Early Starts to Academic Success: Develop a Sleep Routine

by Zena Smith

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21828613As a parent I sometimes wonder if something was lost in translation when they came up with the phrase “sleeping like a baby.” You hear those words and you imagine a child, sound asleep and without a worry in the world. But those of us who have been there know that—baby or not—kids don’t always want to go to sleep, and if you’re going to make them, you can bet they won’t be peaceful about it!

Learning to manage your child’s sleep routine is not just a right of passage of new parenthood, but as you may know, it’s an important part of keeping their bodies healthy and setting the stage for life-long learning. Over the last couple of decades there have been more than enough studies to back the science behind sleep. However, new studies have shown that it’s not just the sleep that matters. Your child’s overall health, ability to learn, and creative energies also depend on how well they sleep and how they get to sleep.

That’s right—just saying “sweet dreams” and turning down the lights might be one way to put them to bed, but when it comes to the kind of sleep their developing brains need to prep for long days of learning, it’s certainly not the best way! The “right” kind of sleep, it turns out, comes from a routine!

Developing a bedtime routine that promotes brain development might sound like a lot of work or an impossible task. But take our word for it—it’s not! It all boils down to being consistent and defining the bedtime roles of both you and your student!

Be Consistent

After all, consistency is part of the definition of a routine, right? However you choose to define your student’s bedtime ritual, be sure that you help them go through it the same every night. It’s okay if you have a separate routine for the weekends and schooldays, but let that be the end of changing it up! The point is to help train your student’s body and mind that bedtime equals good, productive sleep. Things to consider?

  • What time is bedtime?
  • What activities will become part of the bedtime routine? 
  • What activities are NOT allowed in the minutes or hours before bedtime?

By being consistent, your child’s body and mind will eventually learn to embrace bedtime, and to be tired and ready when that time comes.

Be a Part of Bedtime

An upside of bedtime is that, in many families, everyone is in the house, the television is off, and duties for the day are completed. This is a great time to spend quality personal time with a student who has been away at school all day. Take advantage of it by making this quality time part of their nightly routine. Some activities we suggest adding to bedtime include:

  • Reading aloud. You can be the reader, they can be the reader, or you can take turns!
  • Singing. Singing is always a good activity to enjoy with your young one. The patterns and rhythms of song are helpful to brain development, and as an added bonus, it may help sooth your child and prepare them for a night’s rest.
  • Cuddling. Spending time away from parents can be hard, especially on young children. Physical touch is an important part of emotional and cognitive development, so go ahead and give them a hug. Besides, you’ve missed them, right?
  • Sharing storiesUse this time to catch up on what you missed form one another’s days. Learning to listen to stories and craft them on their own will also aid in cognitive development as your child approaches their elementary and middle school years.

Define the Roles

A bedtime routine is made better when your child knows what to expect from you and what’s expected of them. If they have a list of tasks they need to complete before bed—brushing their teeth, washing their hands, saying a prayer, and so on—they should know exactly that. To take it a step further, you might even encourage them to do these things in the same order! After a few weeks, your child’s body will begin to adapt, helping them to feel tired when the time comes.

Similarly, your role in bedtime should be known to them. If you are the one who reads the book and turns off the light, don’t ditch on your duty! Subverting your child’s expectations is one way to spark their curious minds and keep them awake. Take out the variables by performing the routine each and every night!




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