Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Culture and the Organization of Infant Sleep (#2)
December 26, 2022

Found in age groups

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 111Culture and the Organization of Infant Sleep (#2)

Cultural differences in sleep occur within Western countries (Blog Posts 60-62 and 101) and between Western, Asian, and Middle East countries (Blog Posts 14, 64, 65, and 88)

A 2021 paper described how Iranian infants were helped to sleep better and how this improvement in their sleep improved their mother’s mental health.

“In Iran, most mothers are housewives, and they usually have a late wake time of around 10:00am and naturally their infants sleep more in the morning and afternoon. On the other hand, most men come back home very late (around 8:00pm or even later) and play with babies after this time. In addition, most small family gathering parties (a widespread activity in the Iranian daily schedule) are held at night, and babies are one of the most important members of these parties. In such a noisy environment, babies are full of excitement, and consequently they cannot sleep well, and most of the time, babies stay awake until the parent’s bedtime. Considering the average Iranian adult bedtime (about 11:00pm), children also often have a late bedtime like most Asian and Middle eastern countries.”

They studied a group of infants 2-4 months of age and randomly divided them into a sleep intervention group that received guidance on healthy sleep and a matched control group that received information on general safety. The guidance on healthy sleep included:

  • Normal range of age-specific sleep and awakenings (Blog Post 52)
  • Benefits of healthy sleep (Blog Posts 15)
  • Drowsy signs (Blog Post 9)
  • Putting the infant to bed drowsy but awake (Blog Post 10)
  • Avoiding screens around bedtime (Blog Posts 21, 22, and 96)
  • Earlier Bedtimes (Blog Posts 7, and 68-69)

“Given the common habit of a late infant bedtime in Iran, it was impractical to shift it from midnight to 8:00pm. It should be mentioned that consideration of the ideal bedtime (7:00-8:00pm) could have discouraged our mothers due to the significant difference that it had from their infants’ actual bedtime. Therefore, concerning cultural sleep differences in Iran, such as late-night family gatherings and parents’ late bedtime, we considered 10:00pm as an acceptable infant bedtime recommendation.Therefore, we recommended a bedtime of 10:00pm. Surprisingly, 94% of all infants in the study had a bedtime at baseline later than 11:00pm and the range of it was between 10:00pm and 4:00am.

After 8 weeks, in the sleep intervention group:

  • The bedtime shifted from 1:00am to 10:20pm.

  • Night sleep duration (sleep between 10:00pm and 8:00am) increased by about 1.5 hours.

  • Longest sleep period without signaled awakenings increased by about 1 hour.

  • Maternal sleep quality improved.

  • Maternal postnatal depression decreased.

All of these findings were significantly greater in the sleep intervention group compared to the control group.

This study highlights cultural differences and an important observation for all families in all cultures: Moving the bedtime earlier improves children’s’ sleep and mothers mental health! This occurs even if the bedtime is still late by Western norms. A bedtime that is a little late is still better than a bedtime that is way too late.

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