In my practice, I recommend that all parents follow a regular bedtime routine with their younger children. Research has shown that a consistent bedtime routine is linked to better sleep in kids. However, there are no studies that have looked at whether a bedtime routine works better if done every night or just once a week. This study did just that. It involved a questionnaire of over 10,000 moms who had children up to 5 years old. Results showed that less than half of all families had a consistent bedtime routine every night. In those families with a consistent bedtime routine, the children had earlier bedtimes, shorter time to fall asleep, fewer number and duration of awakenings, and more total sleep per 24 hours. Also, there was a linear relationship between number of nights per week of bedtime routine and sleep outcomes - meaning that the more times per week there was a bedtime routine, the better the sleep outcomes. Perceived sleep problems also went up as the number of bedtime routine nights per week went down. Finally, there was a relationship between daytime behaviors (including hyperactivity, attention deficit, and difficult behaviors) and consistent bedtime routine. Again, the relationship was such that a more frequent bedtime routine meant less problematic daytime behaviors.
The authors conclude that pediatricians could easily recommend a consistent bedtime routine to all of their patients. Pediatricians could explain that a bedtime routine is a set of the same activities done in the same order on a nightly basis prior to turning the lights out. For example, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and then reading a story before turning out the lights.