by Tamara Dicks
Bedtime could be the most important part of the day as it may determine how one functions during the day hours. Bedtime rituals have even been scientifically proven to affect cognitive development. Research done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed “Children in families with optimal bedtime routines showed better performance in terms of executive function, specifically working memory, inhibition and attention, and cognitive flexibility. Also, children in households with optimal bedtime routines scored higher in their readiness for school and had better dental health.”
So what do we need to consider so we can take advantage of these statistics? First, an optimal bedtime should be a consistent, planned event, and a time of calm repose. However, accomplishing this does take planning—down to the last drink of water and final trip to the bathroom.
Decide what is going to be worn for bed and what blankets are necessary. Decide if the door should be open or closed. Decide if the last drink will be taken at bedside or in a different room. Make a plan for brushing teeth and saying good night to the parents, siblings, and animals. Plan what book to read and how much of it. We need to plan for every contingency because children can be experts at making the bedtime ritual last two hours (a link is included below for more happy bedtime rituals to consider). Organizing the room may also be part of the ritual, allowing clutter-free ease of access to clothing and items needed for the new day.
While bedtime rituals vary, one of the most important factors that we all need to consider is the lighting at bedtime as it has been shown to have an effect on the entire night’s sleep. If a nightlight is used, place it at the furthest point in the room from the bed. Nightlights (and other sources of light: alarm clock light, light strings, lamps, hallway light, etc.) can be very bright and interfere with our child’s internal clock, thereby interfering with a sound sleeping pattern.
The National Sleep Foundation reports “Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the eye to parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature, and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide-awake. Too much light, right before bedtime may prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, one study recently found that exposure to unnatural light cycles may have real consequences for our health, including increased risk for depression. Regulating exposure to light is an effective way to keep our circadian rhythms in check.”
Last, we need to consider the intangible elements of bedtime rituals. Let’s take the time at the end of the day to reconnect and affirm our little ones. We should place their focus back on what is truly important and end their day with thoughts of God, family, and others.
Bedtime is important and can be enjoyed instead of dreaded—it just takes a little planning and consistency. Sleep well!
Tamara Dicks was a medical transcriptionist/platform trainer, medical transporter for a residential facility, and pastor’s wife. She is the mother of 6 and has been married to her college sweetheart for 38 years. They are foster parents for the state of Minnesota. Tamara currently writes for the Maple River Messenger and teaches CPR.
Bedtime Routines Child Well-being and Development