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20 Helpful Tips to Make a Bedtime Routine That Actually Works

How do you have an uninterrupted, quality sleep? With a great bedtime routine.

This story was produced in partnership with GoodNites®, the NightTime Underwear that works to keep kids dry and worry-free, so they can do what they do best: be kids.

There are endless reasons why you’ll find your 5-year-old in your room in the middle of the night: fear of monsters, feeling cold, accidental bed-wetting — the list goes on. Sure, there will be nights where they need to hop in your bed, but you can lower the odds of having an overheated, squirming, kicking body next to you on any given night by putting together a solid bedtime routine. As any parent knows, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. Use these expert tips to maximize a good night’s sleep. Here’s your guide.

Start With Their Room. When your child feels some sort of ownership over the space where they sleep, the odds of them wanting to spend more time there increase. Consider allowing your child to pick out her own bedding, or at least the color of their sheets and blanket. If they’re into trains or are obsessed with dolphins, add themed pictures, decals, and mobiles around the room.

Pick Nighttime Rituals That Bring Joy. Knowing what to expect instills a sense of calm and security in kids. Bedtime rituals don’t have to be long and involved; simple things like sharing a book together or singing a favorite (soothing, not rowdy) song is a great way to signal that sleep is about to happen.

Put Away Electronic Devices. It’s fun sharing a book or game together on your iPad before bed, but the blue light emitted from the screen (as well as that from cellphones, TVs, and laptops) is counterproductive, causing your child’s brain to remain alert. Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bed, and read together the old-fashioned way instead.

Schedule a Last-Call Bathroom Visit. Lower the likelihood of middle-of-the-night accidents by sending your kid to sleep with an empty tank. Make it part of your nightly routine to visit the bathroom 15 to 20 minutes before lights out, whether or not your child thinks they need to go.

Be Consistent. If bedtime is 8 p.m., it’s 8 p.m. every night — weekday or weekend, holiday or not. It’s fine to make it 7:45 or 8:15; it’s not fine to make it 9 p.m. The variance may seem small to you, but it’s enough to upset your child’s internal clock, the one that tells him when it’s sleep and wake time.

Pro Tip: The Right Amount of Sleep How much should your kid sleep, exactly? It depends. While not all kids need the same amount of sleep, there is a definite range you should aim for. Preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours, while a grade-school-age kid should get 9 to 11. Remember, being overly tired doesn’t make it more likely that your child will sleep through the night: It actually wires them for hyperactivity and tantrums.

Pre-Empt Nighttime Accidents. Any dad knows that daytime potty training and nighttime bedwetting are two very different things. For most kids, staying dry at night can lag 4 to 6 months behind being trained in the daytime, but for others it takes more time. GoodNites®, the #1 NightTime Underwear can be just the thing that helps the potty training graduate sleep comfortably. Made from super-absorbent fibers, GoodNites trap moisture and odor, keeping your child, and their bed, dry.

Install an Intercom. Two-way talk-and-listen speakers allow you to keep tabs on how your kid’s faring on their own, while also letting them call out to you during the night without having to leave bed to do it. Part of the routine may be to test the intercom. “Goodnight, goodnight!” heard over the speaker is more calming than you may think.

Fill the Room With Friends. Of the silent, furry sort of course. Stuffed animals or a favorite doll can temporarily substitute for dad when bedtime comes. When the time comes, say goodnight to them, too. Make it part of the routine.

Keep Water Nearby. While it’s true that an empty tank is good insurance against bed-wetting, it’s also true that dry air irritates the throat, sending your kid in search of a drink. Place a non-breakable cup with a few ounces of water on a bedside table within your child’s reach.

Count Stars. Remember those glow-in-the-dark planets and constellations you used to have pasted on your bedroom ceiling as a kid? They are still around and provide a good distraction for kids when sleep won’t come.

Pro Tip 2: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Night-Lights Though fears of darkness tend to affect toddlers and preschoolers the most, even older kids can get freaked out in a pitch-black room. Night-light options seem to multiply by the day. Some come in child-friendly animal shapes; others are battery-operated and can sit on a bedside table for extra reassurance. Many come in multiple colors to choose from. There’s one you should avoid: The blue light emitted from electronic devices such as iPads and laptops. This can interfere with the body’s internal clock and make your child feel alert instead of sleepy.

Talk About It. In-depth discussions about the important role sleep plays in developmental milestones will fly over her head, but even a young kid can grasp the concept that staying in bed for the whole night will make her feel really good in the morning.

Arm Them With Monster Spray. It might be a plastic spray bottle filled with H2O, but to your kids it’s the powerful antidote to all that goes bump in the night.

Keep the Bed Dry. One of the main reasons kids wake up from nighttime accidents is the sensation of lying in wetness. After all, one in six children between the ages of 4 and 12 experience nighttime wetting. While you work with your child to eliminate bedwetting, GoodNites® NightTime Underwear and Bed Mats provides a practical, efficient solution to keep kids comfortable in bed.

Help Kids Tell Time. Is it time to get up yet? How about now? Maybe now? For young kids still learning to tell time, place dark tape over the minutes on a digital clock and position the clock so it’s easy to see from your child’s bed. When the hour number says “7,” it’s time for them to come find you.

Reward Them With Stickers. Some call it bribery. Not exactly. If you’re a father with a 5-year-old popping up bedside every night, you’re more likely to call it a sanity check. For every night your child remains in bed, she gets a sticker of her choice. For every five stickers, she gets a small prize.

Pro Tip 3: How to Read a Bedtime Book Reading together before bed is a time-honored ritual cherished by kids and parents alike. Here’s how to make it a success:
  • Situate yourself in such a way that your child can participate by turning the pages.
  • Alternate reading nights with your spouse to offer a new perspective and voice.
  • Go ahead and be silly. Do characters. Get into it. But don’t raise your voice too loud or gesticulate wildly. Remember, it’s a bedtime story, and “calm” should be the general mood.
  • If they love the book, read it again. And again. Familiarity is soothing (and sleep-inducing). Plus, it helps them to learn cadence, delve into the plot, and practice their fledgling reading skills.

Purchase a Kid-Friendly Alarm Clock. If your toddler is too young to tell time, consider a kid-friendly clock that changes color when it’s time to get up. Green means go, but until the clock turns green, kids must stay in bed.

Keep at It. Oh sure, it’s a lot easier said than done. But remember, it takes several weeks for habits to form, and if your kid is already conditioned to climb out of bed at midnight, it’s going to require some time to reverse things. Be patient and stay consistent.