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Barriers to Achieving Good Bedtime Routines

New research sheds light on common barriers for bedtime routines.

Dacota Corbyn/Unsplash
Source: Dacota Corbyn/Unsplash

A recent study has uncovered some of the most common barriers to achieving good bedtime routines in families with young children. My colleagues and I conducted the study, funded by the Medical Research Council in the U.K., between 2019 and 2020. A total of 32 first-time parents with young children under the age of 3 were interviewed as part of the study.

The vast majority of parents were aware of the importance of bedtime routines for their children's development and well-being. Also, most parents were striving to achieve a good routine each night. That is in line with previous studies showing an ever-increasing interest in bedtime routines and their benefits for children across the world and especially in Europe, the U.S., and Canada 1 .

When first developing their bedtime routines, first-time parents relied primarily on peer-support. They also drew from their own experiences as children and what their parents did around bedtime when they were children. Online resources, online parent groups, and books played an important role too. Nevertheless, many parents reported feeling underprepared and under-skilled for tackling bedtime routines each night of the week.

The most common barriers with regards to achieving a good bedtime routine each night were:

  • evening fatigue
  • lack of motivation to engage in the routine
  • resistance from children around bedtime with tantrums and other difficult behaviours.

Lack of motivation and fatigue were the two most common barriers reported by parents. When these barriers came together, they had a combined, significant effect on parents' mood, competence, and their ability and willingness to engage with the bedtime routine. Dealing with tantrums and other difficult behaviour was not uncommon throughout the day, but at bedtime, for some families, these issues became more prominent.

Awareness of common barriers in achieving good bedtime routines is the first, vital step in gaining a better understanding of how best to support and help parents to achieve good routines. Work on developing and testing bespoke interventions for parents and young children is currently underway 2 . Motivating parents and offering them practical resources and tips on how to best manage tantrums and difficult behaviours can potentially have significant effects on the quality of bedtime routines. Reducing fatigue might prove more difficult since there are myriad factors that can lead to evening fatigue, especially with a global pandemic forcing many parents to homeschool while working from home and caring for their children.

Establishing a good bedtime routine from an early age can lead to multiple benefits for children's well-being, health, and development. Benefits can also spread to improve parental mood and family functioning. Future interventions that support parents to overcome barriers and achieve good bedtime routines are therefore crucial.


1. Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2018). Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep medicine reviews, 40, 93-108.

2. Kitsaras, G., Allan, J., & Pretty, I. A. (2020). Bedtime Routines Intervention for Children (BRIC) using an automated text messaging system for behaviour change: study protocol for an early phase study. Pilot and feasibility studies, 6(1), 14.