We've all heard of a bedtime story, right? A story told at bedtime. Well, this trope is about stories that are about bedtime, although many stories about bedtime are bedtime stories, too.
Now, this doesn't mean stories where a character is already in bed and having trouble sleeping; that's Insomnia Episode. It's also not about works that take place at night, or any story that has a person get ready for bed. These are stories which are entirely about the bedtime routine.
A common variation on this plot is to have a young (about two through six or the equivalent age in their species's years if an animal) protagonist who is resistant about getting ready for bed, but inevitably ends up going to bed anyway, sometimes leading to An Aesop about sleep being important. Quite often they'll ask for more toys/stories/snacks/trips to the bathroom/drinks and will firmly be told "no".
Another variation is that the young protagonist doesn't mind going to bed but is fearful of monsters or ghosts hiding under their bed or in the closet. Usually if this is the case, they'll learn that either monsters/ghosts don't exist, or that they do exist but are friendly and may even be scared of the protagonist!
Also common is the plot where a whole lot of people are going to sleep. Often, they'll say that everyone in the world is falling asleep, despite the fact that time zones exist and it's always daytime somewhere. They might have all the daytime animals falling asleep while all the nocturnal animals are waking up, but sometimes, they'll botch that up. Plots where lots of people are falling asleep tend to involve even the adults wanting childish things like a goodnight kiss.
Plots like these are often meant to be bedtime stories and some end with the phrase "Now it's time for you to go to bed too" or similar. Another common ending is for the protagonist to fall asleep and the narrator to say, "Goodnight, so-and-so." Sometimes, they'll talk about how "even X needs to sleep" and if someone going to bed has a distinctive job/pastime, they might describe the character as being "tired from doing X all day".
If a story with this kind of plot is read by an In-Universe character, they'll often find it boring, or their audience will, or it will put the audience to sleep before the story finishes, or it will put the reader to sleep. May overlap with Getting the Baby to Sleep if it's at night, takes up the whole plot, and people use wacky methods.
- Lampooned in Despicable Me, where Gru reluctantly reads the girls a bedtime story about three kittens going to bed (even though everybody knows cats don't have a fixed bedtime.)
- In Incredibles 2, Mr. Incredible tries to lull his baby son Jack-Jack to sleep by reading him a book called "Doozles are Dozing" about some wacky creatures falling asleep all over a crazy world. He ends up knocking himself out instead.
- In The Berenstain Bears book "The Bedtime Battle", Brother and Sister don't want to go to bed, but they're being put to bed anyway.
- Parodied in Goodnight Darth Vader, which is about everyone going to bed in the Star Wars universe and it's a story read by Darth Vader to a younger Luke and Leia.
- In Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, everyone gets ready for bed.
- Even Superheroes Sleep is about various DC Comics superheroes going to bed.
- Goodnight Gorilla is about a zookeeper putting all his animals to bed.
- In Goodnight Moon, a young bunny says goodnight to things and animals in his room before he goes to sleep.
- Played for laughs in Go the Fuck to Sleep and its child-friendly counterpart Seriously, Just Go to Sleep. It's about a frustrated man trying to get his little daughter to go to sleep and parodies the "world at bedtime" type of story.
- In the kids' book I Dare You Not to Yawn, a boy teaches the readers to delay the bedtime routine by not yawning. He himself fails at his own plan, though.
- If Animals Kissed Goodnight portrays what various animal bedtimes would look like if all animals kissed their children goodnight.
- The Im Not book "I'm Not Sleepy" has Baby Owl getting ready for bed despite insisting that he isn't sleepy.
- Little Princess:
- In "I Want a Bedtime Story", Princess wants a bedtime story, but only wants one from the King.
- In "I Want My Light On", the Princess is getting ready for bed but she's afraid there are ghosts in her room. It turns out there are, but they're harmless.
- Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack is a picture book based on Incredibles 2 and features the scene from the movie of Mr. Incredible reading the "Doozles are Dozing" book about creatures going to bed.
