Kid’s bedtime: Here’s how to keep it calm and controlled …

Kids bedtime routine

Also known rather scarily as the “witching hour”, kid’s bedtime can feel like the most stressful part of the day.

Just as you are running out of steam and would love nothing more than to hop into your own bed and sleep for a week, the kid’s seems to slide up a gear and bed it the very last thing on their minds.

In fact, many children will do literally anything to avoid going to bed, regardless of how hard you worked to tire them out during the day.

It’s odd, frustrating and, quite frankly, exhausting.

In the article, we explain why your kids are endowed with this sudden burst of energy just before bed, and we provide suggestions to keep bedtime calm and controlled for all involved.

Further reading: How to get your child to sleep well now and for there rest of their lives.

Why do kid’s get hyper before bed?

They could be overtired?

Tired kids should go right to sleep … right?

As much as parents want this to be true, overtired children are actually more likely to have a hard time falling asleep. Overtired kids also have problems listening, paying attention and following directions. For this reason, they are more likely to cause a ruckus when you attempt to whisk them off to bed.

If your kid is overtired because he or she is not getting enough sleep at night, they are also going to be tired during the day, raising the likelihood that they will misbehave and refuse to listen when you tell them it’s time to sleep. This vicious cycle of chaotic kids bedtime can go on and on.

Or over stimulated?

Like kids who are too tired, kids who are overstimulated have a lot of trouble falling asleep. Overstimulation can come from many sources, but it’s usually electronics that are to blame in this day and age.

Mobile phones, computers, television screens and gaming consoles all emit blue light that stimulates the brain and tricks it into believing it’s still daytime. These devices are a no-no especially before bed, as they can interfere with sleep-regulating and promoting hormones melatonin and serotonin.

Another issue is too much physical activity or horse play right before bed. This can make kids too wired to sleep.

Causing havoc has become part of the routine

Routine is a powerful tool when it comes to kids bedtime. And this can go both ways. Kids who are used to going to bed at the same time each night without any fuss should fall asleep easily. But if your kids are used to getting away with causing chaos at bedtime, it will be harder for them to go to sleep when it’s time because they know that misbehaviour is part of the routine.

Predictable, consistent schedules, be it after-school play or dinnertime, helps children feel in control because they know exactly what to expect. Take that away and things can quickly descend into bedlam.

Their reptilian brain has taken over

Here’s an interesting theory of why kids get hyper before bed and might explain why your kids bedtime is always a battle: Their reptilian brain has taken over.

According to Tiny Beans:

“They have utilised their daily allowance of mental capacity…Once they have been awake for a certain number of hours and/or they have expended a certain amount of energy, their consciousness is shut down by the body in order to preserve the functionality of the brain for later use. While they may have some tendencies of their former selves, they are not actually cognisant of their surroundings, and even less so of their actions.”

Lack of routine

You’ve probably heard of over-scheduled children, but a lack of routine is also bad especially when it comes to kids bedtime.

When kids know they have free reign and can do whatever whenever they want, sleep is going to be the last thing on their to-do list. After all, there’s so many more fun alternatives to boring bedtime: playing games on their phones, watching TV and bugging your exhausted self to distraction.

A lack of routine means that your child’s body won’t know when it’s time to sleep, so it’s more difficult for them to wind down and rest.

Too much daytime sleep

Experts recommend that preschool children (3-5 years) get 10–13 hours of sleep and school age children (6-12 years) get 9-12 hours. Many kids will get all their sleep hours at night, but some may need to nap during the day to make up the difference.

Just like bedtime, sticking to a consistent nap schedule is best. However, if your kid sleeps too much during the day or naps too close to bedtime, they will have a hard time falling asleep at night.

Establish routines to help kids avoid oversleeping during the day.

Late night food

Hungry kids have a harder time falling asleep than kids who’ve had enough to eat. But that’s usually not the problem; it’s late night snacking and snacking on sugary foods. Some kids go through a phase where they pretend to be hungry so they can put off bedtime as long as possible.

