Help Your Children Sleep Better with a Wind Down Routine |

Help Your Children Sleep Better with a Wind Down Routine

Sleeping is anything but a passive activity.

During sleep, the body cycles through many different stages that allow the body to rest, brain waves to activate, and hormones responsible for your child’s healthy growth and development to be released.

Not getting enough sleep shortcuts these processes, setting the body up for a slew of potentially serious health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not getting enough sleep is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and poor mental health. Children who don’t get enough sleep can be at risk of problems with their immune systems, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and poor performance in school.

How much sleep your child needs for good health and development will vary by age (keep reading for those details) but one of the best ways to ensure that your children get the sleep they need, in every stage of life, is to have a nightly wind-down routine.

Winding Down Before Bed

A wind-down routine is a nightly block of time where your child can engage in low-key activities to help their body rest and prepare for sleep. In our house, I call it “quiet time” and it usually begins about 1 hour before bedtime.

Winding down before sleep is important because it takes time for your body to actually fall asleep and it’s much easier to do if your body has already had a period of ease and relaxation.

Your wind-down routine can look like whatever works for you, but according to the Sleep Foundation, it should include the following basics:

  • Dimming the lights
  • Disconnecting from all devices and electronics
  • Keeping noise to a minimum

With my children, our evening quiet time involves:

  • “Closing” the kitchen
  • Turning off all lights in common/high-traffic areas of the house
  • Making sure that they have showered, brushed their teeth, and have pjs on
  • Putting away all computers, games, and noisy toys
  • Dimming the lights in the bedrooms
  • Allowing only quiet, simple activities like reading, drawing, card playing, or conversations in their bedrooms

When my kids wind down, they fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer, and wake up on time with fewer hassles. When they don’t wind down before bed, they can be up for a long time after lights are out, resulting in less overall sleep, more instances of night waking, and more groggy/cranky behaviors the next day. 

Winding down before bed even helps me sleep better and over the years has become a crucial part of guarding my fajr prayers.

Implementing a Wind-Down Routine

If your family isn’t yet used to having a wind-down routine, it may take a bit of time to get into the habit. I suggest starting with thinking about how much time your child needs to sleep, based on their age and stage, and starting to reduce their pre-bedtime activities little by little to slowly give them more of the sleep they need.

According to the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others, here is how much sleep per day our children should be getting on a regular basis for optimal growth and health:

  • Infants (4-12 months) - 12 to 16 hours (includes naps)
  • Toddler (1-2 years) - 11 to 14 hours (includes naps)
  • Pre-School (3-5 years) - 10 to 13 hours (includes naps)
  • School Age (6-12 years) - 9 to 12 hours
  • Teenagers (13-18 years) - 8 to 10 hours

So let’s say your 13-year-old is currently falling asleep at midnight but waking at 6 am to pray Fajr and start getting ready for school. Then they are only getting six hours of sleep per day, two hours less than the minimum recommended amount for their age range.

Switching their bedtime two to three hours earlier overnight will likely result in pushback. Instead, try having a reasonable discussion, present the evidence, and express your concerns while also listening to their points of view. Then you can begin working together to create a wind-down routine that works for you both.

Maybe at first it means just turning off devices earlier and dimming the lights, even if they’re still up until midnight. But over time, as their bodies learn to relax earlier, you can start moving the bedtime earlier by 20 to 30 minutes at a time until your child is getting the rest their body needs. If moving the bedtime is not enough, you may also need to think about your overall schedule and see if some commitments can be cut back on so that your children’s sleep can come first.

I also suggest allowing your children to help determine what rituals or habits will go into their wind-down routine. This can help give them a sense of ownership of the idea and engage their cooperation rather than just demanding that they sleep earlier.

Enjoying a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea, lighting a scented candle, reading a book, slow stretching, reciting Quran, journaling, or drawing are all calming activities that can be done during evening wind-down time.

Working together to create your family wind-down time can help ensure that you find a routine that works for everyone and helps model healthy sleep habits for your children for years to come. And good sleep for your children, can also bring benefits for the entire family, inshaAllah (God willing).

Further Recommended Reading

For additional reading on sleep and its impact on our families, try these resources:

From the Sleep Foundation:

What Happens When You Sleep: The Science of Sleep | Sleep Foundation

Children and Sleep | Sleep Foundation

How to Sleep Better | Sleep Foundation

Sleep Strategies for Children  | Sleep Foundation

From the CDC:

Schools Start Too Early | Sleep and Sleep Disorders | CDC

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? | CDC

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

AAP Endorses New Recommendations on Sleep Times


Melissa Barreto is a home-educating mother of five and the Co-Founder of Wildflower Homeschool Collective, a homeschool organization based in Northern New Jersey. 

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