Ask the Expert: Our toddler is a poor sleeper
Q: "My two-year-old daughter is a poor sleeper and we have trouble getting her to bed. Is it important that she always goes to bed at the same time?"
A: Professor Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Centre at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the United States, has just led research into how children's bedtime routine affects their sleep.
She says: "About 25 per cents of parents in the UK report that their child has a sleep problem, and the most common issues are difficulty at bedtime and waking during the night.
"There are several things you can do to help your daughter. First of all, having a set bedtime, and one that's early, can make a major difference. Our studies show that young children who go to bed early, before they become overtired, fall asleep faster and wake less often at night.
"In addition, going to bed at the same time every night will help set her internal clock so she'll be sleepy and have an easier time falling asleep. A good bedtime for a child her age is between 7pm and 8pm.
"The second thing you can do is to have a consistent bedtime routine, which involves doing the same three to four activities, such as taking a bath, getting into pyjamas, and reading stories, every night. In a recent study, we found that sleep is better for every additional night a week that a child has a bedtime routine. That is, a child who has a bedtime routine every night sleeps better than a child who has a bedtime routine five nights a week, which is better than three nights a week, etc.
"This means that for every additional night that that you can institute a bedtime routine, the better your child is likely to sleep."