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3 Helpful Bedtime Habits for the Whole Family

Whether you’re establishing better routines for yourself or your kids, everyone will benefit from a peaceful night’s rest.

Reading a bedtime story
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Bedtime. It’s a word that strikes a yearning chord for some, with the allure of soft, cool sheets beckoning. For others, particularly parents with small kids at home, the word conjures repeated “goodnights,” arguments over five more minutes, and worry that the evening’s struggle will result in a groggy morning. Time to think about trying some helpful bedtime habits.

The space between a worrisome or blissful bedtime can be bridged by solid, consistent habits that cultivate a view of lights-out. In this case, in a way that’s welcomingly comforting and restful, even when our busy minds and bodies are asking for “just five more minutes.”

Father and son brushing teeth as a bedtime habit

1. Do Habits in Order

When my son was a toddler, a family member gave me a piece of terrific advice—have bedtime involve the same set of activities, done in the same order every night. That way, even if there’s something going on that means a later bedtime than usual, the cues of first brushing your teeth, then washing your face, then getting into PJs, then reading a book will guide your child toward dreamland on a subtle, even subconscious level. This strategy has continued as my son has gotten older—and I have adopted this habit for myself as well.

Mother tucking daughter into bed after doing bedtime habits

2. Temper the Temperature

There’s a funny meme making the social media rounds that says, “I don’t want to be warm—I want to be cold and then made warm by a blanket. Why is this difficult to understand?” A good sleep habit is to cool the room so you feel enveloped and soothed by your blankets when you snuggle into bed.

Fresh air from a cracked window, or the gentle brush of a low-running fan can give your room a briskness that helps you feel relaxed and comforted in your warm bed. Kids will love to cuddle into their footed pajamas and find a relaxing fort of warmth in their beds at lights-out time.

Mother and son reading a bedtime story as a habit

3. Don’t Skip the Bedtime Story

Kids love bedtime stories—and many a grown-up has drifted off to dreamland while reading their child a soothing, cozy story in dim light after a long day. Just because your child can read on their own (and even if they do, after you leave the room) doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy hearing you read a simple story, or a chapter-a-night from a bigger book, before bed. If that works for your child, it will certainly work for you too.

Try to have a book by your bedtime—a paper one if possible—to thumb through and send yourself the message, “it’s bedtime.” If you need or want your phone by the bed, use an app to listen to “sleep stories” or meditations. Treat your inner child to a soothing tuck-in.

What helpful bedtime habits work for your family?


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