Nightly Bedtime Routines

Untitled designMost of us can appreciate the benefits of being on a ‘routine’ schedule. There is something inherently calming about knowing what lies ahead. Therefore, it is not totally surprising that research also backs up the ‘power of a good routine’ when it comes to bedtime and routines with children. In 2009, a research study entitled “A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood,” was published in the journal “Sleep.” Researchers were interested in whether the implementation of a simple bedtime routine could positively influence both the mother and the child.

To test this, researchers conducted two studies, one with infants (ages 7-18 months) and with toddlers (ages 18-36 months). Mothers of infants completed a number of assessments (and a sleep diary) to document how their child slept. Additionally, they were asked questions to assess their mood. In each study, just over 30% of the mother-child dyads were assigned to a ‘control’ group where their sleep routine did not change. The remainder of the mothers were assigned to the intervention group where they were asked to perform a nightly 3-step routine for two weeks: 1) bath  2) lotion application and 3) quiet activities such as singing, or cuddling. Mothers were instructed to have ‘light’s out’ within 30 minutes of the end of the bath.

Results suggest that even the simplest bedtime routine (3-steps!) can make a positive difference. Children who participated in the bedtime routine were able to fall asleep faster, were less likely to call out to parents, and slept for longer periods throughout the night (a decrease in the number of times the child woke up). Even more interesting, mothers in the intervention group (with bedtime routine) reported improvement in mood.  Researchers speculate that this improved mood could be due to the mothers themselves getting more sleep or even just feeling satisfied with the establishment of a routine.

In a busy world that can often feel chaotic, it is important to remember the benefits of establishing routines. Even simple routines (such as the 3-step bedtime) can make a difference for both the mother and child. Think about what could happen if we even considered adding 15 minutes of reading time to the bedtime routine!

“Research shows that daily routines in general lead to predictable and less stressful environments for young children and are related to parenting competence, improved daytime behaviors, and lower maternal mental distress.”

Mindell, J. A., Telofski, L. S., Wiegand, B., & Kurtz, E. S. (2009). A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep,32(5), 599.

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