If your child struggles to fall asleep at night, he or she may need a consistent bedtime routine. A bedtime routine can help children fall asleep faster and sleep longer, according to a new study. Researchers found that children who followed a consistent bedtime routine every day got more sleep and had better sleep overall than children who did not follow a routine.
The researchers surveyed 10,085 mothers of children up to age six in 14 countries. The mothers reported on their children’s sleep habits and behaviors through a validated online questionnaire. The questionnaire asked specifically about children’s daytime and nighttime sleep patterns, bedtime routines, and behavior. The questionnaire was translated into multiple languages to accommodate mothers from various countries.
Children with consistent bedtime routines had better sleep outcomes overall, but less than 50 percent of mothers reported that their child followed a regular bedtime routine every night. Children who followed a regular bedtime routine slept an average of one hour more per night than children who never followed a bedtime routine. Mothers reported that a regular bedtime routine was linked to decreased sleep problems and reduced daytime behavior problems. The data also showed that children with regular bedtime routines had earlier bedtimes, shorter sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), and reduced night wakings.
“For each additional night that a family is able to institute a bedtime routine, and the younger that routine is started, the better their child is likely to sleep. It’s like other healthy practices: Doing something just one day a week is good, doing it for three days a week is better, and doing it every day is best,” stated lead author Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Parents looking to institute a bedtime routine can use a series of calming activities to help their child relax before bed. A bedtime routine might include bathing, brushing teeth, and reading a story.
This research is published in the journal Sleep.
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