How to create a bedtime environment that helps your child sleep

The bed’s super cute and your little one chose the sheets all by themselves.

Lovies or dinosaurs are hiding under the covers and the drapes match up perfectly.

It’s a beautiful bedtime environment.

So why is your child tossing and turning and singing for ages before going to sleep?

Why does she jump out of bed and stare out of the window or come out into the hallway looking for you with that sad little face on?

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Personalize your child’s sleep environment

The truth is that personalising your child’s sleep space is a great thing to do.

When they see their own stuff and the sheets they picked out it feels like it’s really theirs. Their little cocoon.

And having those feelings of ownership and security can help your child feel more willing to go to bed – and haven’t we all experienced nights when our usually delightful kids just don’t want to go to bed?

But sleep environment has a few other practicalities that you need to consider if your aim is to get your child into bed and off to sleep without a fight.

And the matching of the drapes really doesn’t matter as much as this stuff.

Let’s see what those are now.

Room temperature range

Obviously, room temperature matters when you’re trying to get you child to go to sleep without a fight.

You probably remember a night when you were so cold you woke up your partner with your shivering – or so hot that you three all the covers away and it still didn’t help.

I bet it wasn’t a great night’s sleep – you probably felt like you’d do anything to get some shut-eye.

Maybe you didn’t go to the extremes of this little chap, who couldn’t sleep in his hot bedroom on holiday:

too hot to sleep

Yep, I found him crashed out on the cold tiles in the living room at 7 am. 

If the room’s too hot or cold, sleep’s hard to come by.

Kids can act out when they’re too hot in bed

And it’s not just that it’s harder to sleep when you’re too hot or cold.

If you’re seeing new bedtime behaviours that you don’t like and summer is coming, ask yourself whether a warmer bedroom could be the problem – even in part. 

If it’s too hot (or cold), it’s hard to get comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you can’t relax and settle to sleep.

That’s when you might see your kids getting loud and excitable, bouncing up and down or singing – just when you want the exact opposite

Ideal bedroom temperature for kids

So aim for a cooler temperature range in the bedroom. Somewhere in the 65° – 70°F (18° to 22°C) range is perfect – some experts suggest as low as 16°C / 61°F.

You might need air conditioning, a fan positioned well out of reach or a child-safe open window to achieve a cool enough bedroom in summer.

Or extra blankets and fleece sheets to keep your child warm enough in winter.

Bedtime clothing and blankets need to fit the weather and time of year or it’ll be that much harder to settle your little one.

Yeah – that’s hard if your kid loves their dinosaur fleece blanket and matching jammies SO much but it’s June and even 70° in the bedroom’s hard to achieve.

Is it too light or too dark in your kid’s room?

To black out or not to black out, that’s the question.

Blackout often works great for babies who don’t have any fear or negative associations with darkness – and if your kid’s fine with being in the dark, you should go with that. It’ll make things easier, as we’ll see in a minute.

But a three or four year old – especially if they’re experiencing night terrors – might like a small night light or cracked open bedroom door to allow a little light in.

How bright and how open is up for negotiation – too far either way and your child won’t settle like you want them to – so a little trial and error needs to happen to figure out what works best for your child.

What if the bedroom is too light?

The absolute worst night of the year for getting little kids to bed is …. the day the clocks go forward.

Ugh. Your normally compliant kids are saying it’s not bedtime, refusing to wear any of their 25 pairs of pajamas and asking for drinks even though they just had milk.

Sound familiar?

Spring can be a season of tough bedtimes for parents of little kids.

Depending where you live, the sun could still be up when they’re going to bed.

They can see all their toys waiting for them in the yard and it feels like time to play – not time to sleep.

This is when a blackout blind can make a big difference – by instantly bringing night time to the bedroom. 

And that darkness could take a little getting used to, but it’s worth comforting them through that to get past the tricky ‘It’s not bedtime yet,’ moments you get otherwise.

It’s worth making the whole house darker if it’s super bright where you live. Closing the doors to other rooms and pulling blinds to eliminate as much sunlight as you can give the illusion of evening in the house.

And once the little terror’s asleep you can let that lovely daylight back in.

fall asleep alone preschooler

Melatonin response

Darkening the house and especially the bedroom is partly to encourage melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy – and daylight has a suppressing effect.

Daylight is ideal for waking your child up in the morning and you can help set their body clock by getting them outdoors early in the day – and darkening the house in the evening.

What type of blackout blind is best?

Two common types of blackout blind are permanent blinds and travel blinds that attach to the window with suckers.

We’ve always used the travel type – which is great for trips away and works just fine once you get the suckers to stick.

But a permanent, fixed blind would probably be easier if you don’t want to have to lick suckers every night to get them to stick and end up with a yucky window. 

Whatever you choose, it’s the effectiveness that really matters. Getting rid of the broad daylight flooding the bedroom won’t put your kids to sleep just like that – wouldn’t that be amaaazing? – but it’s a start.

Blacking out sets an evening feel that helps your child become ready to sleep faster.

(And the sucker blind can go away for the whole winter when evenings are dark anyway.)

Blackout blind
Suckers and velcro let you fit and adjust this blind to any window

What else matters for a child’s bedtime environment?

The other issue that causes friction at bedtime is noise.

Older kids gaming next door, the TV downstairs or your little one’s friends still playing outside can create a serious sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that makes them desperate to go join the fun instead of settling to sleep.

And you might not want to close the windows to shut out the outside sounds, or force everyone in the house to wear headphones – those these are definitely options to consider.

So what about white noise?

White noise covers all the other sounds in the house – from flushing toilets to creaking floorboards as you listen at the door to see if they’re asleep. 

Do you need a white noise machine?

A white noise machine gives you a bunch of options for which sound your kids prefer.

Ocean waves? Rolls of thunder? A babbling brook?

You can set it playing and leave and it’ll keep going all night – and if you get a Hatch (which is also a night light and wake-up clock) you can control it from your phone.

But, but, but – you can try white noise out for free. And keep doing it for free if you want.

Get white noise for free

The sound of a fan whirring nearby is perfect white noise (like your bathroom extractor) and if you don’t have a handy built-in white noise maker, you can use your phone.

YouTube has tons of lullaby and white noise loops that last for hours – or you can download free apps that let you listen to weird combinations of sounds like ocean plus vacuum cleaner. 

The only downside of using your phone as your white noise machine is that you have to leave it behind in your kid’s room.

If you haven’t tried white noise before and you want to give it a go, try one of these free options until you see how your child responds.

Then you can invest in a machine if it’s a winner for you – and you want your phone back.

Make the bedroom inviting for your child

And all of this bring us back to that cosy and inviting bedroom you’ve created for your child.

There’s no need to go crazy with expensive matching furniture and decor – unless that’s your thing.

What your child needs is a bedroom that they like – that feels like their own little space. 

Cute covers that suit their interests and a few comforting toys that won’t keep them up is all you really need.

What else do you need to do to get your kid to sleep?

Okay, so we’ve covered a lot of practicalities.

Kids need the right bedroom temperature so they can get comfortable and relax.

They need not to be hearing exciting sounds that might distract them.

And they need the room dark enough that it feels like bedtime (and encourages the melatonin to flow).

They need a room they like being in where they feel safe and secure.

That pretty much covers the bedtime environment concerns you need to address.

But if your kid’s a bedtime refuser – you know, bouncing around, saying ‘no’, getting back out of bed – you’ll also want to consider how you respond to them.

This post is all about how to react calmly and practically when your child’s making a fuss about going to bed.

Plus there’s a couple of great bedtime refusal strategies in there too.

child bedroom