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.
Different cultures may have values and customs that impact baby’s and children’s sleep (Blog Posts 14 and 60–62). I asked community sleep consultants who were certified by the Family Sleep Institute (Blog Post 27) and practiced outside the United States how they viewed differences in children’s sleep issues between their countries and North America. Their observations are from the point of view of sleep consultants and therefore, are not generalizable to all children in their countries. But their observations, which I have edited, illustrate how and why there is no single right way to help all children sleep better (Blog Post 14). Reliance on or influence of grandparents or extended family members for child-care, especially when both parents are working, social pressures on weekend, and late working schedules during the week are common themes that make regular naps and early bedtimes more challenging.
The high population density in many Asian cities means that affordable apartments for young families are not spacious. Small apartments are associated with room sharing, usually during the first 2 years and often during years 2 to 4, with or without bed sharing, and grandparents are often available to care for the baby during the day. Grandparents often soothe the baby to sleep, and learning to self-soothe by allowing some crying is unpopular. Also, it is common for both parents to work outside the home. A common reason why bedtimes tend to be late is because work often ends at 6PM and the commute times are long. Also, overtime is popular so many parents arrive home between 8- and 10-o’clock. Parents always want to spend some time with their children after work.
It appears that the parents’ late work schedules produce late bedtimes in young children and moving the children’s bedtime earlier is a major benefit and is also compatible with cultural values. “Sleeping at an early bedtime is always promoted in Chinese tradition, and we have an old saying: ‘Sleep early, get up early, you will be healthy.’ Traditional Chinese medicine has a similar theory with the biological times of sleepiness, tied to the particular hours of the day. However, I believe electronic devices have greatly changed people’s lives and much postpone the time of sleep for adults and children.” Traditional Chinese Medicine encourages a one-month confinement period after delivery during which mothers are expected to not leave the house nor do any housework. (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Spain is a country where dinner is around 9:00 p.m. and bedtime between 10:00 p.m. and midnight. Long walks, social meetings, getting together with friends and family at a terrace, are some of the activities that keep families busy. One thing that does help is the ‘siesta’ or nap that many adults take. On the other hand, I see how children in general struggle to keep up with this rhythm of life. Inconsistent schedules, naps off schedule, and late bedtimes occur commonly. Early bedtimes are challenging because the work schedules for parents often end at 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or later. Nowadays, the father is becoming more involved in the raising of children because of increased involvement of the mother in the work force. The role of the father varies very much when it comes to their economic status, the higher the status, the less involved are the fathers. Fathers do take care of the baby and help the mother in the basic care but not as much when it comes to the feeding and sleeping part. Latin culture is changing and trying to balance out their tasks as parents. During and after sleep training, most fathers get more involved with their children, and when fathers are involved, definitely the sleep plan works out beautifully and everyone succeeds but when the mother does most of the job, it is much harder for all, especially the child.” (www.duermesonriendo.com).
“Armenia has many cultural peculiarities that impact sleep a lot. Parents tend to put their children to sleep quite late because fathers come home late and want to spend some time with their children, moms want to sleep later in the morning, and most family gatherings, meetings, and even children’s events start after 6:00 p.m. when adults usually end their work, but we don’t have a babysitter culture here yet so parents take their kids with them to these noisy and active events. Mothers in Armenia usually take maternity leave for 2 to 3 years, so they stay home and try to adjust their baby’s sleep schedule to match their schedules. To go out, they shift to one nap or no naps too early and maintain the late bedtimes. Many households include parents, grandparents, and the parents’ siblings. These relatives want to play with the child in the evening. Because of the big households, parents prefer room sharing until 4–5 years of age, and co-sleeping is common when younger. Even when a separate room is available, room sharing is common until age 2 years because the parents are afraid that their child will be afraid to be alone. In Armenia, fathers are not that involved in child care issues. Mothers here are very oppressed by an ideal-do-it-all mom image that older generations and men transfer. Many fathers put pressure on mothers to do everything right without participating in decision making. However, I can see a tendency toward more conscious and positive parenting among fathers. There is also social pressure and mom shaming: ‘What kind of mother are you if you’re unwilling to cherish those sleepless nights with your dearest child? Soon he will grow big and you will miss this.’ And the most awful thing is that you hear this from fellow moms.” (www.sleepylittlebear.com, email@example.com)
I would appreciate comments and questions from visitors to my sleep advice blog. Because most research regarding children’s sleep is from English speaking countries, I would especially welcome views from other countries.
(To be continued)
I love learning about how sleep practices differ in different countries. Thank you for bringing us this information.
I am Australian but live in New York and so have experience in how sleep differs between those two countries. I must say that things are not hugely different but what I love about Australia is that there are government services that have inpatient state designed to help struggle parents with feeding and sleeping. Not all families can make use of those services due to wait list, so community sleep consultants are still important though.
I appreciate the insights provided and the affirmation of a flexible approach to sleep interventions by the FSI certified sleep consultants to meet families where they are. Too often, there is a perception that all community sleep practitioners have a single approach. This speaks not only to the difference in cultural practices and to parental roles but, to the quality of the certification program. I am looking forward to your next post. Thank you!
It is fascinating learning about the different cultures and their sleep. Thank you so much for sharing this information!