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All About Sleep Routines

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Most everyone has their own version of a night time routine; whether it is as simple as brushing your teeth and getting into pajamas, as complex as winding down with a book or music, or a facial routine and then slipping into bed after taking care of your hygiene. The same goes for children; having a routine can help clue their minds and bodies into what is happening and remind them that sleep is coming.


When should you establish a routine?


You can start as early as day 1! According to research, it’s important to have four components to your routine: hygiene, nutrition, communication, and physical contact!⁣ Remember you do not have to do all of these every night, this is a comprehensive list of ideas to include in your routine. Of course not every night will be the exact same but we do encourage you to keep it as consistent as possible because the routine helps your child’s brain and body clue into what is happening and that sleep is coming.

  • Hygiene can include: a bath or shower (or even a wipe down with a warm cloth if your family does not do nightly baths/showers), teeth brushing, lotion, diaper change, or pajamas. ⁣

  • Nutrition is any of the following: dinner, bottle, breastfeeding, or bedtime snack⁣. If your baby is nursing or taking a bottle remember to have the last feeding end 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This will help to not develop a feed to sleep association. We suggest the nutrition component to be the first part of the routine for any age.

  • Communication can look like: books, prayers, talking about your day, affirmations, singing songs or humming songs. Now, if you have a bedtime staller that wants to read book after book, remember you can tell them to pick 2-3 books and if they can't decide you can always assist with prompts or simply say, “I see that you are having a hard time choosing a book tonight mama/papa is going to pick tonight’s books out, you can try again tomorrow night.”

  • Last but certainly not least is physical contact. We love this component because it not only gives you one on one time with your little one but it also can be a sweet reminder of all the small fun moments you all had that day; especially at the end of a hard day.

Here are a few things you can incorporate: rocking, cuddling/snuggling, bouncing, or massage⁣.


Nap Routine vs. Bedtime Routine


We suggest to keep a nap routine to around 5-10 minutes, just enough to transition from playing to sleeping and cueing them that sleep is coming!⁣ A simple nap routine can include a diaper change, sleep sack, a book, sing/dance/sway to a song, sound machine, cuddle, and lay down awake. Whereas a bedtime routine can be anywhere from 20-30 minutes.


Still have questions about a specific age group? Check out our blog post about why your child needs a bedtime routine to see how we break down the difference in sleep routines for newborns, infants and toddlers.


Why are sleep routines important for babies


According to Jodi Mindell, “bedtime resulted in significant reductions in problematic sleep behaviors for infants and toddlers. Significant improvements were seen in latency to sleep onset and in number/duration of night wakings.” Not only do sleep routines have a positive effect on sleep there are many other positive outcomes of starting and sticking with it:

  • Maternal mood and sleep quality improved

  • Language development

  • Literacy

  • Child emotional and behavioral regulation

  • Parent-child attachment

  • Family functioning

Want to get started helping families implement their own routines? Join us in the Academy!

Already a sleep consultant, do you want to specialize in toddler or newborn sleep? We have JUST the right course for you then! Sign up for our toddler or newborn sleep course today!


References


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), 599–606. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/32.5.599

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