Bedtime: what routine to adopt to avoid conflicts with your children ?

Bedtime: what routine to adopt to avoid conflicts with your children ?

Des scientifiques lèvent le voile sur les habitudes à adopter pour éviter les conflits avec les enfants à l'heure du coucher. freemixer/Getty Images

"Mom, I'm thirsty!", "Dad, I want to go to the bathroom", "I' #39;I'm not sleepy : how many times have parents had to face their offspring's desire to do everything possible to delay bedtime ?

Contrary to popular belief, this behavior reflects a real anxiety felt by the little ones at nightfall. This is what American scientists reveal, who recommend putting in place consistent rituals to help children overcome this hurdle.

Parents or children, you must have suffered – or been at the origin – of one of these fierce confrontations perpetrated at bedtime. On the one hand, there are the youngest, always inclined to scrounge for a few minutes, or even a few hours for the most determined, to somehow avoid falling into the arms of Morpheus. On the other hand, there are the parents, torn between the desire to guarantee sufficient sleep for their toddler(s) and the desire to take a breather after a long day, whose patience is severely tested . Two rooms, two atmospheres. But in the end, a perpetual conflict which can lead parents to make decisions which will have long-term repercussions on the sleep of their child(ren).

That's according to a new study led by researchers at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, affiliated with the University of Michigan. Through a major national survey on children's health, well known in the United States, scientists recall the importance "of ;#39;establish a consistent bedtime routine". And to specify: "When children do not get enough rest, it can have an impact on their physical development, their emotional regulation and their behavior".

The researchers, who interviewed 781 parents of children aged 1 to 6 last February, drew two main lessons from this work: most children are unable to sleep because they are anxious or worried, while that some parents resort to makeshift strategies that can cause, if not worsen, their child(ren)'s sleep problems in the long term. "When the transition to & “Bedtime becomes a nighttime conflict, some parents may adopt habits that work at the moment, but could put them at risk for sleep problems later,” says Sarah Clark , co-director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, in a press release.

A widely acclaimed routine

However, there is no reason to be alarmist. The survey shows that almost all parents (90%) say they have established a bedtime routine for their child(ren), including traditional brushing of teeth (90%), but also reading books. #39;one or more stories (67%), a bath (54%), a glass of water (47%), or even a snack (23%). And the environment in which the child falls asleep seems just as important as the bedtime ritual. Nearly one in two parents surveyed (47%) say that the child sleeps in their own room, 2.1% in a room shared with a brother or sister, and 22% in the same room parents. To combat possible concerns related to nightfall, parents favor the night light (61%), while a minority (14%) leave the door ajar.

"The sleep environment can have a major effect on a child's sleep quality, including falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. If possible, children should have their own bed in a quiet room, free from noise from other family members, says Sarah Clark. However, some parents continue to face difficulty getting their offspring to sleep. More than a quarter of respondents (27%) say they face it regularly, including parents who are less likely to resort to a bedtime ritual, or more likely to turn to screens, or even stay in the same room. room as the child until he falls asleep.

Faced with this observation, researchers recommend not only favoring the child's relaxation at bedtime, in other words avoiding games and activities synonymous with bedtime; excitement, or agitation, but also to offer the child a secure environment. "Although this is a normal stage of child development, it can be frustrating when parents already feel tired at the end of the day. Parents must find a balance between comfort and reassurance, while maintaining limits that allow everyone – children and adults – to get enough sleep, adds the lead author of this work. And to specify: "A predictable bedtime routine provides a feeling of security and comfort and signals to the child that he's it's time to slow down".

Being attentive

Helpless when it comes to their offspring's sleeping or falling asleep problems, a handful of parents (19%) say they give them "often or sometimes" melatonin, a molecule nicknamed "sleep hormone", intended – as we will have understood – to promote ;#39;falling asleep. To which scientists respond: "Although melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles and can be used occasionally, parents should not use it as a main sleep aid". And add that the long-term effects of this hormone "are not known".

But then what can be done to avoid this daily conflict which can exhaust parents and children alike ? The authors of this work advise favoring dialogue, whether to create emotional bonds which will secure the child or to allow him to ;#39;exorcise certain fears and worries. They also recommend reassuring the child, without implementing strategies that could be harmful to them in the long term. Instead of staying in the room, it might be more appropriate to invite the child to come and check his environment on a regular basis. A "approach that recognizes the child's fears and offers a reassuring presence, while maintaining a calm sleep environment and encouraging sleep. #39;sleep autonomy".

It is also recommended to keep screens, whatever they may be, away from children's bedrooms, and – if necessary – to eliminate naps if # 39;s child gets enough sleep at night. In all cases, parents must listen and find the right balance; which may require some adjustments depending on each child. Be careful, however, experts recommend sticking to the ritual when it is established, a particularly important point. "Consistency in applying this approach will help the child adapt and get back to sleep", concludes Sarah Clark.

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