The Benefits of Bed Time Routines Go Far Beyond Sleeping Through The Night

The impact lasts long beyond the next morning.

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The following was produced in partnership with our friends at JOHNSON’S®, who work with parents, healthcare experts, and scientists to deliver the highest-quality baby products. To learn more about their clinically-proven three-step routine to help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, click here.

Getting a baby to sleep through the night is a monumental parenting achievement. The benefits of better sleep, including improved mood to decreased obesity risk, are plentiful and profound for both children and parents. “Better sleep leads to better outcomes,” says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, summarizing the state of research. This prompts the question asked by millions: How do you get to better sleep? The answer, according to Mindell’s research, may be to establish a consistent nighttime routine.

The refrain of the literature around sleep issues? Routine, routine, routine. Mindell, who serves as Associate Director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and wrote the bestseller, Sleeping Through The Night, specifically, has led some cutting-edge research on the impact of a routine on sleep. In one study of several hundred toddlers with parent-defined sleep problems, a prescribed sleep time routine led to significant improvements within just two weeks. Kids calmed down and fell asleep quicker, slept better, and snoozed continuously for longer stretches. Gleeful parents furtively popped champagne.

In a global study of more than 10,000 children from newborn to three-years-old, Mindell’s team found a dose-dependent relationship between having a BEDTIME® Routine and sleep. The more nights a week a family institutes a routine, the better a baby sleeps. Adding just one additional night a week with a routine delivers benefits, and even if nothing else changes (like nap schedules), simply instituting a routine can make a huge difference.

Routines lead to better sleep, and better sleep leads to better outcomes. Like any responsible scientist, Mindell cautions against jumping directly from A to C. She is confident, though, that the whole of a nighttime routine may be greater than the sum of its parts. Along with a team of experts, Mindell helped create the JOHNSON’S® Baby three-step BEDTIME® Routine of a warm bath, soothing massage with lotion, and quiet time together. Each of those elements correlates with an improved outcome that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sleep.

A bath can aid language development as parents playfully tell babies which part to wash next (and keep inside the tub). A massage, followed by getting dressed and brushing teeth, is heavily touch-oriented, and many a study has proven the benefits of touch from immune system strength to brain development. And quiet time together, whether reading, praying, or singing lullabies, has obvious language and literacy benefits in addition to the strong bonds forged during those moments.

“I’m more and more convinced that a BEDTIME® Routine helps sleep outcomes but is also in many ways the perfect package,” says Mindell. “Because it also helps so many other things.”

The Key to Bedtime Routines for Your Kid

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and a calming routine that includes a warm bath, a massage and a lullaby to soothe your child to sleep.

Those are the immediate returns, but there are also long-term benefits. Mindell says there’s a clear correlation between sleep and mood, and suspects that better sleep relates to better memory consolidation and therefore better learning. “Does that mean babies that sleep well will have higher IQs? Studies are mixed. Sleep is a piece of a puzzle and there’s high individual variability. But there’s no doubt sleep habits at an early age improve all aspects of well-being–mood, cognition, learning, health, and family functioning,” she says. “If parents stick to the basics of an early sleep time and a BEDTIME® Routine, that will get them really far.”

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