A daily routine offers many benefits. It helps us get through the day without thinking too much about the little things. Even more importantly, it can set the stage for a good night’s sleep, so you and your child will wake up refreshed and ready to start another happy and productive day.

The Benefits of Routine for Children

Children benefit from structure. They learn what to do and when to do it. They learn how to do things, like brush their teeth, get dressed, solve math problems and so on.

There is plenty of room for creativity during the 9 AM to 3 PM school day and in extra-curricular activities. However, routines help them know what to expect and enable them to feel safe and secure. Regular mealtimes and regular bedtimes are two of the best ways to schedule your child and keep them happy and healthy.

How Much Sleep Does Your School-Aged Child Need?

Before we talk about a sleep schedule and sleep routine, it is important to know how much sleep your child needs, and why. If your child is attending school, assume they need ten to eleven hours of sleep per day, preferably at night rather than naps (which can be hard to get during a school day, and which can disrupt a regular night’s sleep pattern).

There are two stages of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Both are important, but REM is considered to be the most healthful and rejuvenating, allowing people to not feel sleep-deprived and to therefore put in a good performance every day.

Children enjoy about 30% REM sleep in a 90-minute cycle throughout the night. But if they do not sleep long enough, or deeply enough, they can start to become sleep deprived.

Signalling It Is Time for Sleep

A predictable daily routine will help signal it is time for sleep. Dinner, homework, a bit of TV and/or computer use, all show it is time to wind down at the end of the day and relax. The trouble is that when we get busy, these routines can start to suffer, with rushed meals grabbed on the go, too much homework, and the addictiveness of “just 5 more minutes” on a game that turns into another 30 minutes or more.

A bedtime routine should include getting into PJs, brushing teeth, and a few pages of a familiar old book to help your child wind down. There should be no media in the room. Reserve the bedroom for sleep. Cut down on clutter so they are not distracted. Make sure the bedding is comfortable and the room at the right temperature. If the long days of summer prevent your child from falling asleep at their regular time, get some blackout curtains.

Keep Up the Routine Every Day

It is okay to relax it a bit once in a while, but in general, try to stick to the same routine every day, even weekends and vacation. This will cause less confusion to your child’s “body clock” and make bedtime less of a battle.