Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Increase Your Child's Sleep Quality


By Michael

I'm a big fan of John Gottman and his Emotion Coaching approach to parenting (Gottman & Declaire, 1997). So when I read the research article by Teti, Kim, Mayer and Countermine (2010) I was very intrigued by their work. For those unfamilair with Emotion Coaching, it is a style of parenting John Gottman discovered while researching couples and families. The basic premise is that parents are emotionally aware and available to help "coach" their children on how to deal appropriately with their emotions. It is a great approach to parenting that I highly encourage everyone to look into. However, this post will focus more on the work of Teti and his colleagues (2010).

Emotional Availability at Bedtime

Teti and associates (2010) suspected that the emotional availability of parents at bedtime would create a feeling of safety and security which would increase a child's sleep quality. To test this they examined both the parenting practices at bedtime (such as the bedtime routine and/or sleep training) as well as the emotional availability at bedtime (such sensitivity, non-intrusiveness, and non-hostility). 

The findings were amazing. While bedtime practices were not significantly related to child sleep, the emotional availability of the parent at bedtime was significantly related to child sleep. In terms of research, the relationship was pretty strong (between -.44 and -.56). In laymen's terms, this means that as parents' emotional availability increased, child sleep problems decreased. 

How to Benefit From This Research

Research is done for many reasons, however sometimes it is difficult to find practical use of research. The results from this research can benefit many families who want to increase the quality of their child's sleep (and in the process their own). While not yet tested, you may want to try some of the suggestions to see if your child sleeps longer and better at night: 
  • Determine which parent would be most likely to be emotionally available and designate them as the parent who puts the child to bed. If possible, have both parents present! 
  • Demonstrate emotional availability by:
    • being sensitive to your child's needs; respond to demands and requests with warmth and connection.
    • set developmentally appropriate limits and scaffold your child's activities.
    • respect your child's autonomy and personal space.
    • suppress your anger or hostility and interact lovingly with your child. 
While it is not possible to respond in the above ways 100% of the time, the more you do, the more likely you will be to increase your child's sleep quality. 

The following website may be helpful to visit for more information:



So, do you think this will increase the quality of your child's sleep? Have you tried being more emotionally available at bedtime? If so, has it seemed to work? 


Gottman, J. M., Declaire, J. (1997). Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Teti, D. M., Kim, B., Mayer, G., & Countermine, M. (2010). Maternal emotional availability at bedtime predicts infant sleep quality. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 307-315. doi:10.1037/a0019306



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