Tried & tested: 4 'borrowed from baby' bedtime routines to help induce sleep

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ - but can reverting back to childhood actually help you sleep better?

Make reading part of your bedtime routine for a better night's sleep
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Babies are deep and peaceful sleepers, so could copying their night-time routine help us sleep like a baby too? 

‘Babies thrive on routine; they are mini people and, just like us, they like to know what’s coming next,’ says Amanda Peters, maternity practitioner and Ergobaby ambassador. 

So, while many of us still enjoy a bath before bed, can other things work too? In the name of research, I tested four different bedtime routines in search of a perfect night’s sleep…

1. Adult swaddling

Popular in Japan, wrapping yourself up tightly can make you feel secure. ‘Swaddling enables a more continuous slumber due to womb resemblance,’ says Amanda. But it can have an adverse effect. ‘There are suggestions this relieves anxiety in adults, but the evidence is not clear and some people find it a burden,’ warns Dr Chris Etheridge

The verdict: It stopped me reaching for my phone for ‘one final check’ while drifting off, but I was boiling by 2am! 

2. Bedtime stories 

Research found that one in 10 of us think a children’s book can help us feel settled. ‘Reading can cue your body that it’s time to sleep,’ says Dr Etheridge. But, as young children, people would read to us. Could that be key? ‘Some people find an audiobook helps them get to sleep quicker and for longer,’ says Dr Etheridge. 

The verdict: An audiobook felt like a treat (although wearing earphones to avoid waking the rest of the house was annoying). 

Swaddling can aid sleep

Wrapping up snuggly, like a baby in swaddling, is thought to aid sleep

(Image credit: Unsplash / Tim Bish)

3. Warm milk

Milk contains two nutrients, L-tryptophan and melatonin, that are widely believed to help induce sleep - although researchers believe the effect is largely psychological rather that physical. Nevertheless, a mug before bedtime helps many drop off - and some famous faces even go one step further.

'Some celebrities have talked about sucking on a bottle of milk to help them sleep,’ says Dr Etheridge. ‘But there’s no evidence of it working.’ 

The verdict: Warm milk before bed did feel comforting, but it also made me get up in the night to go to toilet! 

4. White noise

A randomised trial found that 80% of newborns fell asleep within five minutes of hearing white noise. ‘Some people swear by white noise machines as they block out loudness from outside – creating consistent sound, which helps you to stay asleep,’ says Dr Etheridge.

The verdict:  I used app Sound Sleeper, but - as with the audiobook - wearing the headphones became annoying. 

Faye M Smith

Currently Wellbeing Editor across several women's titles including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman's Own, Faye has worked in the magazine industry for over 15 years. She has previously interviewed celebrities for the Fit&Well brand. Having previously been the go-to sex columnist for Now magazine, there isn't much she won't discuss when it comes to women's health - which is important, as Faye's a firm believer that feeling good on the outside starts from within.  

Faye’s fitness routine is more focussed on finding inner balance rather than burning excess calories – think mindfulness, power breathing, yoga and plenty of walking in nearby woodlands rather than a sweaty HIIT class. Having been vegetarian for almost two decades, Faye’s also passionate about eating well. She currently swears by her daily mix of probiotics, vitamin D and B12 to help boost energy instead of sugary treats. 

Out of the office, Faye loves to binge-watch Netflix documentaries, plan cruise holidays and talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about how much cats rule. And you'd be surprised how long that can last!