Parents had the most success with their children's sleep when they responded appropriately to their children's cues. (Credit: iStockphoto/Nathan Schepker)
I came across an article on sleep the other day. Yeah, I know, I talk about sleep all the time since my child still does not sleep through the night, but that's a whole other issue. This article sparked my interest because it discussed how being an emotionally receptive parent can help reduce sleep disruptions and help infants and toddlers sleep better.
The study was done at Penn State by researchers called the Project SIESTA study. I found myself completely relating to what the researchers said, especially: "Bed time can be a very emotional time. It heralds the longest separation of the day for most infants." Researcher Douglas Teti, professor of human development and family studies found that, "It struck me that going to sleep, and sleeping well, is much easier for some young children than others, and I wanted to assess what factored into this, and what parents and children contribute to sleep patterns."
The study is still going on but I think the findings are really interesting. I can only imagine how scary it might be for a young toddler/baby to go to sleep in their own room, alone and in almost darkness. We had our child in our room the first 6 months and would still bring her into bed with me when she awoke in the middle of the night. I slept better and she did too. But since she was about 9 months old she has been staying and sleeping in her own crib.
Now I know a lot of you may still co-sleep, and you have to decide on what is right for you and your family. Once my child started crawling, she did NOT want to sleep in my bed. For her it was playtime. She loves her crib and usually motions for me to put her in it when we are rocking to sleep! So for us the crib works and it's almost like she feels it is a safe and comfy place.
BUT this study is very interesting in looking at how parents respond to their child before and during sleep states. And how it can affect their sleep quality. I think it completely makes sense that it found how you talk to your child, such as in a soothing voice and letting them know everything was okay helps them sleep better.
I still think routines are important because children like to know what comes next such as bath time, then PJ time, then read a story and then bed, etc. My child knows what to expect and if we do something out of order, she takes a lot longer to fall asleep.
But I also think it takes flexibility. If your toddler is wanting to skip story time or keeps coming up with excuses not to go to bed, a parent still needs to be emotionally receptive, but to also set a few limits. It takes meeting them in the middle- a sweet and understanding tone but also if you let them have "one more story" that it turns into 10, then guess how many they will ask for the next night?
You can read more about the study here. What do you all think?