In honour of the second Children’s Book Week this year, we’ve researched how bedtime stories can help your little one sleep better. Plenty of us have fond memories of snuggling up in bed at night, your mum, dad, granny or older sibling reading you a little story to help you drift off… but how can reading to children as part of their bedtime routine actually benefit them?
It’s thought that in order for a child to understand a word properly, they need to be exposed to it - either by hearing or reading it - between 10 to 15 times. Through everyday conversations and interactions with your little one, you can be increasing their vocabulary without even realising. However, many story books for children are written with the purpose of developing your child’s vocabulary in mind.
Many children like the familiarity of reading the same book time and time again, and there’s no problem with that - reading the same story either aloud to your child or guiding them through reading independently can help them process, understand and use certain words that they otherwise either wouldn’t be exposed to, or wouldn’t pick up so quickly.
Princesses, dinosaurs, witches and wizards… stories for children are designed to enhance their imagination. As they listen to these stories, their imaginations run wild, their creativity enhances and they start to develop a desire to learn more about the things they’re reading about.
Developing your child’s imagination has endless benefits, one being the expansion of their emotional intelligence. Understanding how the characters in their stories overcome problems - for example how the animals come together to save Wilbur the pig in Charlotte’s Web - children learn about themes such as friendship and even death in a safe, entertaining way. These lessons help children develop their own problem-solving skills, understanding empathy and diversity to a greater extent.
Even picture books can help children make sense of the world, giving them a chance to understand otherwise difficult situations. By snuggling up under the duvet in a safe, warm bed, children can explore different worlds, giving them a secure environment to escape and relax when they feel overwhelmed by a busy day. In turn, this is going to help them sleep better through the night.
The benefits of reading with your child at bedtime doesn’t just end with them - there are benefits in it for you, too. Spending quality time together can make you both feel valued, loved and relaxed.
Taking the time to read together can help you both escape from the real world for a little while and unwind - getting stuck into an imaginary world isn’t just for children! Doing this together creates a bond between you and your child, sharing an important part of their development and creating meaningful memories.
You can use voices for different characters, making the story interactive and having a giggle - this will help feel even more connected, and something to look forward to every day.
If your child looks forward to bedtime stories, it’s going to be much easier to lure them into bed at the end of the day. Children are notorious for not wanting to head to bed, but you can make that transition from being awake to asleep easier by incorporating a bedtime story.
BookTrust’s Bath, Book, Bed campaign emphasises the importance of a bedtime story for improving your child’s sleep. They explain that there’s no ‘right’ way to read a book with your little one - some children like to read the same page over and over, while others prefer to look at pictures and make their own story up. Any of these methods still help children wind down after a busy day of, well, being little!
Gently enforcing the same routine every day will help your children come to terms with having to put the toys away at a certain point every evening, plus, if they enjoy this routine by splashing in the bath and then creating magical worlds by reading, they’re going to be much more co-operative come bedtime.
How else can you help your child sleep better?
While bedtime stories can help your child sleep by encouraging a routine and helping them wind down, they won’t do much good if their bed is uncomfortable. Making sure they have the right support and cushioning is going to help them relax and sleep throughout the night undisturbed.
Remember that many children will have different mattress needs, for example children who tend to toss and turn might be better off with a memory foam mattress, as it’ll contour to their body and help to promote a consistent sleeping position. Waterproof mattresses and mattress protectors are a no-brainer for children of potty-training ages or older, with absorbent features that mean your child won’t be disturbed during the night, no matter what happens. At MattressNextDay we have a wide range of kid’s mattresses to suit every need.
For more information on how to find the right mattress for your little one, check out our complete guide to buying your child a kid's mattress. Our buying guides also have plenty of other tips and guides to improve your child’s sleep, such as how to buy a cot bed mattress, or check out Snooze News for informative articles, such as the pros and cons of co-sleeping with your child.