If they do ask for a snack, make sure to give them small portions and healthy options that promote sleep, like peanut butter, berries, eggs, milk and whole grains. Advice from Riley’s Children is:

“I tell parents to offer a snack high in protein or fibre. Foods that are primarily simple carbs and sugar, such as pop tarts, will make blood sugar rise and then fall quickly, leaving a child hungry again within an hour or two.”

Suggestions to keep your kid’s bedtime calm and controlled

Keep bedtime the same time … every single night

If you want a stress-free kids bedtime, consistency is key. Consistent schedules give kids a sense of order, reassurance and safety. Keeping bedtime the same time each night (even on weekends) is one of the best ways get your kids to bed without a fuss. When the clock strikes the hour, they know exactly what’s going to happen.

Another tip: Try to keep other routines (bath time, story time, playtime, dinnertime and so on) consistent as much as you can. Sit down with your kids and set a realistic schedule for these daily activities.

Plan and stick to a routine … religiously

Establishing a kids bedtime routine and sticking to it is half the battle. The cue that they have to hit the hay soon can start an hour before actual bedtime. Set aside this hour for calm and pleasant activities that they can look forward to, like taking a warm bath, reading their favourite book, and listening to soothing music.

For younger children, it can be something simple like singing a lullaby. Older kids are more likely to stick to the routine if you get them involved in planning, so make sure to get their input. However, avoid any activity that is too stimulating like games or watching TV.

More reading: 12 Bedtime books your kid’s will love.

Limit screen time

Children are particularly sensitive to the effects of light emitted by electronic devices (according to this Wirecutter article), so limit screen time especially at night before bed. Remove phones and tablets from the bedroom if possible, and substitute non-screen activities that help them sleep.

Again, invite your kids to pick a quiet, fun activity that they enjoy like reading, colouring, or building a puzzle.

Eat early

A full stomach can interfere with sleep, so an early dinner is best for a battle-free kids bedtime.

Avoid sugary foods that can raise blood sugar levels and keep them up late into the night. A dinner of lean meats/healthy protein, complex carbohydrates (whole grains) and veggies will help promote sleep.

If your child is still hungry right before bed, give them a small healthy snack like a piece of fruit with peanut butter or whole grain oats with milk.

Check they’re getting the right amount of sleep at the right time

Toddlers (1-3 years) need 11-14 hours of sleep every 24 hours, according to the Raising Children website.

“A positive bedtime routine helps toddlers feel ready for sleep and settle more easily when they wake at night. Most toddlers are ready for bed between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. This is a good time, because they sleep deepest between 8 pm and midnight. It’s important to keep the routine consistent on weekends as well as during the week.”

Settling your toddler to bed and getting them to stay there can be an enormous challenge and even more so when your child is grumpy, so make sure they have the right amount sleep at the right time.

Make time for a warm bath and lots of cuddles

Many children need your attention and reassurance come bedtime. It’s natural that kids want to stay with their parents, especially if they have anxieties. But unless this is part of your regular sleeping arrangement, be firm about sleeping in your own bed.

In your pre-bedtime routine, make time for soothing and positive activities that you can do together, like taking a warm bath or shower and snuggling under the covers during story time. Give your child lots of cuddles and make sure they are settled in, comfortable and happy before you leave the room.

Ensure their bedroom is a safe space that they love

A child’s bedroom should be a safe space that they love.

Make it conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet and at the right temperature. The right decor can also help ease night time anxieties. For example, a cute night light is great for kids who are scared of the dark, a white noise machine is perfect to mask noises that might wake up your child, and blackout curtains can shade the room from bright, outdoor lights. In the winter, when the air is dry or during allergy season, a humidifier can help your child sleep better.

Further reading: How to get your child to sleep in their own bed.

Don’t show any weakness!

Kids bedtime can be stressful and giving in to your children’s demands can be tempting when you’re at your wit’s end. But it’s important to be firm and not show any weakness (kids can smell this from miles away) if you want to end bedtime problems for good.

By sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and promoting good sleep habits, remember that you’re teaching your child important life skills like self-control and independence. Over time, they will grow to appreciate routine and structure, and all of you will benefit from a good night’s rest.

Kids bedtime routine | Beanstalk Single Mums Pinterest

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