Bedtime Stories: Survival tips for sleep-deprived parents

Shakira Akabusi @shakira.akabusi
🍼Pre &Postnatal Fitness Expert
💪🏽 Founder of #StrongLikeMum
💥Speaker, Writer, Track Athlete
👶🏼👦🏼 Mama to Rio & Ezra
💚 Lover of health, wellness, cooking and exploring this beautiful world we live in.

Story time took on an interesting twist when my second child came along. It went from being a calm and relaxing experience to being a moment where, despite feeling I had successfully cornered the wild animals into one place, I soon discovered that one had in fact escaped during chapter one and was up-ending the lego box onto his brother whilst exclaiming,  ‘weeee, it’s raining’…

At first I would simply let the madness ‘rein’ ( excuse the pun). Trying my best to holla a few pages of Paddington across the din of chasing feet, until finally I would simple admit defeat and curl up into a ball next to the radiator, just waiting for the rascals to run out of energy. But over time, this avoidance technique actually meant I began to dread bedtime. It had gone from a moment which I was excited about, to suddenly feeling as though all the long hours of the day had caught up with me and I was struggling to keep my eyes open.

So, I knew I needed to mix things up! Get my energy back and reboot the book loving fun!

So How to Boost your energy for Book time?

Disclaimer: the below works for me 90% of the time. I won’t lie though, sometimes I’m purely too exhausted and just drag myself through the madness in one of the aforementioned ways, one eye open, lying next to the radiator and hoping for a better time tomorrow.

TIP 1: Bring the Book Alive!

If you find that your eyes are drifting closed but you need to stay awake, the worst thing is to snuggle under a blanket with a good book. So, my first tip is to ditch the book completely and instead get the story on it’s feet by moving around the room and acting your way through it. A personal favourite for this game in our house is ‘Going on a bear Hunt’. We squelch, jump, run, hop and tiptoe our way across the room, usually ending up under the blankets on my bed hiding from the big bear!

Although running around might sound counter-intuitive when tired, you may actually find that getting moving will boost your energy. Being active encourages the release of endorphins (the ‘happy hormones’) and increases the amount of oxygen circulating throughout your system. All encouraging you to feel awake and energised!

TIP 2: imagination Stations

On days where moving the story around isn’t working, another great way to keep energy up for the whole family is to play around with your imaginations. Rather than reading the book word for word, try talking about the pictures and pick out things you haven’t seen before. You can also try to encourage any older children to pick out words they know. My youngest, Ezra, is only 2 but already he’ll copy his brothers reading by trying to sound out words, although they currently all come out ‘ei-ei-o!’ (old macdonald is also a current favourite book)!

Diverting from the real story is also a great chance to spark your children imaginations. Ask your children questions such as ‘What else could have happened here’? or ‘Imagine is this happened instead’… it’s amazing where their imaginations will go and suddenly a mundane story becomes a brand new adventure!

TIP 3: Fill Yourself With Fuel

This sounds simple but I’m sure many parents can relate. Some days you are just so busy and suddenly it gets to 5pm and you realise you haven’t eaten since breakfast or had water in hours! Both are impotent to keeping energy levels high! Well rounded nutrition and staying hydrated are crucial to keeping your energy levels up, so make sure you consume enough throughout the day. If all else fails, take some cold water with you and sip it throughout story time to encourage feelings of being awake and being alert.

TIP 4: Storytime Snacks

Ahhhh snacks, probably the answer to 99.9% of parenting problems. The trick with bedtime is to not overload your kids with unhealthy foods or corrosive substances for their teeth. Foods which are too calorie dense can interfere with their sleep, so the key is to go light and get a good mixture of carbohydrates and protein in order to keep your children fuller for longer whilst avoiding over-loading with fibre which can be more demanding on the digestive system.

Good snack options are:

  • Warm Milk
  • Yogurts (particularly those containing oats such as the Piccolo apple and cherry pouch)
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Chickpeas or Hummus

NB: It’s important to always brush teeth after snack time to avoid any residue in the mouth which may lead to poor dental hygiene or teeth decay.


If all else fails, just let them play. That’s not to say ‘let them be hyper’ but sometimes a little free play and imagination before bed is no bad thing. Fretting or Worrying over a situation can actually drain your energy even more, so relaxing and going with the flow can see you feeling more elated and energised.

Usually, in our house, this free-play ends up with both children playing for a short while, with me in hysterics at whatever they’re trying to perform. However, after a while one of them will come to me with a book and once the other see’s that their sibling is engaged in a story they’ll follow suit. In this scenario, story time ends with us all being sprawled on the floor with a story or two, relaxed and calm and happy. Bringing bedtime back to the fun experience I always remembered and although some days inevitably come with challenges (and radiator naps), with these small changes, story time has finally become something I once again look forward too and enjoy!