How Long Should Bedtime Routine Take?

Judging from comments and questions, bedtime and sleep habits are one of the biggest issues that parents face. We all want to know how to get our babies to sleep through the night, how to keep toddlers from getting up in the night, and how to create a smooth and pleasant bedtime routine. One of the questions that come up is how long a typical bedtime routine should take? If you are starting your bedtime routine right after dinner and still trying to get your child to bed two hours later—it might not be working…

I do think that it is important to give bedtime its due—rushing through or just sending a child to bed can be problematic and make it tougher for kids to settle down and get to sleep. When my children were younger, our routine consisted of a snack, followed by bath and then story time. After the last story was bedtime. We would reach different amounts of books each night depending on how sleepy I thought everyone was, how late it was, or whether I thought we needed a little extra time to get calm. The routine used to be that at the end of bath time, as everyone was getting dried off, I would give the number of books per person—it was a 2-book (or 3 or 4) night. The first person to get into their pjs and gather their books and get them to my lap got to have their books read first, then second and third. We read the books in order of how they arrived. Then, there was a final trip to the bathroom before bed. Usually, the whole routine took about an hour. As the kids got older and it became a “chapter book” that we were reading instead of picture books, it still took about an hour.

If your bedtime routine is taking longer, or it does not result in the child getting into bed (and going to sleep)—you might need to re-evaluate. Are you starting too soon? Is there a lot of “back and forth” in your routine? The experts say that a good bedtime routine has the child moving in one direction—toward bed—and not coming back downstairs for a snack after bath time, or getting up once she has gotten into bed. Are you trying to rush through the routine and the child is balking and putting up a fight? Bedtime can be a pleasant, wonderful time for parents and children and does not have to be the nightly battle. It might just take some evaluation and adjustment on your part to find a routine that works.

Also: Who Gets to Choose the Bedtime?

Teaching Your Child to Stay in Bed

Your Baby’s Body Clock