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Bedtime can be one of the most stressful parts of the day, especially when you have a child who doesn’t want to go to bed. All of the pressure, arguments and unhappiness that surround bedtime can make it even harder to get your child to sleep. Bedtime works much better when you are both feeling calm. How can you make bedtime more relaxing?
One of the most common issues with putting children to bed is the timing. If you do it too early, children won’t be ready to sleep. If you leave it too late, they can be too tired and irritable to follow your instructions or to relax. The perfect moment for bedtime is when your child is starting to feel sleepy, but won’t be falling asleep until you’ve got through your bedtime routine. If you have a teen who can brush their teeth and get into bed in 10 minutes, then this is all they need. If you have a three year old who needs an hour to get through their tooth-brushing, changing, bedtime story and getting tucked in then you need to start the routine well before they start looking sleepy. Try to be aware of your child’s natural rhythms so that you know how much sleep they need and when they’re ready to drift off.
Winding down for bedtime should begin well before the actual bedtime routine. Even as an adult, it is a good idea to switch to different activities around an hour or so before you start to get ready for bed. Avoiding screens is the main thing, as the blue light they give off can stimulate wakefulness. Children should also avoid eating or drinking sugar and any activities that stir them up physically or emotionally. Running around shouting is something they should do earlier in the day. Quiet games, drawing or reading is better for the evening.
Tasks like brushing teeth and getting into pyjamas can take up a lot of energy at bedtime, especially if your child is reluctant to go along with them. It’s important to take some time to calm down together after all this is done. Talking, listening to calming music, or reading a book together can help children to relax into a sleepier state. Getting to enjoy some time with you can also be a great reward for getting through the other bedtime tasks quickly.
Another important tip that is often overlooked is that you need to be getting enough sleep too. Everything is harder and more stressful when you’re tired, so look after yourself and enjoy your own relaxing bedtime routine too.