Introduction Routines, particularly at bedtime are often recommended as a first line treatment for many common child sleep problems (CSPs). Research has demonstrated the benefits of consistent routines for child sleep in a number of domains, however many parents report using routines inconsistently. Research has found that positive caregiver feelings about bedtime routines can motivate their implementation, while negative feelings have been associated with reduced use of routines. Caregiver feelings about sleep-related routines could also affect child sleep directly through the pre-sleep emotional climate experienced by the child and could have repercussions for caregiver mental health. However the range of caregiver feelings in relation to their children’s sleep-related routines has not been fully explored. This study therefore set out to answer the research question ‘What feelings do parents experience in relation to their sleep-related routines with their toddlers?’
Method This was a qualitative study based on semi-structured online interviews with 21 mothers of 1–3 year olds. Parents were asked to narrate the sleep-related practices they typically used over the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle with their toddlers and how they felt during and about their routines. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Results Nine themes were identified, two with associated subthemes. Participants reported positive feelings of happiness and enjoyment, relaxation and freedom, and negative feelings of guilt, sadness, restriction, frustration, worry and uncertainty about their sleep-related routines. Many also reported a neutral feeling of acceptance.
Discussion Caregivers can experience a wide range of positive and negative feelings in relation to their sleep-related routines with their 1–3 year olds, which may be beneficial or detrimental to both their child’s sleep and their own mental health. Assessment of routines and advice on implementation should take account of caregivers’ emotional experiences and be tailored to individual families’ values, preferences and priorities.1–9
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