Simple Wind Down Routine To Help Your Baby or Toddler Sleep Much More Easily
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It’s amazing how much you don’t think about bedtime or going to sleep until you have kids, then it pretty much becomes an obsession. You spend hours googling good routines, how many hours should a baby sleep? Is my child normal? Will I ever sleep again in my life?
Bedtime routines are important, even adults have their own. But what about the hours leading up to bed? Even if you have the best routine in the world, your child is not going to be able to wind down and relax enough to make the routine go as smoothly as it could, if they are hyped up prior to the routine.
By taking an hour to wind down properly each day you and your child will benefit greatly. I know this is easier said than done, believe me!
I´ve had days where even my best intentions and plans go flying out the window, a delay while running errands, unexpected visits etc. I have noticed though that on these days my son is more hyper, not as easy to get to bed, despite having the same bedtime routine since he was born, and extremely more irritable!
So what exactly does a wind-down hour look like? Well very simple really… keeping everything as calm as humanly possible!
In my house, it looks like this… (times are not exact, but just to show the general outline)
- 5pm – dinner
- 5.30 – 6.30 Park and outdoor time…getting as much of those giggles and wiggles (a.k.a energy) out before bedtime…plus I truly believe the fresh air and outdoors benefits us all greatly!
- 6.30 Start wind-down hour with a sleep-promoting food.
- 6.40 – Read Stories, and calm activities, this is the perfect time for some baby and toddler yoga poses
- 7.30 – Go to the bedroom and start bedtime routine
- 7.45 – Sleep
It´s very simple but very effective.
So let´s look at some of the key areas to make wind-down hour a success.
Quick Note: Overtired and overstimulated babies/toddlers are NO FUN to get to sleep, sometimes when they become really overtired they usually go one of two ways… super hyper or super cranky.. so keep an eye on hour many hours they have been awake before bedtime. Depending on their age and if they still nap in the afternoon, they may need more awake hours before bedtime, or less.. Also if they have had a super busy day with loads of brand new activities sights, smells, action etc you may want to bring bedtime forward half an hour.
If you’re really struggling I highly recommend Sleep expert Nicole and her amazing team over at the baby sleep site. What I loved about them is not only do they get results, they will work to find a way that fits with your parenting style.
I always like to start the wind down with a sleep-promoting food for two reasons. First, by giving a pre-bedtime snack 45-60 minutes before bed, it gives the body some time to digest and absorb all the goodness and keep them going until morning. Second, it seems to help my little one do a poo before bedtime, so I believe it helps reduce any upset, bloated, windy tummies, that is just my personal experience.
This is a big one! It is vital that all screens be switched off. Screens, whether it´s your T.V., Ipad, phone etc. emit blue light which inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our body it’s time to wind down for sleep.
Natural lighting is your best friend when it comes to bedtime, nature has designed our bodies perfectly to get sleepy when the night falls. However, our modern day artificial lighting and screens block this process making it more difficult. Thus, if you want wind down hour to be a success this one is crucial.
Note: Winter months when it´s getting dark before 5 pm make this a little harder, you can still use artificial lighting, but keep the lights dimmed if possible or have a red light in the rooms you will use for wind-down hour as this color doesn´t inhibit melatonin production.
Put Away Loud and Flashing Toys
These days there are so many toys that flash, shake, jingle, and make very, very, VERY loud (and often annoying) sounds. While these toys can be a lot of fun to play with during the day, it´s best to put them away during this chill out time. Having a dancing dinosaur, with flashing eyes, roaring and singing ABC is not exactly encouraging your child to keep it calm.
Connect With Your Child
Put away your phone, tablet, laptop, switch off the tv and really connect with your child, a lot of parents are at work during the day or toddlers are starting playgroups etc. Now is the perfect time of the day to remove all distractions and cuddle, tickle, rub noses, hold hands and give you undivided attention!
Reading Stories and Calm Activities
This is the perfect hour of the day to read as many stories as you can get through! In my mind I always pictured my little ones snuggled up to me, paying close attention to every detail and picture in the books. While we do have those moments, the reality is more like this – he sits and plays quietly with some toys while I read aloud to him, every now and then he will come over and point to something in the book before running back and playing with his toys some more.
As I mentioned above, now is not the time for flashing, noisy toys, just some simple building blocks, coloring, baby/toddler yoga, or even matching lids to plastic containers is perfect to keep them occupied while still being able to wind down.
We all have songs that can literally change our mood and energy levels. Think about the gym… unless you’re doing yoga, your more than likely listening to music that motivates you and has a faster pace. If you are relaxing at a spa (I can dream right?), that same music isn´t going to relax you, you would prefer a nice mellow chill-out number!
The same applies to the wind down hour, playing relaxing music in the background with low beats per minute (60 BPM would be ideal) can literally help your body calm down and relax. In fact, Neuroscientists in the UK found that one particular song called ¨weightless¨can reduce stress by up to 65%, in addition, they found the song to be 11% more effective at reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing speed than songs by Coldplay and Adele.
Here’s the song…
What if you don´t have time for a full wind-down hour?
Life happens and yes there will be days when everything does not go perfectly and that´s fine, but creating the right atmosphere in the hours prior to bed really does make a difference. However, I know not everyone has the time to spend an entire hour winding down after a long day, but even 20 minutes will make a difference, just do what you can, you’re already doing an amazing job! 🙂
So let’s recap…
- Try to avoid your baby/toddler getting overtired or overstimulated by keeping an eye out for how long they are awake before bed.
- Turn off the TV, Ipads, Phones etc… Keep the lighting low, ideally without artificial lighting to help melatonin levels rise naturally.
- Make sure all toys with loud noises, flashing lights etc are put away.
- Read Some stories or do calm activities
- Play relaxing chill out music in the background
- Keep bedroom with low lighting during the bedtime routine, avoid using lights that emit blue light, e.g traditional light bulbs, screens, etc. Instead, opt for a red night light, such as this oil diffuser (turned to red) as this color doesn´t inhibit melatonin levels. You can also add lavender to the diffuser which will also relax your little one and make them sleepy, it´s a win-win!
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Have any pre-bedtime rituals that help your little one calm down? Let me know in the comments! 🙂