Healthy Sleeping Habits

Parents Sleep Better When Their Kids Do—Here Are Sleep Experts’ 5 Tips for Bedtime Routine Success

Photo: Getty Images / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc
As far as physiological needs go, sleep is right up there with eating and exercising. But sometimes, making sure you get enough of it (and at a high quality) feels like a goal that's completely out of your control. Take, for instance, when you're a parent and your kids' sleep schedules seem to have a life of their own.

When you don't need to care for little ones, there are fewer obstacles between you and sleeping the amount you need, because you’re not up feeding or changing diapers in the middle of the night. But, just because you're a parent or caretaker doesn't mean you're doomed to endless bouts of subpar sleep. Rather, sleep experts say you should consider getting your kids into a bedtime routine—both for their developmental health and the sake of your own rest.

"When kids are getting good sleep, parents have the opportunity to get better sleep.” —Angela Holliday-Bell, MD

“There's so much that happens during sleep, so it's really important to develop those sleep habits when they're young,” says certified sleep specialist Angela Holliday-Bell, MD. “And when kids are getting good sleep, parents have the opportunity to get better sleep.”

When parents sleep well, they in turn tend to function better physically and emotionally. “It really is a matter of full family health to get sleep,” adds Dr. Holliday-Bell, who is the sleep expert for sleep-tech company Hatch, which just collaborated with baby-product company Hello Bello to make the limited edition Kids Best Sleep Set ($35) that includes items to facilitate a healthy sleep routine for kids.

Essentially, when your little ones have solid sleeping habits, you're more apt to get in quality zzz's, too. So, getting your kids on a bedtime routine is a great way to build achieve both of those things. Read on for expert tips to create such a routine.

5 tips to get kids into a good bedtime routine

1. Have a healthy bedtime routine yourself

Otherwise known as “modeling,” showing kids a positive image of what getting ready for bed looks like by doing so yourself is a great way to get them to do it. Sleep researcher Jessee Dietch, PhD, says modeling works because it’s “demonstrating all the kinds of behaviors leading up to sleep—and maybe even connecting that what you do during the day can improve sleep.”

For instance, if you know your kids have a hard time putting away their electronics, Dr. Holliday-Bell suggests stashing your phone before your kids’ bedtime to model that behavior for them: “Helping them to see that you also find it important, and that you do the same thing every night, will help to ingrain [good sleeping habits] in them.”

2. Discuss why sleep is important

Those who have spent time with younger kids know that many love to ask “Why?” So by talking about the importance of sleep for overall well-being, you’re appealing to their desire to understand.

Without understanding the "why," children might simply conceptualize bedtime as a boring time of the day when they don't get to play anymore, says Dr. Holliday-Bell. She adds that when you tell kids why sleep is important, it might help them be more open to bedtime.

3. Allow them to have a buy-in

You don’t necessarily need to let your little one pick what time they go to bed, but there are some low-stakes ways to make sure that they feel at least somewhat autonomous in their bedtime routine. For instance, says Dr. Holliday-Bell, if you’re reading them a bedtime story, let them pick which one they want to hear.

4. Have bath time at night

Think of how an adult might soak in an Epsom salt bath to unwind when they’ve had a long day. This tip works similarly for kids; a nice, warm bath could be the perfect way for them to transition from their hectic day to their more low-key night, says Dr. Holliday-Bell.

5. Be consistent, but not too strict

Generally, you want to stick to the same steps in a kid’s bedtime routine. A few components to keep consistent include the time they go to sleep, parts of their routine (like story time and bath time), and the time they wake up.

“The key to a good routine is that it has a couple of recognizable elements, but is not extremely rigid,” says Dr. Dietch. The reason that you want some flexibility in kids’ bedtime routine is because, well, life happens. You might be away from home and have forgotten the bedtime books or bubble bath—and that’s okay.

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