Bedtime tip: Set a start time and stick with it. Here’s why….

For the first 4 ½ years of my daughter’s life, I was a single mom. Many would say I was lucky – my “nut” was small when it came to rent. I had a skill teaching music to young children, so I could work just enough to pay the bills and bring her along with me. I had a job singing alto in a church choir on Sunday mornings. The choir director generously allowed her to come to evening rehearsals…and on Sunday mornings I would literally cry when I saw babies sleeping in their mothers’ arms because she never would.

My darling daughter just loved to take in the world no matter how tired she was. So bedtime routine was a must for both of us: her development and my peace of mind.

The problem of sleep deprivation is international, effecting all ages. Just reading the implications is enough to give you chronic insomnia. Redirecting sleep routine contains so many factors one can get overwhelmed.

But nothing ever is overwhelming – this is completely in our personal command and can be addressed step by step. Rather than an “ought” consider bedtime routine a new “plus” in your family life.

Step One: What’s your nature?
The first step is to determine what your temperament is. Do you treasure those extra bits of sleep, and want to go play with your child almost immediately on waking? Or do you treasure the solitude of morning for some time to center or do some healthy physical movement? Is this the best time of day to connect with your partner?

DO check out Carol Tuttle’s blog The Child Whisperer to understand the unique nature of everyone in the family.

Step Two: Timing
The second step is to decide when you want to wake up. An hour before your child? 45 minutes? 30 minutes? From that time, you count backwards to determine sleep requirements for your child’s age.

As an example, say you thrive on having an hour of quiet time in the morning. Everything seems to flow better and you have more patience to manage the (surprise) events of the day. You want to get up at 6, and you’d like to cultivate your child to wake at 7.

You have a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old (12-14 hours and 10-12 hours of sleep respectively). The 1-year-old will be in bed at 5PM. The 5-year-old will be tucked in, head on the cool pillow at 7PM. Bedtime routine for the family starts at 4PM.

Of course even with the essential “ish” addition to the times (4ish) makes this a bit daunting. 4PM? Really? Most people are still at work. But 4PM is the time to turn electronics off – including televisions. . I know from personal experience how difficult it is not to fall into television, but the light from behind electronics screens passes through the retina into the hypothalamus – the area of the brain that manages sleep activities. Given the long-term implications of sleep deprivation, ask yourself if it’s worth making this choice a plus rather than an ought. If you feel as if you’re giving up something, there’s always Tivo.

Stay tuned to Sleepytime Club’s upcoming posts on how to fill this time, cultivating calm without the doldrums, and more bedtime tips.

Meanwhile, start simply by deciding to turn off the electronics 2 hours before bedtime.

Once the 1-year-old is in bed listening to a calming story or lullaby recording, make the next scheduled tuck-in time a family affair. This is when the 5-year-old can have “Big Kid Bedtime”. Do something special together or allow for some adult/child parallel play.

In addition to the calming activities from earlier in the evening, this is an opportunity to nurture another good habit: getting ready for tomorrow. Laying out clothes, drawing a picture of a favorite activity or imagining what the weather will be like, putting out a special toy for wake-up time encourages your child to anticipate the next day…and may also buy you some extra solitude in the morning. Do you have family elders to call and ask for suggestions about what to do during these no-electronics hours? They may not be from the days when radio ruled, but they probably remember no Internet, and a vast choice of cable channels. You may find yourself with a volunteer babysitter.

And once the 5-year-old’s a sleep, you, the caregiver, have a well-deserved 2 ½ to 3 hours to nurture yourself.

Download Sleepytime Club’s free Bedtime Blueprint to organize your days for peaceful nights.