference is they like to play in the tub to relax while we tend to enjoy a good book or magazine in the tub.
Epsom salts in the bath help kids to relax as do essential oils in the diffuser. (Just make sure to add the epsom salts during the last 10 minutes only.)
If they’re still getting a story read to them at night, perhaps this could be done in the bath as well. It’s also a great place to talk over any issues that occurred during the day or anything that may be playing on your kids’ mind.
7. Caressing them to sleep
At the end of your hour-long wind-down period and once they’re comfy in bed, a gentle massage or simple caressing can be just the thing to tip them over into sleep.
You may need to experiment to find what works best but my kids find it almost impossible to stay awake when I gently caress their back or chest in slow, smooth circles. I don’t talk or sing, just keep circling until they’re asleep. Your child may drift off quicker with foot rubs or smoothing their hair away from their face or any other loving touch.
If all else fails, you might want to try a reward system. Create a celebration that happens the next morning if they didn’t misbehave during bedtime the night before. This is another one of those choices they can make that helps them learn that long-term results often outweigh immediate gratification.
Let’s Make It Even Easier! (So You And Your Child Can Stick To It)
Were any of these new to you? Which ones are you most excited to try first?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to implement ALL these things right away. Try one tip per day or even one tip per week until they become a nightly ritual.
The success of the wind-down ritual and using our 7 tips relies on consistency, so you’re better off starting with making small changes and building on them, rather than trying to make huge changes and finding that you and your kids can’t stick to them.
Just to make it even easier, I’d like to give you a fun checklist you can print out and check off each night with your child. It includes the 7 tips from this post in an easy-to-remember format.
Just tell me where to send it and I’ll pop it into your inbox in the next 15 minutes or less:
Thanks for reading!