How many times have you jumped into bed, turned the lights off, got comfortable under your sheets, and then you find you’re wide awake? Your body is wound up, your mind is going a mile a minute, and you can't seem to fall asleep. If you find this occurs often for you, it's likely because you don't have a proper bedtime routine. And, the same goes for your kids, too.
When you think "bedtime routine", you're probably thinking it’s putting on your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and going to the bathroom. However, a bedtime routine is a little bit more than this. It's a relaxing, simple routine you stick with every night that can improve both yours and your child's sleep. Below are 12 ways to build a healthy bedtime routine you and your kids can benefit from.
1. Take a Warm Bath
A couple hours before bedtime, slip you or your child into a warm bath. When your core body temperature drops at nighttime, it can increase your chance of both falling asleep, and obtaining a healthy deep sleep, according to research from Cornell University Medical College.
Surprisingly, the research shows one of the best ways of triggering a body temperature drop is to raise it a couple hours earlier with a warm bath. Your body will sense the increase in core temperature, and it will respond. It will dilate your blood vessels, and direct your flow of blood toward your skin, quickly releasing heat. If you require some extra calmness and relaxation, try adding a few drops of lavender oil in the water.
2. Consume a Light Snack Before Bed
While big meals and snacks or heavy foods consumed immediately before bed can disrupt your sleep, a light snack could help you sleep better. Lying awake in bed hungry can stimulate and fragment sleep.
Keep in mind, what you eat is essential. Your best option is carbohydrate-rich snacks, since they could increase the level of tryptophan in your blood. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps induce sleep. You might want to stay away from protein-rich foods because they're more difficult to digest (small amounts are okay, like a dab of peanut butter or piece of cheese). Good choices include:
- A cookie
- Small bowl of cereal
- Small muffin
3. Stay on Schedule
Go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning at the same time each day, even on weekends. This is important to set your body's internal clock known as your circadian rhythm. By staying consistent, you can also improve the quality of your sleep.
4. Create a Comfy Sleeping Environment
Make your bedroom calming, peaceful, and conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, quiet, and dark. It may help to use earplugs to block out any noise. Try room-darkening shades if there's outside light keeping you awake.
5. Sleep on a Comfortable, Natural, Organic Mattress
Your pillow and mattress are another thing that makes a big difference. Ideally, you should replace your mattress every five to seven years if you have a traditional mattress, and your pillows once annually. Your mattress should be comfortable and big enough to provide you with enough room, if you sleep with a partner. A twin mattress is adequate for a child to sleep comfortably on.
Also, if you want to really improve the quality of your sleep, sleep on a natural, organic latex mattress. On a natural latex mattress, you won't be lying awake all night, or tossing and turning trying to get comfortable. These mattresses provide amazing comfort and support, which makes sleeping through the night very possible.
6. Let Your Child Wind Down
Just like adults can't go straight from being busy and active during the day to sleep, children can't either. They need a calming transition to settle down and relax. There shouldn't be any vigorous activity about an hour before it's bedtime.
7. Offer Several Bedtime Choices
Provide your child a few easy "either-or" choices before bed, and not "open-ended" choices that can be time consuming and frustrating for the both of you. There are many options to choose from, including:
- Blue pajamas or green ones?
- Walk to the bath or skip?
- Three or five kisses?
- Two or three short stories?
By giving them a choice, you're involving them in the very important bedtime routine that they'll become accustomed to.
8. Address Sleep Problems
Signs of sleep troubles include:
- Having difficulty falling asleep
- Frequent waking up throughout the night
- Stalling and resisting going to bed
- Heavy or loud breathing while sleeping
- Having problems breathing while sleeping
- Cranky during the day
These are all sleep issues you'll want to discuss with your child's pediatrician.
9. Don't Watch the Clock
If you're having trouble falling asleep, staring at the clock will only further stress you out, and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Turn your bedroom clock away, so you're not tempted to watch the minutes tick by. If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, and do something calming until you begin feeling drowsy.
10. Read to Your Child
Reading your child's favorite bedtime story to them is a comforting routine, especially if it's a story associated with bedtime like Goodnight Moon.
11. Put Your PJs On
When you sleep in clothing meant for sleeping in, you signal your body and mind it's time to wind down, and get into "sleep mode." Have a pair of pajamas already prepared next to your bed. Don't get into the covers with your work or house clothes on.
12. Turn the WiFi Off
By turning your WiFi off, it puts your brain at rest, and gets you out of the "always-available-state" where you are always waiting for that next message or email. Leave these for the morning. Most things can wait.
Work with your child as a team. It's important you talk about, and agree on a bedtime routine that will suit the both of you, so you can both carry it out consistently. If you're beginning a new bedtime routine with your child, involve her in the decision making and planning of what this routine will be.
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