5 Bedtime Routines for Children Who Have Trouble Sleeping

You’ve survived until the end of the day, and you just want your kid to GO. TO. BED. Dealing with a child who has trouble sleeping can make a mean mommy out of even the most patient saints.

I find that a lot of kids have trouble at bedtime due to some underlying anxiety. Usually, they can’t even name it, but the anxiety keeps the brain alert when it should be winding down for the night. This is unfortunate since sleep is such a crucial part of childhood development and successful days!

Building a connecting activity into your child’s bedtime routine can help her drift off to sleep without all the drama.

bedtime routines trouble sleeping children

Building a connecting activity into your child's bedtime routine can go a long way in helping reduce the drama. #parenting Click To Tweet

Diffuse a Calming Essential Oil

Let your child help select the oil each night. Giving shared control as often as possible can keep control battles from erupting at inopportune times. Start diffusing about an hour before bedtime.

Lavender, Calming Blend, Copaiba, Gounding Blend, and Roman Chamomile are all great choices for a child’s bedtime routine.

Sing a Connecting Song Together

As you sing, mirror your child’s facial expressions and body language. This helps increase attachment and decrease anxiety. Also, if you tend to be a distracted mom, like me, it helps you to stay present in the moment with your child. Add this to the beginning of the routine in case you get a little silly!

I Love You So Much by Barbara Milne is a great one. I also am a huge fan of Becky Bailey’s book I Love You Rituals

Read a Reassuring Book Together

Choose a book with a message of security, love, and attachment. I like books with an easy-to-read rhythm and rhyme. The predictability is soothing.

Our favorite book was God Made You Special by well-known biographer Eric Metaxas.

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Provide Relaxing Touch

Warm touch stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin which enhances a sense of trust and attachment [1].

Try adding a hand massage to your nighttime routine or the poem and matching motions for “X Marks the Spot.”

X Marks the Spot

Draw on their back as you say each part (actions in parentheses). If your child is a sensory kid, try using firm pressure when doing the motions.

X marks the spot (draw X)
with a dot and a dot (dot left and then R side of upper back)
and a dash and a dash (draw dash left and then R lower back)
And a big question mark (draw on entire back)
There’s upsies (walk fingers up back along the spine)
And downsies (walk fingers down back along spine)
And downsies (same)
And upsies (same)
There’s pinchies and squeezies (massage shoulders)
And cool summer breezies (blow on back of neck)
O goes around (draw an O)
with a pound pound pound pound (lightly pound fist in all 4 quadrants of back)
There’s upsies (walk knuckles of R & L index fingers up either side of spine)
And downsies (walk knuckles down spine)
And downsies (same)
And upsies (same)
There’s stripies (draw stripes on back)
And wipies (wipe hand over whole back in circular motion)
And kitty cat swipies (cup both hands and gently swipe at back 4x)
An 8 makes a gate (draw large figure 8)
Run on in, don’t be late (draw 8)
To chop carrots, potatoes and even tomatoes (chop back with sides of hands)
There’s upsies (walk fingers up spine)
And downsies (walk down spine)
And downsies (same)
and upsies (same)
And loop the loops while stirring the soup (double doodle on either side of spine)
An 8 standing up (draw figure 8)
and an 8 laying down (draw infinity connected to the 8)
make a clover
Do it over and over and over (so keep drawing and 8 connected to infinity until done with rhyme)

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to decrease stress and increase regulation in the body. Research shows they are a promising treatment for sleep issues [2].

Try this guided meditation designed to help children fall asleep or search for additional resources on YouTube. There are also apps like Breathe Kids which have guided meditations for kids.

Is bedtime a nightmare? Try these tried and true tricks tonight. #sleep #parenting Click To Tweet

As you incorporate these ideas into your routine, be careful to not create control battles over them. Try introducing them into other, less stressful parts of your day first. Also, give them time to make a difference. Unfortunately, there are no magic fixes in parenthood!

If you’re always reading these blog posts and hanging out in Facebook groups and still wondering which tips are best for your unique family or you never have time to do all the research you’d like, coaching may be a great option for you. You can schedule when it fits in your schedule and walk away with tips and encouragement that are JUST FOR YOU. No wasted time. No more uncertainty.


You’re a good mom, doing good work, and I’m here for you!

What part of your child’s bedtime is saving your life right now?

Leave a comment with your questions and suggestions. I love hearing what’s going on in your houses!

*In full disclosure, there are some affiliate links in this article, but I would recommend them anyway.

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