We all know how important it is to get enough sleep. What we need to understand is bedtime matters for sleep. A lot. And more specifically a bedtime routine matters.

I learned the hard way that bedtime matters. There have been periods in my adult life when I just couldn’t get to sleep. It was hard-core insomnia. Those nights when you keep looking at the clock. The hours tick by. You realize wake up time is only a few clock digits away and you’ve spent more time worrying about getting enough sleep than sleeping.

And those nights were following one on the other, the stress was overwhelming.

Bedtime routines matter is a principle I learned from from the doctors I visited looking for cure for my nighttime restlessness. I’ve read about it in research books and heard it from parents who successfully get children of different ages in bed and asleep until morning.

Bedtime matters. Like the real estate “location, location, location” slogan, when it comes to bedtime and sleep it’s “routines, routines, routines”.

If you ever have the need to see a sleep expert, your bedtime routine will be the first thing they evaluate. They’ll most likely call it “sleep hygiene”. Here’s what the doctors told me in my search for the solution to my insomnia: Every day, get up at the same time, eat meals at the same time, move, and get a peaceful, calm bedtime routine in place.  Try that out for a few months and if it doesn’t work, let’s talk.

I implemented these medical experts advice and never had to go back. Turns out – they were right. They knew their stuff. That’s why they have the MD after their names. Here’s what Harvard Medical School has to say about why bedtime matters.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, sleep expert, author of two great books on sleep says:

There are two simple, cost-effective ways to get regular sleep. The first is exposure to natural sunlight within two hours of awakening. The second is to establish a consistent, calming, bedtime routine. Studies indicate repeatedly that children who live in a family environment where sleep is prioritized through wholesome bedtime routines grow up healthier, happier, and more successful.

Full disclosure: you can occasionally get off track. Even medical sleep experts have occasional sleepless nights. But I know that I can reboot my sleep in a day or two by following the guidelines in The Bedtime Blueprint. The Blueprint has everything you need to know about planning for sleep in one place. You can get it here.

Bedtime Matters for Kids

During my years as a babysitter, I noticed parents were not clear when it came to their children’s bedtime routines. They left contact numbers and emergency numbers. They suggested games and TV shows. But when it came to bedtime, I was given a lights-out time, and told to make sure they brushed their teeth, washed up, and went to the toilet. Any special book? Nothing special, just have the children pick one out.

Big mistake.

It’s good to give kids a sense of control and empowerment. However, like everything else in life, timing is is key. Let the kids pick out a book when mom and dad – the regular “tucker-inners” are in charge. Do not switch up the bedtime routine when there’s a babysitter.

Kids choose books that were the length of War and Peace. Or at least it felt like it! Then there were the many times siblings fought over the book choice. Fighting is not a great energy to transition to sleep. There were nights when they chose a book with monkeys jumping on the bed or a wild rumpus. More bad energy.

Bedtime routines matter. They cue our bodies and brains to transition to sleep.

They also affect our daytime mood. Dr. Yvonne Kelly has studied bedtime in thousands of homes in the United Kingdom.  Here’s what she has to say in this interview on National Public Radio:

 Children with late bedtimes and non-regular bedtimes were more likely to have behavioral difficulties…things to do with hyperactivity and conduct problems. So hitting people and acting out, and not getting on with peers, and being emotionally withdrawn.

That’s a big “wow” in my parenting book! And worth prioritizing bedtime in your life and your family’s life.

Get the free “Done for You!” bedtime chart and never have to think about when it’s bedtime or lights out. Based on recommended sleep times for ages 5 and up as well as wake-up times, the “Done for You!” bedtime chart makes it easy to put sleep first. Get it by clicking here.