From Nightmare to Sweet Dreams: Five Tips to Improve Your Bedtime Routine

Kid sleeping

Did you know that preschool-aged children need anywhere from 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night? Making sure this happens every single night can prove difficult if all the conditions aren’t quite perfect. But, how can you ensure that bedtime goes smoothly at night, allowing you and your child to get a good night’s sleep? Two words: bedtime routine.


Why Do I Need to Establish a Bedtime Routine?

At this point, you might be wondering why a routine is essential, especially if you have a child in preschool. They’re old enough to understand that sleep is important, and they need it to stay healthy, right? Probably not. While we love the independence we’re teaching in preschool, there are a few things that our children have to learn to accept, and we as parents and caregivers must hold firm. Sleep and safety are two big ones!


Similar to how children thrive with a predictable routine during the day at preschool, they also need one at bedtime to signal to them that it’s time to start relaxing, preparing for a long night of sleep. By adhering to a routine and taking into account a few tips to make it as comforting as possible for your child, you’ll be on your way to making bedtime something that is no longer dreaded, but a great family bonding experience!

Kid sleeping

Consequences of Poor Sleep Habits

While the most obvious benefit of a great bedtime routine is sleep for all, there are plenty of other reasons you should want bedtime to go off without a hitch, because the consequences of a poor night’s sleep can have a substantial effect on your child the next day. A few of the results of poor sleep habits in children are:


  • Behavior problems
  • Impaired learning/attention span
  • Poor school performance
  • Mood and emotional problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Physical health problems


While your child’s sleep habits won’t change overnight, because after all, nothing is a magic cure-all, instituting a few tips and a comforting, dependable bedtime routine can help your preschooler get used to sleeping. Plus, it’ll become more manageable for the whole family the longer you stick with it.


Five Tips to Improve Your Bedtime Routine

Whether you institute all five of these tips into your preschool child’s bedtime routine or just find one that might work for you, we hope something resonates and helps make the transition to bedtime easier for all! Let’s check out some tips that can help ease the transition, either to an earlier bedtime or just an all-around easier bedtime routine in general!


  1. Institute “wind down time” at least thirty minutes before bedtime
  2. Give your child control over pajamas, loveys, stuffed animals
  3. Incorporate sound machines or calming music
  4. Take a look at the thermostat
  5. Just add water


  1. Institute “Wind Down Time” At Least 30 Minutes Before Bedtime

One of the things toddlers and preschool children tend to struggle with the most is the suddenness of change. Picture someone popping in to let you know that you’re going to bed right now, but giving you no time to prepare, physically or mentally, before it’s time to lay down and go to sleep. Whether you have an intense face-washing regimen or spend time thirty minutes reading before bedtime, you have a routine that signals to your brain that it’s time to prepare for a night of sleep, so why wouldn’t children need the same? Allow them to have a few minutes, typically about 30, to wind down before laying down. This doesn’t mean they have to lay still in bed the whole time. They can take a warm bath, read a few books. The biggest rule here is not to introduce screens or any activities that will stimulate their bodies and brains (like tag or hide and seek) before we expect them to settle down for the night.


  1. Give Your Child Control Over Pajamas, Loveys, Stuffed Animals

Lots of children in our preschool classrooms still have comfort items that give them a sense of security during rest time, like loveys or a special stuffed animal. We allow and encourage these because we want our kids to feel comfortable and safe when they lay their heads down for rest. It’s no different at bedtime at home! Sometimes, allowing your child to pick out their jammies on their own or making sure they have all their favorite loveys in bed with them makes bedtime less of a production and more productive for everyone involved. Does your child love Toy Story? Maybe grab them a pair of Woody, Buzz, or Jessie PJs the next time you’re out shopping! The key here is to embrace their unique personality and allow them to have a little more control at bedtime, making them feel like they have a say in the routine.


  1. Incorporate Sound Machines or Calming Music

Many parents adopt white noise machines when their children are babies to help aid sleep and to mask potentially loud household noises that may occur after bedtime. However, if you’ve got a preschooler that’s a light sleeper, continuing to use a white noise machine may not be a bad thing. Often, repetitive noise can lull them to sleep and help them stay asleep. These days, you can even find a noisemaker that doubles as a nightlight, changing colors to alert your preschooler when it’s okay to get up and come out of their room in the morning. If your child doesn’t respond well to white noise, playing some calming music, like their favorite lullabies, in the background while you cuddle before bedtime. They can be a great signal that it’s time to calm down and prepare for sleep!

 Child sleeping.

  1. Take A Look at The Thermostat

You know what it’s like trying to sleep in a room that’s way too hot or too cold. It’s uncomfortable and rarely translates into a good night’s sleep. It’s the same for kids! Check-in on how their room feels before bedtime. Too hot? Too cold? Making sure the temperature is comfortable means your toddler will sleep better throughout the night. Don’t forget to take a look at what pajamas they’re wearing and how many blankets are on their bed, too. That can often lead to a child being overheated or too cold in the middle of the night.


  1. Just Add Water

This one seems simple, and it is! Just add water. No matter what the situation, often if you put your child in a warm, relaxing bath, you can fix almost any problem! Not only does a warm bath provide the calm relaxation your child needs to get in the right mental space for bedtime, but it’s also the perfect addition to a nightly routine to replace screen time or another stimulating activity. Next time you hit a roadblock and have a fussy child on your hands, just add water!


You’ve Got This!

Whether your current bedtime routine feels more like a nightmare than sweet dreams, always remember to stay positive! Parenting a young child can be difficult and often lead to frustration, especially when everyone in the house is suffering from lack of sleep. But always remember—it can and will get better! Contact us if you have any questions or need more tips for creating a bedtime routine that works for you and your preschooler.