I have written about our bed time routine quite a bit. It is an extremely important part of our day and one that we prioritise over most things. As a neurodiverse family we are, perhaps, a little more rigid with our routines than some families. Sticking to our routine does sometimes restrict us in things we can and can’t do. However, it also means that the whole family has come to cherish the bath, book and bed routine. Bed time is family time and, as a result, we almost always have a calm and relaxed bed time routine – and we all get more sleep because of it! Bath time has also always been a multi-sensory experience for us – a time for relaxing sights, sounds and smells. Johnson’s bed time products have been a part of that routine since Biggest and Littlest were tiny.
The Benefits of a Multi-sensory Bath time and Bed time
Did you know that bath time, including a warm bath followed by massage and quiet activities, is scientifically proven to improve quality and quantity of sleep in babies? In the first 3 years of life, every interaction can help shape a baby’s developing brain. The everyday rituals parents create become more powerful when multiple senses, such as smell and touch, are stimulated. These are just some of the benefits parents may see, when using a regular bed time routine that stimulates their little one’s senses:
- Reduces stress in babies and parents
- Improves weight gain
- Improves maternal mood and anxiety
- Creates memory for language development
- Improves heart rate
- Promotes bonding
- Influences emotion and memory in the brain
- Promotes relaxation and enhances mood for babies and parents
- Stimulates learning when combined with touch
- Facilitates early communication
- Demonstrates enhanced neural processing
- Provides foundation for social development¹
As you can see from the graph on the left, there is evidence to support the idea that both parents and babies have reduced levels of Cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) during a scented bath time.²
When we first started our routine, we did not really have a deeper knowledge of how important those bonding moments were in terms of a baby’s development. We just knew that we enjoyed the routine and the time together. As it turned out, Biggest needs routine even more than many children. Upon reflection, I do not think we can underestimate how much our routine and the sensory elements of the routine, have helped him.
How Our Bed Time Routine has Evolved
As the children have grown, we have adjusted our bed time routine, bit by bit, to grow and evolve with us as a family. When Biggest was born, I would bath him and have quiet and massage time, before feeding him in his darkened, quiet room. As a tiny baby, he started off in our room, and then we adapted the routine for his room. We found out very early on that Biggest really struggled to sleep without gentle noise stimulation. In fact, that has carried on to this day. When he was tiny we used to play a radio on classic fm quietly for him. These days he has a specialist white noise machine, designed for this exact purpose.
Many children would not like this noise at bed time but Biggest is autistic and a sensory seeker. As a result, he needs this gentle background noise to sleep. He also has all manner of sensory aids in his room – gentle lamps and a solar system projector included. He continues to use Johnson’s bed time wash and lotion before bed, adding sleepy scents to the sensory stimuli that help him to relax and drift off.
When Littlest was born, we slowly transitioned to Biggest having a story in bed after his sister was asleep. These days, both children have baths, and occasionally showers, and then go off into their rooms for stories, songs and quiet sensory time before bed. Both have stuffed toys that they always take to bed too.
The bed time routine starts at 7pm in our house. At 7.30, Matt and I leave them to fall asleep in their own beds.
Littlest’s personalised dressing gown has become a real favourite of hers during the bed time and morning routine. It was gifted to us as part of our role as Johnson’s Ambassadors by the delightful My 1st Years. Check them out for more beautiful personalised items.
What are your hints and tips for a relaxing and stress-free bedtime routine? How has your bed time routine evolved as your children have grown? I would love to hear what works for other families.
And here’s to a bed time routine that works – and sweet dreams!
Please note, this is a paid collaboration with Johnson & Johnson, as part of our role as Johnson’s Ambassadors. For more information, please see our Disclosure Policy.
¹Peláez-Nogueras, Martha, et al. Infants’ Preference for Touch Stimulation in Face-to-Face Interactions. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology1996;17:199-213
Hart, Sybil, et al. Preschoolers’ Cognitive Performance Improves Following Massage∗. Early Child Development and Care1998;143:59-64.
Field, Tiffany, and Maria Hernandez‐Reif. Sleep Problems in Infants Decrease Following Massage Therapy. Early Child Development and Care 2001;168:95-104.
Mindell J, et al. A nightly bedtime routine: Impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep 2009;32(5):599–606.
²Adapted from Field et al. 2008