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Parents’ guide: Bedtime

Getting a good night’s sleep for you and your little one is likely something you’ve been dreaming of.

But as impossible as it may seem, it can become a reality. Settling your child into a consistent bedtime routine can ensure they are ready for sleep and even give you some time to unwind after.

In this post, we will look at why your little one needs sleep, how much they should be sleeping, reasons to start a bedtime routine and finally our top tips for getting started.

Let’s jump straight in!

Why sleep is important

There is so much to cover in this section, but we’ll keep it super short: sleep is vital in the development of young minds.

It impacts alertness, attention, mood, resiliency, and the ability to learn and remember.

It’s also super important for growth and motor skill development!

We’ve included some resources if you’d like to explore this topic below.

How much should my child be sleeping?

The NHS recommends the following for early years (including naps):

Newborns – most newborn babies are asleep more than they are awake. The total time varies but can be from 8 - 18 hours.

3 – 6 months – 8 hours or longer at night. By 4 months, they may be spending around twice as long sleeping at night as they do during the day.

6 – 12 months – up to 12 hours a night plus naps.

From 12 months – 12 to 15 hours in total after their first birthday.

2 years old – 11 to 12 hours at night, with 1 or 2 naps in the daytime.

3 – 5 years old – average about 12 hours of sleep but can vary from 8-14. Some may still need a nap during the day.

Why you should start a bedtime routine

Every family is unique but starting a bedtime routine that works for you will help your little one get a good night’s sleep, helping them function and develop.

But did you know starting a routine can also…

· Signal to your child that it’s time to rest and help them fall and stay asleep.

· Help your little one learn how to transition from a busy day and settle for sleep.

· Cause them to behave better - according to research, children with irregular bedtimes experienced more behavioural problems.

· Aid to ease separation anxiety and help your little one relax.

· Help prevent them from developing sleep issues in the future.

· Assist in taking the stress out of putting your little one to bed and help become a relaxing time for you both.

Tips for bedtime routines

· About an hour before bedtime, make your home as calm as possible – turn off music, tv and other screens and avoid active games and activities.

· Avoid giving your little one large amounts of food close to bedtime.

· Try to keep bedrooms as screen-free zones – the light from screens awakens the brain and can confuse the circadian rhythm.

· If you have the time, a bath can signal it’s time to rest, this can be followed by brushing teeth and putting on pjs.

· Make sure your little one’s bedroom is ready for sleep – make sure it’s dark and at a comfortable temperature, consider installing blackout blinds or a nightlight depending on your child’s preferences.

· Share a bedtime story! This will not only help your child relax before bed but is also a great way to bond, giving you one-to-one time.

· Chat to your child about their day or the plans for tomorrow to help put any worries to rest.

There are hundreds of free resources out there with suggestions, timings and even charts to help you maintain a familiar bedtime routine every night. We’ve linked some of these below.

As a final note…

If you’re having issues with your little one’s bedtime or have any concerns about their sleep chat to a nursery manager, your key person, health visitor or GP.


Sleep guides

Emma’s Diary – A guide to your baby’s sleep

NHS – Helping your little one sleep

Baby Centre – Establishing good sleep habits

Why sleep is important

Pacey – Why sleep is so very important

Anna Freud National Centre for children and families – Sleep guide

Sleep Foundation – Children and sleep

Charts and bedtime printouts

Healthline – Toddler bedtime routine chart

Crazy Life with Little Ones – How to create a bedtime routine that works

What to Expect – Baby sleep schedule

The Incremental Mama – Free printable bedtime routine chart

Books for storytime

Penguin – Soothing books to help children sleep soundly

Read Brightly – Children’s books build bedtime routine


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