13 - 15 Months

How to create a sleep-inducing bedtime routine for your toddler

The bedtime routine is one of the most time-honored traditions of early childhood. But it wasn’t until 2009 that researchers confirmed that following a predictable pattern of steps before bed helps toddlers fall asleep more quickly and wake up less often.

A bedtime routine is important because it sets the tone for sleep, explains Lauren Lappen, Lovevery’s certified sleep consultant. “Predictable patterns help children feel secure,” she adds. “They understand a sequence of events, and it helps them relax.”

5 elements of an ideal bedtime routine

  • Aim for about 30 minutes. Your toddler’s brain and body need quiet time to ease into sleep. A bedtime routine of about 30 minutes keeps them on task and gets them to bed before they get overtired. When the routine lasts too long, it’s easy to get off track, or your toddler may get cranky and resist going to bed.
  • Keep it consistent. Toddlers thrive on predictable routines. Try to follow the same steps in the same order each time, even when you’re traveling. Aim for about five at night—for example, put on pajamas, brush teeth, read a book, get into a sleep sack, and sing a bedtime song. For naps, you can make the routine a little shorter by skipping the pajamas and teeth brushing, for example.
  • Help your toddler relax. Your toddler needs time to unwind from their day, just like you. Avoid frolic play or anything that gets them excited. Instead, keep it calm and quiet, so their body can get ready for sleep.
  • Stay focused on them. Research shows that children fall asleep more quickly when they receive calm, patient, attentive care at bedtime. Feeling seen and connected to a parent or caregiver before bed helps them feel more calm and secure. Bedtime protests are often about looking for attention, so try to keep all of your focus on them.
  • Include a book or two. When reading is part of the bedtime routine, toddlers sleep on average 26 minutes longer, according to one study. Lappen recommends having a small selection of books and letting your child pick one or two. This is a great opportunity for them to voice their opinion. It’s okay if they choose the same books every night. Young children find comfort in predictability, so reading a familiar story can be calming, particularly right before bed.

Learn more about the research

Mindell J.A.; Telofski L.S.; Wiegand B.; Kurtz E.S. (2009). A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep, 32(5), 599–606.

Mindell, J. A., Meltzer, L. J., Carskadon, M. A., & Chervin, R. D. (2009). Developmental aspects of sleep hygiene: findings from the 2004 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Sleep Medicine, 10(7), 771-779.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, 19 - 21 Months, Feeding & Sleeping, Sleeping, Cognitive Development, Sleeping, Lovevery App, Parenting, Child Development

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