In this study, 160 parents – 80 heterosexual families of toddlers between 18 and 36 months were questioned about the toddlers’ sleep quality, bedtime routines, parental bedtime involvement, and parental perceived social support and stress. The results confirmed that maternal and paternal distress are associated with the toddlers’ sleep quality, emotion regulation, night awakenings, and the time required to fall asleep. The number of times the toddler wakes up during the night and the time needed by the child to fall back asleep were significantly associated with parental distress. For instance, higher level of maternal stress is associated with bedtime difficulties, less appropriate sleep cycles, and challenging bedtime routines. Maternal stress is also a risk factor that increases the number of times children wake up during the night which in return diminishes sleep quality. Therefore, greater parental stress may predict toddlers’ night awakenings.
However, social support can act as a protective factor for parental stress. For instance, parents who feel supported by people around them express greater emotional availability towards their children. In addition, the involvement of fathers in children’s daily care predicts lower levels of stress for mothers, improves both children’s and mother’s sleep quality, and is associated with fewer night awakenings. This suggests the importance of distributing equal caregiving behaviors and responsibilities among parents. Cooperation from both sides can decrease maternal stress and positively influencing mothers’ and children’s sleep, which are related to better sleep quality for toddlers.
The following results provide us with important implications to be considered when addressing parents on their behavior towards their newborn infant’s sleep habits. It is important to guide and support families in tackling sleep disturbances and promoting healthy sleep habits early on through sharing findings on effective sleep management strategies. All of which subsequently improves children’s cognition, affect, and behavior and supports toddler’s care.
Stasio, S., Boldrini, F., Ragni, B., & Gentile, S. (2020). Predictive Factors of Toddlers’ Sleep and Parental Stress. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(7), 2494.