- The Little Golden Book Time for Bed, Elmo based on Sesame Street is set at Elmo's bedtime. He feeds his fish, strokes his cat, and asks for another story and a drink of water, which prevent him from falling asleep, until his babysitter has him count sheep.
- Ten, Nine, Eight, by Molly Bang, takes us through at least part of a little girl's bedtime routine. It starts with "Ten little toes, all washed and warm", and ends with "One big girl all ready for bed."
- Sweet Dreams, Sofia is a Sofia the First picture book about Princess Sofia's bedtime routine, with pull-tabs and flaps to make the story more fun. The routine includes changing into her nightgown, washing her face and brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, wishing her family a good night, hearing a bedtime story (Sleeping Beauty) with her brother and sister, and finally tucking her pet rabbit Clover into bed.
- Little Critter had two entries dealing with this trope. The first was Just Go To Bed with Little Critter constantly ordered by his parents to go to bed after he keeps stalling. The second was Just A Nap featuring Little Sister in a similar plot trying to resist her mother's efforts at getting her to nap.
- Mr. Bean: One episode is about how Mr. Bean gets ready for bed. It ends with him trying to count the sheep in a picture. When he does, he falls asleep.
- Sesame Street:
- One skit is about Elmo and Abby's bedtime routines.
- One animated skit is about moms tucking their kids in bed.
- The song "Goodnight, Natasha" is a lullaby sung to Natasha by Humphrey as he puts her to bed at night.
- One episode of The Puzzle Place has the majority of the kids having a sleepover. Their nighttime routines are discussed and shown. They don't have their usual sources of comfort with them, so they have to help each other.
- The Voltaire song "Goodnight, Demon Slayer" is about a father trying to get his kid to not be afraid of demons at bedtime by claiming the kid is a demon slayer who can even kill the devil.
- The poem "Bedtime" is about a little kid who wants to stay awake for five more minutes due to having many activities they want to do.
- My Bedtime is based on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and the aim of the game is to get Daniel ready for bed.
- A Boy and Dog strip has Rowan sitting on the floor when his father picks him up and says it's bedtime, despite Rowan's wanting to play.
- Animaniacs has a segment called "Nighty-Night, Toons", where everyone in the studio goes to bed. It has a rhyming narrator, parodying Goodnight Moon.
- The Blue's Clues episode "Bedtime Business" is set at bedtime, and the mission is to find out what Blue's favorite part of bedtime is. Snippets of the episode were also used in a segment of the same name on Nick Jr.. The episode also includes a song by the same name that breaks down the basics of what the Blue's Clues characters' bedtime routine is.
- The Charlie and Lola episode "I am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed" focuses on Charlie trying to get Lola ready for bed.
- Peppa Pig:
- In-universe, Peppa is read a story about a red monkey getting ready for bed. She finds the book boring, but then goes to the library and finds that there are more interesting books about the same red monkey.
- In-universe, Daddy Pig once tells a bedtime story called "The Sleepy Princess" about a royal family going to bed.
- "Goodnight, Daniel" from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is all about Daniel's bedtime routine, which includes bathtime, putting on his pajamas, brushing his teeth, having his bedtime story and having his bedtime song sung to him as he drifts off to sleep.
- Family Guy: One anthology episode had a segment about Stewie's day seen from his point of view and ends with Lois putting him to bed (after Stewie has quick time travel adventure while she's out of the room) and reading him a bedtime story; Goodnight Town From Footloose.
Lois: "Goodnight flour mill. Goodnight abandoned warehouse where you dance when you're mad. Goodnight church where you slap your daughter. Goodnight Kevin Bacon's life savings that he invested with Bernie Maddof."Stewie: Who's this book for?!
- On JoJo's Circus, JoJo and Goliath have a bedtime routine with JoJo's father, which includes him singing them a special song, "Tickle Goodnight." In "Nighty Night," when Mr. Tickle has to be away for the Big Top Clown convention, JoJo takes care of things by herself, including singing Goliath a specialized version of the song. The story ends with Mrs. Tickle asking her what she learned (some form of this is standard in every episode) and she says that she can do her bedtime routine all by herself "and I bet you can, too. Nighty night!"