Many parents might wonder why bedtime routines are so important for their children. After all, for some adults, going to sleep is so easy that it seems almost involuntary. The issue is that infants, toddlers and older children all need to experience sleep in certain ways in order to learn good sleep skills. Disciplining a circadian rhythm is part of what many of us do during our formative years in order to sleep well in the future. Establishing bedtime routines can help your child's development and assist her in becoming calmer and more well rested throughout the rest of her life.
The First Months
Many professional doctors recommend that parents introduce their infants to day and night cycles as soon as possible. This may not occur to some parents who keep pretty arbitrary schedules, especially when their babies are crying and feeding at night. According to some sleep professionals, it's still important to establish daytime hours for wakefulness and nighttime hours for sleep as soon as possible, and to keep reinforcing these ideas until the baby starts to internalize them.
Some doctors recommend simulating the senses of being in the womb in order to calm restless babies. The idea is that white noise, light motion and other methods can give a baby the sense of calm that goes along with the fetal stages. This is generally for younger infants, but may apply through the first several months of their development.
For Growing Babies
Like newborns, infants who are 1 to 2 years old still need to practice good sleep routines in order to establish healthy sleep habits. The way that some professional doctors explain this is that babies need to put themselves to sleep before they become overtired. Otherwise, they may become increasingly agitated by their inability to easily fall off to sleep. The idea is that babies actually need energy and alertness to actively wind themselves down into a sleeping state. This may be somewhat counterintuitive for some parents, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
Bedtime routines can change along with seasonal changes or developmental eras in the life of an infant or child. Parents often introduce bedtime disciplines and routines at successive ages in order to help the child maintain a sense of order in her days, which can lead to more overall discipline and a sense of control that builds confidence and social skills. The method may be different for each child, but the overall structure of established sleep cycle really pays off for most kids as they continue to interact with the world around them.
It makes sense to consider all of these aspects of sleep cycles before deciding what to do with bedtime routines for a child. Parents that educate themselves about "sleep science" and circadian rhythms are better able to help their children be calmer throughout the day and sleep better at night.