We know from Suzy Snooze and our sleep expert pals at Sleepio that ritual is super important when it comes to establishing healthy sleeping habits.
By performing the same set of activities each night before bed, we send powerful signals to our bodies and our brains that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. From newborn to teen, kids of all ages can benefit from consistent, nightly bedtime rituals.
There is no such thing as the perfect, one-size-fits-all bedtime ritual. The best one is the one that works for you and your family. The best one is the one that can be easily performed night after night but adapted over time as your kids change and grow.
We can't give you a neat list of fool-proof pre-bed activities, but we can offer you some tips on how to establish your own.
Regardless of what your pre-bed activities turn out to be, first and foremost, they ought to be quiet, calm, soothing and gentle. Try have as many activities as is practical happen in the calm of the bedroom. Make sure the room is warm enough, dim the lights and get rid of noisy distractions. To differentiate between wide awake daytime and relaxing night time, try subtly lowering the pitch, slowing the pace and dialling down the volume of your voice. If upbeat chatter and laughing and singing and dancing and playing is for day time, then moving quietly and gently and speaking softly is for night time. Give it a try!
What works for one, won't necessarily work for another
What helps one kid wind down, could just as easily wind another kid up. Don't feel bad about that. Everyone is different.
For instance, babies who enjoy being bathed might find a warm, gentle soak before bed soothing but babies less keen on the whole bathing business might just end up irritated and grumpy. Likewise, six year old Janey might fall asleep like clockwork when you hit 'play' on her favourite audio book - but when you hit 'play' on six year old Johnny's, he mimics his favourite characters while jumping on the bed.
When you're thinking about which activities to include in your bedtime ritual, think about your kids. Think about their preferences, their personalities, their moods... You know them best. You'll soon hit upon the right mix of soothing, pre-sleep actions.
Keep it simple
Don't be tempted to cram ten super-zen activities into your kids' bedtime ritual. Ideally afterwards they'd be SO relaxed they'd fall asleep in an instant, right? But realistically, they're more likely to end up over-stimulated or over-tired. Keep it simple. Best to stick to two or three quiet, calm, soothing activities.
The all-important factor of rituals is that they are consistent and predictable. The same things happen at roughly the same time every night. If your bedtime activities vary wildly from evening to evening or they start at different times throughout the week, the desired 'wind down, go to sleep' cues will be more difficult to establish. Build a ritual that's simple to implement - but more importantly, easy to keep up.