The #1 Trick to Getting Your Baby to Sleep More at Night

The #1 Trick to Getting Your Baby to Sleep More at Night

New studies reveal that a consistent bedtime is a really good thing for your baby. Here’s why.

Dinner, bath, PJs. Story, snuggles, songs. Every family has their own bedtime routine, made up of any number of different activities, and as parents, we rely on these routines to help our kids (and ourselves) wind down from the day. But now, new science is showing that bedtime routines, including when you finally put your child to bed, play an important role in how well your child sleeps at night overall.  

Earlier this year, three new studies were presented at the International Pediatric Sleep Association conference and at SLEEP 2024. The studies, a collaboration between researchers from Nanit Lab, UCLA, and Yale, focused on how factors such as bedtime consistency, routines, tech use, and actual bed timing affected the length and quality of a child’s sleep. The research revealed that babies do better when they have reliable, regular bedtime routines and bedtimes, providing valuable insights into how parents can help their little ones sleep better and longer at night. 

Babies and Bedtimes

Does it really matter if you put your baby to bed at the same time every night? In a word: yes. 

The first two Nanit Lab studies on variability and timing examined whether bedtimes influence the length of time a child sleeps at night. Researchers looked at how children were affected when their bedtime varied from night to night (for example, 7 p.m. bedtime one night, 8 p.m. another) versus when it was consistent. Researchers called this bedtime variability. The results were intriguing.

The Nanit Lab study found that babies who had a higher bedtime variability (when their bedtimes varied by more than one hour) slept less overall than babies who had a low bedtime variability (went to bed around a similar time each night, within a half hour). What’s more: Even if, on average, the bedtime was the same over two weeks, when the bedtime varied a lot, (by more than 30 minutes) the babies were more likely to sleep less.

The study also showed that the later a baby’s bedtime was, the less they slept overall during the night. As a parent, it’s tempting to suppose that if a child goes to bed later, they’ll wake up later the next morning. But in this study, researchers saw the opposite: Most babies slept less if they had later bedtimes. 

As a parent, it’s tempting to suppose that if a child goes to bed later, they’ll wake up later the next morning. But in this study, researchers saw the opposite.

Sleep solution: Try your best to make sure your baby goes to sleep around the same time every night, give or take 30 minutes, and aim for an earlier rather than later bedtime. A bedtime routine–even a 15-minute, simple one–is a great way to help bedtimes stay consistent and let babies get a solid night’s sleep. Establish a simple routine with activities that you and your child enjoy and can easily do whether you’re at home, traveling, or when another caregiver is helping your child go to bed. 

The Nanit App and Sleep Schedule Generator can help you personalize a routine and schedule, given your child’s behaviors and needs. Plus our new Care Log feature in the camera App lets you log your child’s daily activities, such as feedings and diaper changes, allowing you to see all their activities holistically and quickly get an overall sense of your child’s wellbeing. Nanit’s Sound + Light can also be programmed to help out during bedtime routines with colored lights signaling to your child that it’s time to get ready or to climb into bed. 

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    The Tech Effect: How Screens Influence Sleep

    The second Nanit Lab study, also written with researchers from UCLA and Yale, explored how infant sleep was impacted by two different elements: 1. A regular bedtime routine and 2. Use of electronics before bed. 

    In regards to routines, the study showed that when parents performed the same bedtime routine most nights a week (between six and seven), their babies slept on average 22 minutes longer than the babies of parents who only used the same bedtime routine for three or less nights a week. The results underline how important bedtime routines are to building healthy sleep habits. 

    One important element to avoid in a bedtime routine? Electronics. The study also revealed that children who used or were exposed to electronics, such as a smartphone or tablet, at bedtime slept 25 minutes less at night than babies who were not exposed to electronics.

    Sleep solution: As with the first study, this one also emphasizes how consistency (this time with a bedtime routine) is key to helping a child get more sleep. Also, if a screen plays a role in your bedtime routine, think about swapping it out for a similar—but not tech driven—activity. So instead of looking at pictures or playing a game on your iPad with your child, read a picture book together (choose one that’s not too stimulating), play with blocks, or utilize a screen-free tech option like playing music or an audiobook. You don’t have to take away iPad time entirely, just shift to something that doesn’t need a screen or use the device earlier in the day if you need to. 

    Sleep Strategies to Live By

    It’s up to you to fill your child’s bedtime routine with whatever they and you like best. Bubble baths? Beautiful. Music? Excellent. A snuggle and a story? Yes, please. Just leave the screens on the shelf. And make sure that your lineup of activities and your baby’s actual bedtime stay as close to the same from night to night as possible. The payoff? Better, longer sleep for your baby…which adds up to better, longer sleep for you too.

    Nanit is dedicated to delivering high-quality, reliable content for our readers. Our Parent Confidently articles are crafted by experienced parenting contributors and are firmly rooted in data and research. To ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, all articles undergo a rigorous review process by our team of parenting experts. Additionally, our wellness-related content receives further scrutiny from Nanit Lab, our think tank of scientists, engineers, physicians, academic experts, and thought leaders.

    Our primary objective is to furnish readers with the most current, trustworthy, and actionable information concerning a host of parenting topics. We strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions by offering comprehensive and respected insights.

    In pursuit of transparency and credibility, our articles incorporate credible third-party sources, peer-reviewed studies, and abstracts. These sources are directly linked within the text or provided at the bottom of the articles to grant readers easy access to the source material.

    CONTRIBUTORS

    Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

    Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

    Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

    Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.