I remember when we had our first child. We were so focused on how to get him to sleep through the night that we read every possible blog on bedtime routines. Over 10 years later, we still see the positive impact of the nighttime routine on our kids. It isn’t extensive, but it does the trick.
When we don’t do it, bedtime is just… different.
Why, as adults, do we think bedtime routines are just for children? Even the term, “bedtime routine,” evokes images of babies. But the more I read on the topic of habits, and implement what I learn, the more I realize that bedtime routines truly are helpful for everyone. No matter the age.
ROUTINES ARE NOT SCHEDULES
One thing that’s important to note is that routines are not schedules. Schedules are events with time constraints. Routines are just the sequence of events. They can be done at any time, and what makes them so effective is that, when done regularly, they trigger our brains (and bodies) to know a specific thing (in this case, sleep) is coming.
Regardless of what time we got our babies to bed, we consistently went through the same set of steps. Babies are unaware of the actual time, but when you start dimming the lights, changing them into their pjs, reading a story, and giving them their bottle it triggers something.
“Hey, we do this every day. It’s time for bed.”
Our adult brains are no different. I mean… maybe they are… I’m not a neuroscientist… But experience has taught me this. When I have a bedtime ritual it does the same thing for me that it did for my babies. It triggers something that makes my whole body feel relaxed, and it preps me for a better night of sleep.
Whether I get to bed on time, early, or late I stick to the routine. When I don’t, bedtime is just different.
HOW TO CRAFT A BEDTIME ROUTINE
There are two questions to ask when crafting your own, personal bedtime routine.
- WHAT WILL SET ME UP FOR A RESTFUL NIGHT OF SLEEP?
For me, shutting off my phone at least an hour before I want to hit the hay is the first step. I recently put block-out times on my phone, so I can’t use social media (or any other time-wasting apps) after 4:30pm. Making sure the house is picked up and the dishes are done are also helpful for me.
The question is, “What is it for you?” What are the top 3 things that make your mind race at nighttime when they’re left undone? Add them to your bedtime routine.
There are also things that are just helpful for humans in general. Dimming the lights. Shutting off technology. Quieting the house. Reading. Prayer. Journaling. All of these are restful activities that prep our minds before our heads hit the pillow.
One suggestion is to have a notebook by your bed, so you can write down anything that pops up as you’re trying to go to sleep. Nothing combats rest like thinking, “I need to remember to ______,” all night long. Just write it down.
- WHAT WILL SET YOU UP FOR SUCCESS IN THE MORNING?
Bedtime routines aren’t just about getting you into a restful state. If you’ve failed to find success with your morning routine it may be because you didn’t prep yourself for success the night before.
Example: I love to have a single cup of coffee in the morning. The problem is I grind my own beans, and running the coffee grinder is a terrible idea if I want my kids to remain asleep. Part of my bedtime routine is to fill my kettle with water, grind my beans, and set out my cup. When I wake up in the morning it’s quick and easy, and I don’t have to worry about waking up the family.
Write down the top 3 things you want to accomplish each morning. Then ask yourself what you can do the night before to make your mornings a success.
HOW TO STAY CONSISTENT
One thing we’ve noticed is that when we (Trent and I) are doing something we’re really into it’s easy for us to prolong bedtime. I mean, it’s just one more youtube video, right?
To help us stay on track we’ve had to set an alarm. At 8:00 pm the alarm goes off, and it alerts everyone that it’s time to get ready for bed. If you want your kids and/or yourself to get a restful night’s sleep then you need to prioritize the bedtime routine, and in order to have the time to get the routine done you need to start it on time.
Remember earlier when I said routines aren’t schedules? Routines are the actual activities you do and the order you do them. A schedule is a time frame in which to get them done.
The beauty of the bedtime routine is that regardless of when you start it’ll trigger the sleepy-time response. But to make it really effective you do need to start it at a reasonable time. Queue the schedule.
BUT DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
Truthfully, bedtime routines aren’t perfect systems. Life still happens. Sometimes the alarm goes off, and we choose to keep watching TV. Other times we get to it right away, but our kids start to whine. Don’t they know they’re supposed to be calm and agreeable every night?
The point here is not to expect perfection. It’s just progress. It’s just finding something that will make the majority of your days better. And we believe having a bedtime routine won’t just be good for your kids. It’ll be good for you too.
Do you already have a bedtime routine? Do your kids? If something works really well for you we’d love to hear about it in a comment. If you’re not really sure where to start, drop us a comment and we’ll try to help.
Here’s to establishing better habits 🥂
Because there’s a better way,