Having a good bedtime routine can make all the difference in how your next morning starts.
Do your kids stumble into the kitchen half asleep every morning?
Are they night owls?
If the answer to these questions are a resounding “yes,” it might be time to introduce the idea of trying to practice a good bedtime routine.
Now, I know that when many people think of the “bedtime routine,” they think of the habits we get babies and toddlers into so they’re more willing to sleep at night.
There’s a reason that routines work for young kids, though.
Those habits are telling our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep.
And if you don’t have your own, it may be a good idea for you as well, Mom and Dad.
While I’ve had something of a routine for years, it’s gotten longer and more involved in the last 6 months or so.
Because my sleep was terrible.
You see, I didn’t realize how much my nighttime habits were impacting my quality of sleep.
Even though I was in bed for a long enough period of time, the quality was terrible.
So I implemented a regular nighttime routine to improve my regular sleep.
And it helped. A lot!
3 Tips for a Good Bedtime Routine for the Entire Family
Turn Down the Light 30 minutes Before Bed
This is going to be a suggestion that teens will hate. But it really does make a difference.
Our sleep rhythms are affected by light, which is why it’s easier to wake up when the sun is coming up in the morning (as opposed to when it’s still dark outside). Bright morning light is actually recommended to help with circadian phases.
However, the light from technology, including television or smartphones, can tell your brain that it’s time to wake up and be alert. Which, in turn, makes it hard to fall asleep.
Dr. Lisa Damour tells us, “We know that the light from technology makes it hard to fall asleep… [And while] I’m not a particularly prescriptive psychologist, I’m actually somebody who feels like there’s a lot of ways to get it right. I would say that probably one of the very few hard-and-fast rules I do believe in is that technology should never go in kids bedrooms. I know that there’s some families where that’s not a possibility, where that’s the only real place for a kid to work.
In those cases, it should never be in the bedroom when the child is about to go to sleep or trying to go to sleep.
The other thing we find with teenagers is that even when they do try to go to sleep they often have a hard time falling asleep. Even if they’re exhausted and desperately in need of sleep. And that can be because they were just looking at a phone or computer and so their melatonin is suppressed and they can’t fall asleep.
Or, just as likely, they saw something on their phone or computer that got them kind of excited or upset. You know, maybe they were looking on Instagram, and, you know, somebody tagged somebody they didn’t like and… all of those complexities that do arise for teenagers. Those things can keep teenagers up in the same way that, you know, if we get a grumpy email from our boss as we’re about to go to bed, it’ll keep us up at night.
And then also, when teenagers have their technology in their bed their body has a harder time falling asleep because…it, sort of, loses the association between being in bed and falling asleep, so helping to reign in the technology does make a big difference on sleep.”
Journal at Night
Journaling is a proven method of reducing stress and anxiety in kids and adults. It gives them an outlet to express their emotions without filtering them.
It also brings them into a state of mindfulness. Frustrations and anxieties from the day may not seem as bad when they’re writing them out at night. It also helps teens focus, bringing the wandering mind to attention and clearing their thoughts.
Which is the perfect way to end a day.
Journaling can reduce the likelihood that teens will lay awake at night, dwelling on what’s gone wrong in the day.
TedX speaker Natasha Sharma says journaling is “hugely beneficial and the science… and all the research that’s been done on [journaling] is extremely compelling and very conclusive… If you’re going to do it, [I suggest forming] a habit of doing it at night time… You’re journaling about the day that just finished.
And what it does is it forces you to compartmentalize your thoughts, especially in today’s world where even kids have a lot on their mind past a certain age.
So you’re just looking at the one day that passed and you’re pulling out small but meaningful things that we would have otherwise overlooked that are important or that went really well in that day.
Because they tend to we have a negativity bias… We still have that very strong tendency to, you know, focus on the one percent we didn’t get on the test or focus on that one error we made in that presentation, as opposed to how great the rest of it went.”
In addition to journaling, it’s also a good idea to keep a notepad nearby, in case a thought comes to mind as they’re laying in bed.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
There are a lot of different techniques that can put kids and adults, both, into a state of relaxation to prepare them for a restful night’s sleep.
These are just a few:
- Meditation: There are a lot of apps available to help with meditation, including the RelaxMelodies app or Omvana.
- 4-7-8 Breathing: This breathing technique was created by Dr. Andrew Weil, pioneer of integrative medicine. The technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for a count of 7 and then breathing out for 8 seconds. Repeat it four times. (It’s great for during the day, as well, if you’re feeling anxious.)
- Drinking tea: Lavender, chamomile, and mint. Tim Ferris, who struggled with insomnia, swears by Juniper Ridge Wildharvested Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea with honey and apple cider vinegar. (I’ve tried it and it’s a favorite of mine, as well.)
- Stretching: Stretching is a great way to relax and unwind before sleep. Not sure which to try? These stretches from Fitness Magazine should help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Summary: 3 Tips for a Good Bedtime Routine
Try to see if you can get your family a good bedtime routine for just 30 days and see, at the end, if everyone is sleeping better and feeling more rested in the morning.
Challenging them to join you may be all the motivation they need to give it a try.
And remember, the earlier you make this part of your kids routine, the more ingrained it will be when they reach those challenging teen years.
If you are going to implement a bedtime routine for your kids, here are the three key ingredients:
- Turn down the lights and turn off technology 30 minutes before sleep
- Start journaling to clear the mind before sleep
- Implement relaxation techniques to prepare the mind and body for rest
And let us know how it goes!
We would love to hear what nighttime routines your family has.
Just share in the comments below.