Bath, Books, Bed: A Sacred Ritual
My husband and I learned when our first child was a baby that a consistent bedtime routine was the only way our energetic guy could settle down to sleep…and therefore the only way we as his parents could catch some z’s, too.
The pattern of bath, books, bed before 8 p.m. became a sacred ritual, and we repeated the mantra of the three B’s incessantly, to anyone who would listen. (Obviously we were CRAZY FUN at parties during this period.)
Eleven years later, we are still obsessed with the three B’s, and only for the most special of occasions do we ever allow our children to stray from the line-up. During the school year, it is sacrosanct. Of course, now the books are read independently by our two oldest (although sometimes the kids read to us), and we have modified the lights-out time to 9 p.m.
My husband and I started this routine for our own sanities, but we have come to learn that instilling good sleep habits and ensuring that the children get enough sleep each night is essential to their health. Their growth, performance in school, physical well-being are all dependent on adequate, good, hard sleep.
Our kids are usually sporting brushed teeth, PJs and reading books around 8 p.m. We allow the older kids to quietly read until lights out at 9 p.m. (usually they fall asleep before “curfew.”) We do not stray from this pattern much on weekends, unless we are attending a very special event, because then it makes reverting to school night bedtimes more painful.
All gaming and computer devices and the television are strictly banned after bath. We started this because it was so difficult to pull the kids away from these tantalizing glowing screens in the evening and we did not want to fight with them. Later we read that electronic devices and TV before bed disrupt healthy sleep.
But wait, my kids need to sleep a little more!
Now lest I sound like some perfectionist mom (oh look at me, lahdidah, my kids are sleepers), I learned something huge when writing and researching this piece. Our kids go to bed around 9 p.m., and are up in the morning at 7 a.m. (preschooler Alice stays in the sack until 8.)
My kids are technically getting the bare minimum of sleep they need each night!
The CDC recommends the following number of hours of daily sleep for children of different ages:
- Newborns: 16-18 hours a day
- Preschool-aged children: 11-12 hours a day
- School-aged children: At least 10 hours a day
- Teens: 9-10 hours a day
I think maybe our family needs to push the curfew back to 8!
Do not use OTC meds to get kids to sleep
If your kids are used to staying up late after summer slacking, there are lots of ways to help them settle down to sleep during the school year. Healthy foods finished well before bedtime (digestion can disrupt sleep), no caffeine, daily exercise, a bedroom without the distractions of TV or excessive toys and a consistent routine that works for your family all help kids fall asleep.
One thing we parents should never, ever, ever do is use OTC cold and flu medicine as a sleep aid for kids. First of all, the diphenhydramine that is supposed to cause drowsiness could actually make your child hyperactive and artificially excited. But more common side-effects are also negative, such as a pervasive drowsiness that could follow your child into the daylight hours. If the whole point of a child’s good night’s sleep is so that they can be at the top of their game at school, this is counter-productive. Additionally, adult prescription sleep medications can be harmful and life-threatening for children.
Learn more from the experts
Just as I learned some great tips (and that my kids may need more sleepy time!) from the experts at OTCSafety.org, you can glean some great advice from them too. Check out Promoting Healthy Sleep for Kids by Dr. Val Jones and Pin this helpful infographic for posterity.
Disclosure: I am proud to serve as an #OTCSafety blogger on behalf of OTCSafety.org. I am compensated for my original contributions and help spreading the word about families’ safe use of over-the-counter products.