Whether it’s nap time in the United States, or bedtime in China, Kathleen Lees says that a new study confirms what we’ve all heard before: bedtime routines make a big difference:

A multinational study that consisted of 10,085 mothers from 14 countries reported that less than 50 percent of infants, toddlers and preschoolers had a regular bedtime routine every night. Furthermore, study findings revealed a consistent bedtime routine that had better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter amounts of time in bed before falling asleep, reduced night walks and increased sleep duration.
Yet those with a bedtime routine slept an hour longer on average every night. A regular bedtime routine was also associated with decreased sleep problems and daytime behavior problems, as perceived by mothers.


The study also indicated that the earlier parents institute a bedtime routine (younger children respond better), the better the child will do at bedtime, as well as through the night.


Here are a few ideas to help you establish a bedtime routine for your child:

  • Start with deciding an appropriate bedtime for your child. This decision is based on several factors, including child’s age and family dynamics, and is up to you and NOT your child! The bedtime routine starts well-before “lights-out.”
  • Avoid meals and snacks right before starting your bedtime routine.
  • For infants, toddlers, and young children, a warm bath before bedtime is a great way to start your routine.
  • Wipe or brush teeth before bedtime. (Remember to use just a very small amount of regular, fluoride toothpaste when using a toothbrush.)
  • Tell stories and read books with your child. Agree on what books will be read and how many before you begin. (Avoid the “just one more book, pleeeeease!” request.)
  • Say goodnight, exchange kisses, and leave the room. (Let us know if this part is a problem.)
  • Don’t hold or rock your baby until they fall asleep. Try to put your baby down in their crib before they nod off. (Important rule: Don’t hold a sleeping baby —  grandparents may briefly be exempted from this rule!)
  • After six months of age, your baby should be sleeping, if possible, in their own room. (I’m okay if you separate yourselves earlier, but that’s a different PediaBlog post.)


More PediaBlog on sleep here.