Sixty to Zero: Our Unique Bedtime Routine

My father-in-law, Ole, was here visiting this past week. We live in Orlando, Florida, and he lives in Vancouver, Canada, so we often don’t see each other. Barclay was thrilled to have a new playmate!  He and Grandad had a blast together.

The first night as it neared bedtime, Ole was watching Barclay play. We were all upstairs in the playroom, and Barclay was running toy to toy and jumping on his indoor trampoline. Ole asked me if it was time to start winding Barclay down.

I assumed he meant heading downstairs and maybe sitting quietly and reading Barclay a few books before gently snuggling him in bed and kissing him tenderly goodnight.

My husband, Brent, and I just looked at each other and laughed. Then Brent told his dad our bedtime routine was called Sixty to Zero! You’ve probably heard the term Zero to Sixty to describe the quick rate at which a fast car can accelerate.  Well, in Barclay’s case, he can go the opposite. He is always at Sixty, so the only other speed he has is Zero.

Barclay has profound Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His little body needs to move. He takes medication in the morning, and that helps him focus in his therapy.  He crashes in the afternoon, has a huge nap, then wakes up guns a-blazing!

Our job between his nap and bedtime to help him burn up as much energy as possible. I don’t think my husband or I really need a gym membership! Barclay keeps us in pretty good shape, just playing with him.

We spend the late afternoons swimming, running around in the backyard, playing chase inside, or whatever busy activity we can think of. By the time bedtime rolls around, Barclay is ready. He grabs a handful of whatever toys he’s obsessed with at the moment and heads to his room with us close behind. We put him in his crib, turn on the sound machine, fan, and make a super quick exit.

There is no snuggling, no story, no gently easing him into bed. This kid literally goes from Sixty to Zero!  It’s what works for him.

This is a shift in mindset for a lot of parents, it’s not the typical way to prepare a child for sleep, but this is also no typical parenting experience!

Think about your evening routine. Is it working? Is your child successfully going to sleep? Are you capitalizing on your child’s interests and strengths to help them transition to sleep?

For us, that means wearing our son out!  He needs to move. By providing him a ton of physical activity, his body begins to crave rest. If he spent the late afternoon and early evening sedentary, I am pretty sure he’d lie awake and struggle to sleep.

By the end of the week, Grandad totally got it!  He even began to join in on the early evening shenanigans!

The things that make me DIFFERENT are the things that make ME. – A.A. Milne / Winnie the Pooh

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.