Having trouble getting the kids to bed?

Worry not. New research from Ohio State University gives you the ideal excuse to get them off to bed early: late nights now will be bad for their health later.

According to Sarah Anderson, an associate professor at the university, children of preschool age who go to bed at 8:00 pm or earlier are half as likely to be obese 10 years later. The findings led the researchers to conclude that the perfect time to put kids to bed is 8:00 pm.

They come from consideration of the time that parents put children of 4 and a half years to bed and then compared it to the children’s body mass index (BMI) when they were 15 years old. Only 10% of those children who slipped between the sheets before 8:00 pm tipped the scales to the obese point, whereas 16% of the children who went to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 pm were obese, and 23% of the kids who went to bed later than 9.00 pm were obese. It demonstrates a clear link between bedtimes and health in teenage years.

How can you establish a good bedtime routine for your children?

Of course, no child wants to go to bed when you tell them to, especially not just because some researchers say they should. A parent has to bargain, reason, persuade… basically, use anything their power to settle the child(ren) down so they let them turn out that light. It’s a common daily struggle.

The million dollar question, though, is how do you get your kids to go to bed?

Make bedtime earlier

They may fight you all the way, but it really is in a child’s interest to hit the hay sooner rather than later. There comes a point when a child becomes overtired and when that happens, their body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Getting them to settle in will be much harder and they won’t sleep as easily. They may also wake up earlier than you’d expect them to. Stick to your guns and get your child to bed half an hour earlier, even if they don’t seem tired at the time.

Also read, The Problem of Baby Sleep

Be consistent

It’s important to be consistent. Even on the weekends or during the summer, you should keep your child(ren)’s bedtimes the same. If you do let them go to bed later, get them up at the same time. Letting them sleep in some days but not others can trigger shifts in their sleep pattern, making it harder for them to sleep at certain times (and causing you aggro when bedtime rolls around!).

Allow your child to wind down

We all need to switch off from the day’s activities. A child is no different, so give them time to wind down after the events of the day. Don’t just send them straight to bed after their supper. If they can watch TV from their bed, consider letting them watch a little, but not right up to the moment you put the lights out for them. Leave some time in between and read them a story instead.


Provide a ‘stand-in’ object

Children, bless them, get used to their parents being there when they sleep and start to understand it’s a necessary condition. It isn’t. Find an object that can replace you when you leave the room, such as a teddy bear or doll. Bring the object into the picture as early as possible. For instance, the teddy bear can ‘help’ make dinner and sit with the child while you read them a story, and then when you have to excuse yourself from the child’s room for the night, you can leave but explain to your child the teddy bear is going to stay and keep them company.

Also read, The Trick That Helps You Fall Asleep

Let your child have a say with choices

Children resist going to bed, but if you give them some say in the matter, they can be more willing to cooperate. Do this by offering some simple choices, such as ‘Do you want one story or two?’ (you can bet they’ll want two!) or ‘Do you want to wear the red pyjamas or the green ones?’ It’s important to provide clear options and not ask open-ended questions. Otherwise, both you and the child(ren) will become frustrated. Going to bed angry does no one any good!

Make the routine predictable

Keeping the routine predictable will ease them into getting ready for bed. Don’t introduce too much variety into the routine. Doing the same thing each day in the same order will begin to make them sleepy, which, ultimately, is the end goal. The benefit of this, too, is that it works both ways: when they start to feel tired, they’ll ask to do activities that are part of the routine, such as have a bath or have you read a story to them.

Also read, The Only 10 Exercises You Need To Get In Shape

Teach the child to fall asleep without you

This is the biggest challenge a parent faces in the night-time routine, but you were a child once, so you know it can be done. There are a number of possible approaches. One way is to offer the child a reward, which you establish beforehand with the child, if they can get themselves to sleep without you. Another is to move progressively further away from the child once they’re in bed and explain that you’re more comfortable in that spot, until, eventually, you reach the point you can leave the room straight away. A third would be to let them know you’re leaving the room but reassure them you’ll be back in to check later.

Establishing a good routine that gets the kids off to sleep takes a bit of work — they’re not going down without a fight! — but it’s totally within your power. Be patient and be firm (but not aggressively firm) so that you and your kids respect the routine, and lay solid foundations for your child to get a fabulous sleep and feel fresh the next day.