A Bedtime Routine: Settling To Sleep Like A Charm
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
routine for your baby is unmissable. Fun and easy to
do, the recognizable sleep routine effectively
soothing and settling for longer nights.
It is one of the must-do basics to help your infant sleep through the
A mathematician's bedtime routine
An interesting story about
David Hilbert, a professor of mathematics at the University of
One night ... there was a party to be
held at Hilbert's house. Just as the first guests were arriving,
Hilbert's wife noticed that her husband's shirt was soiled; she quickly
sent him off to put on a clean one. In response to her request, Hilbert
After 20 minutes or more had passed,
he still had not returned. The guests were milling about waiting for
him. Somewhat concerned, Mrs. Hilbert went up to the bedroom. There she
found the great mathematician peacefully tucked into his bed, fast
"You see", explained his friend, "it
was a natural sequence of things. He took off his coat, then his tie,
then his shirt, and so on, and went to sleep.". Most of us are not so
susceptible to the cues that signal our bedtime, but we do
become conditioned to the natural sequence of our own routine and it
does assist us in falling asleep.
Taken from Sleep
Thieves by S. Coren - ISBN 0684823047
A bed time ritual is a set of actions and words
you do with and say to your child at each bedtime.
baby learns to
associate these with settling and that is enough for her body to get
bedtime routines (see below) are
simple and recognizable, quiet and pleasant, and you are
sticking to it.
You can start this from the first weeks with your
newborn baby and you will continue to do it to help your toddler.
baby's bedtime routine will evolve as she grows.
Easy settling with a routine is just as
valuable for growing up kids and adults.
one of the many things one learns
from research. The anecdote in the box says it all ...
example of a before-bed routine
One simple example, your winding
down bedtime ritual could be
announcing bed time
bathroom to change nappies, softly talking about the nice sleep coming
extra hug for the sleepy baby
past and showing a picture on the wall
saying goodnight to a
putting down and then "good night, sleep tight"
This is just one, typical, bedtime routine but it
can be any set of similar quiet things you and your little one like to
A good bedtime routine is ...
- Always the
Since your little one must recognize the pattern, it
must naturally be the same each time. Hmm, I even sang exactly the same
lullaby for almost a year (because it worked ... so why change a
winning team ;))
You can of course vary with different lullaby
songs, as long as
the routine is recognizable to your baby.
- Not too
long, not too short
Too short and your baby won't easily
recognize the pattern.
Too long and getting baby to bed becomes a chore.
- Relaxing and
pleasant for baby and for you
Make the bedtime ritual a quiet moment you
can both enjoy.
Hugging and holding her close, talking and singing
softly, ... It helps you both wind down and relax and leaves your baby
relaxed and ready for sleep.
you, without hesitating
Also here, be determined. You'll want a clear
ending to the routine, don't let your child stretch it. As
older, towards one year and above, she may try to extend this pleasant
time. Saying goodnight to another toy. And another one. Asking for a
second song ...
If you go along in this, it becomes more
difficult to end the routine and start her sleeping. Avoid giving her
choices as well, like choosing the lullaby. It can take a looooong time
before you agree on a song ...
Any thing she asks about, simply tell her
"yes, we'll do that later on/tomorrow", and finish the routine as usual.
Of course also here you can experiment, and by
all means include more
flexibility if your baby still settles well.
A bedtime routine is the
best start of any nap and night. The
recognizable cues help your baby, also physically, get ready for sleep.
There's never any magic of course, and having a
routine is not a guarantee that your baby will sleep. But it is one of
the crucial must-haves toward the best sleep she can have right now.