Good, healthy bedtime habits for kids to get the rest they need

By creating healthy bedtime habits, you can aid your little one in getting to sleep swiftly and staying asleep through the night. We asked the founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, Mandy Gurney, how to do it.

5 min read
Sleeping girl on a parent's shoulder

Good, healthy bedtime habits for kids to get the rest they need

By creating healthy bedtime habits, you can aid your little one in getting to sleep swiftly and staying asleep through the night. We asked the founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, Mandy Gurney, how to do it.

5 min read

1. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine

“Establishing and maintaining a good bedtime routine is important, as it eases your child’s body and brain through the transition from the fun and excitement of the day into the preparation for a good night’s sleep,” says Mandy.

“It takes consistency and commitment, so it is best for you and your partner to decide on a simple bedtime routine that you can both stick to for years.”

“A good bedtime routine is the foundation on which healthy sleep habits are built and research shows it’s best to start early on.”

“Initially your young baby may not fully understand that having a bath and getting dressed for bed means that sleep is coming but by as young as 12 weeks, they will start to recognise that this series of steps means that it’s time for bed,” says Mandy.

A bedtime routine offers many advantages: it reduces night waking, takes less time for your child to fall asleep, provides an atmosphere of familiarity, warmth and security for your child, it helps to regulate your child’s sleep wake cycle and sets up positive sleep associations.
Mandy Gurney


2. Pay attention to what your child eats and drinks during the day

“Ensuring that your child is well hydrated during the day can prevent them from waking overnight for a wee or having a wet bed,” suggests Mandy.

Girls sitting on the side of her bed holding mom's hand


“Your child may be too busy with their day to finish their drinks and find themselves thirsty and needing to hydrate at the end of the day.”

“To avoid this, try offering them two good drinks over breakfast and then encourage them to have drunk two thirds of their daily fluid intake by about 3.00pm. Then there is no need to “restrict” fluids in the lead up to bed time.”

Some foods can help your child sleep…

If your child needs a snack before bed, then you could offer them food that’s high in an amino acid called tryptophan.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that our body uses to make serotonin; the neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic to help calm the brain. Serotonin is also the precursor to the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. In fact several studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in our diet can improve levels of melatonin leading to a positive impact on sleep.

Many foods high in lean protein such as chicken and turkey, eggs, fish, peanut butter, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese are high in tryptophan and are good “sleeper” foods.

Research also suggests that combining tryptophan rich foods with complex carbohydrates will help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan.

It is best to combine your tryptophan foods with complex carbs such as brown rice, oat cakes, whole grain bread, quinoa, brown pasta, buckwheat or whole-wheat crackers.

Smiling children sitting together having a meal


…other foods can make it harder for your child to sleep!

Foods that could inhibit sleep are known as “wakers”. These are foods that stimulate neurochemicals that perk up the brain such as sugary snacks or drinks and hinder them from falling asleep.

Ice cubes in a glass of cola


Caffeine has a half-life of 5-7 hours so aim to avoid giving your child any caffeinated drinks or food, especially after midday. Certain drinks such as cola can profoundly disrupt night time sleep and delay bedtime. Instead, try giving them a calming herbal tea like Chamomile. Just make sure to read the product’s ingredient label before using it.

3. Create a restful environment for your child

“As it gets close to bedtime,” suggests Mandy, “make sure your child’s bedroom environment is ready for sleep.”

“Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. Turn the lights down low, close the curtains and have a session of tidying up with your child. Then go into your bedtime routine—bath, pyjamas, story, and into bed. Keep the room dark and quiet and with clear surfaces and floors to calm the mind.”

4. Make sure your child gets enough physical exercise

If you are physically tired, it makes sense that you’ll sleep better.

Mandy Gurney


“Make sure your child gets enough activity during the day, whether that’s playtime at school or nursery or getting out to the park or playground,” suggests Mandy.

“If it’s a rainy day, you could do an online workout together—there are a lot on the internet.”

5. Set aside times to relax

Your child can be on the go from morning to night but before you start your child’s bedtime routine. Take some time to sit down together, have a cuddle and talk about their day.

Smiling family sitting on a couch


“If there is something worrying them, or they have something that’s on their mind, that’s the time when you will be able to listen and help. Children love the chance to have some quiet one-to-one time with their parent and if you have a very busy household, even 10 minutes will be highly appreciated,” Mandy says.

This can also be a time when you chat about anything that’s upsetting them and talk about ways you can help your child address this. For example, if they’re stressed or worried about bedwetting, but don’t want you to get up in the night to help them, it might be a good idea to show them how to change their own bedding during the night.

6. Make sure your child is woken at the same time each day

Even more important than bedtime is ensuring your child is awake at the same time every morning.

This is essential in regulating the body clock and helping your child fall asleep well at bedtime.

Mandy Gurney


7. If your older child still likes a nap, keep it short

Though babies and toddlers need naps, if your child is a bit older, keep their naps to a maximum of 20 minutes. Sleeping any longer than this could impact their ability to fall asleep well at bedtime.
Mandy Gurney


8. Keep mealtimes regular, too

Just as your child should have a consistent waking up time and bedtime.

Having regular mealtimes also helps to regulate the body clock. And to avoid digestion issues it’s best to finish dinner two hours before bed.

Mandy Gurney


Good bedtime habits can make a huge difference to you and your child's happiness

Every child deserves a good night’s sleep, so by following these tips and tricks, you should be able to help your little one have a restful night – and the whole family can sleep well!

“From a bedtime routine to a story before bed, ” says Mandy, “following a regular timetable and making sure your child is comfortable, calm and relaxed will help them sleep through the night.”

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This content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment.
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