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July 22, 2024

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Inconsistent Bedtime Routines Leave Kids Sleepless

The National Poll on Children's Health says many kids struggle with sleep issues.

Nearly one in four parents struggle to get their child to sleep, a new poll reports. Some of the sleep problems are due to worries harbored by the kids, researchers report. Parents of sleepless children are less likely to have a bedtime routine, more likely to leave on a video or TV show and more likely to stay with their child until they’re asleep, researchers said.

“Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is crucial,” said Sarah Clark, a pediatrician and co-director of the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

“When this transition to bedtime becomes a nightly conflict, some parents may fall into habits that work in the moment but could set them up for more sleep issues down the road,” Clark said in a university news release.

But a quarter of parents say their children’s sleep is often or occasionally delayed because they’re worried or anxious. More than a third of parents say their child tends to wake upset or crying in the night. More than 40% say their child moves to their parents’ bed and about 30% say the kid insists a parent sleep in their room.

“Many young children go through stages when they become scared of the dark or worry that something bad might happen, causing them to delay bedtime or become distressed by parents leaving the room. Bad dreams or being awakened in the middle of the night can also disrupt sleep,” Clark said.

Bedtime Routines Help

Many parents polled said they have bed time routines in place for their kids. These might include brushing teeth, bathing or reading bedtime stories. Less than half of parents said their routine also includes having a drink of water or a snack, turning off devices, saying bedtime prayers or talking about their day.

Nearly two-thirds of parents said children staying up to play is a major factor in delaying sleep. Kids should start winding down at least an hour before bed. And a calm, quiet sleep environment also can help kids drift off to slumberland. More than two-fifths of parents said noise from other rooms interferes with their child’s sleep, results show.

“The sleep environment can have a major effect on a child’s sleep quality, including getting to sleep and staying asleep through the night,” Clark said.

How To Build a Bedtime Routine for Kids

A bedtime routine for kids usually consists of three or four activities. For example, having a snack, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and reading a book, says The National Sleep Foundation.  These should always be done in the same order. To make the routine more effective, start winding down the household by dimming the lights and turning off screens in the lead-up to bed. These pointers can help with your routine at home:

  • Nutritious snack or bottle/breastfeeding
  • Bath or diaper change
  • Brushing teeth and going to the bathroom
  • Reading a book
  • Lullaby or singing a song together
  • Massage, cuddling, and rocking
  • Talking about their day

You should leave the room while your child is sleepy but not asleep yet. This way they learn to fall asleep on their own, and they won’t panic if they wake up in the middle of the night and find you gone. Set a consistent bedtime that leaves enough time for your child to sleep the recommended amount of hours for their age.

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About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.