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    Bedtime Routine - A Key To Your Child's Good Mood And Behavior

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    Following a consistent bedtime routine helps improve children's sleep habits, as well as their bedtime behaviors and mood, in general, say the psychologists from the United States.

    The scientists said that sleep problems are one of the most common concerns of parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers. Nearly 20 to 30 per cent of children before the age of 5 experience sleep difficulties. Previous research has shown that successful treatment of children's sleep problems with behavioral interventions also lead to the improvements in well-being of their parents.

    According to Jodi Mindell, PhD, a lead researcher of the study, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA., by creating a bedtime routine parents could greatly improve both the child's sleep and the mother's quality of life. There is no doubt that maternal mood and children's sleep are interconnected and influence each other. The better is a child's sleep and the easier is their bedtime, the better a mother's mood is going to be, said Dr. Mindell. Also, a mother who is not under stress or depression, is going to be calmer at bedtime, which is very important when it comes to putting a child to sleep, she added.

    To come up with this conclusion, Dr. Mindell and fellow researchers collected and analyzed the data of more than 400 mothers and their children. This included 206 infants with the ages between 7 and 18 months and 199 toddlers with the ages between 18 and 36 months, who took part in two age-specific three week studies. All families were randomly assigned to the two groups - a routine and a control group.

    During the first week of the study, the women followed their child's usual bedtime routine. During the subsequent 2 weeks 134 mothers and their infants and 133 mothers and their toddlers followed specific 30-minute bedtime procedures, which included a bath, a massage (or a lotion for toddlers), and quiet activities, such as cuddling and singing. Mothers then were asked to put the child to sleep as they did on a regular daily basis, by either putting the child to bed while awake or rocking them to sleep. Therefore, the only instituted change was the routine. The participants of the control group continued with their child's regular bedtime routine.

    All children who were involved in the study were experiencing small to severe sleep problems, according to their parents. Problems included three or more nightly wakings, awakening for longer than one hour per night, or having a total daily sleep duration of less than nine hours. The women, with the ages between 18 and 49 years, were asked to fill out daily sleep diaries for one week in order to establish how much time their children needed to fall asleep, how often they woke up during the night, and some other general information about their child's sleep habits.

    Based on the womens' sleep diaries, the investigators were able to find out that during the 2-week experiment, infants and toddlers fell asleep much faster, woke up less frequently at night and for shorter periods of time. They also were found to sleep more regularly after following the bedtime routine, plus toddlers' morning mood has significantly improved as well. On the contrary, sleep patterns and bedtime behaviors for the control groups did not change that much. The study also found that mothers who instituted and followed the specific bedtime routines had improved mood profiles while the women in the control group did not.

    According to the researchers who carried out the study, primary care practitioners play a critical role when it comes to helping families with positive sleep practices and improving sleep in infants and toddlers. Dr. Mindell and team plan to conduct more research on this matter in order to determine whether a specific aspect of the bedtime routine is more effective, or if the routine itself calms children's sleep problems.

    The study, titled "A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood," is published in the latest edition of the journal SLEEP.

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