Every parent has his or her own bedtime routine for his or her children, from giving them warm baths to reading to them stories. But there are also significant differences in bedtime routines between cultures so much so that what may be acceptable in one may be unacceptable in another. Parents should then avoid judgmental statements about the bedtime routines of their fellow parents, especially without knowing the rationale or tradition behind unfamiliar bedtime-related activities.
Here, we will take a look at the bedtime routine of parents from around the world. You may even learn a useful trick or two in putting your fussy children to sleep faster – and that, readers, is a benefit that comes from keeping an open mind!
Early Bedtime for Americans
In the United States, parents put an emphasis on children getting to bed as early as possible, oftentimes by 8 p.m. with the latest being 9 p.m. The main reason: Children need to get as much as 8 hours of sleep every night and going to bed early is part of it. There’s also the fact that school starts relatively early and naps, or siestas in Spain and Italy, aren’t common among school-age children and teenagers.
The bedtime routine also includes brushing your teeth, taking a bath and changing into your pajamas, and listening to a bedtime story before being tucked into bed. The emphasis on hygiene is shared by parents in many foreign countries, however, which is a good thing considering that feeling fresh in the evening contributes to a refreshed feeling in the morning.
American children share the early to bed practice with their Australian counterparts. In fact, Australian children get an average of 9.5 hours of sleep every night, a significant difference from the 8-hour recommended time.
The early to bed practice in Australia can be partly attributed to its government’s promotion of sleep. The government subsidizes programs where parents are taught about good bedtime routines and sleep schedules. These programs, which are conducted in sleep camps adjacent to the hospitals and which run for 5-6 days, are run by qualified nurses.
Making Your Bed among Afghans
Unlike in American society, early bedtime isn’t a daily thing among Afghans. This is because men, women and children have to plan their bedtime based on the sunset hour and night prayers, thus, children’s bedtime happens later than in the United States.
There’s also another aspect of Afghan culture that American parents will find strange. Afghan homes usually have no dedicated bedrooms since every room serves multiple purposes, such as a living area and a bedroom in one. Instead of a large and heavy Leesa mattress on a platform, for example, Afghans use foldable mattresses and blankets for sleeping.
When it’s time to sleep, the family works together in arranging the beddings on the floor in preparation for sleep, a process similar to the Japanese use of the futon. Everybody then sleeps in one room, even when there are guests in the home. The apparent lack of privacy and independence can be jarring to young Americans used to sleeping in their own rooms since they were babies.
Late Bedtime for the Spanish
Yet another society that encourages late bedtime is the Spanish people, a tradition also shared by Argentinians. The usual bedtime for the children in Spain and Argentina is 10 p.m. at the earliest, a time when American children are supposed to be deep in dreamland.
But don’t judge them just yet because the Spanish and Argentinian parents have their reasons for the late bedtime. For one thing, they allow their children to socialize more with their family and friends. In their societies, the development of social skills as part of growing up is of utmost importance.
For another thing, the children enjoy afternoon naps that can make up for the late bedtime hour. Most children, too, still get at least 7 hours of sleep at night so the risk of sleep deprivation is negligible.
Rock-a-bye Baby for Filipinos and Swiss
The cultures in the Philippines and Switzerland may be worlds apart, so to speak, but they share a bedtime ritual – letting a baby sleep while in a cradle, swing or hammock. The rocking motion mimics the swaying, rocking and bouncing motion in the womb, thus, allowing a baby to sleep to a familiar feeling.
Don’t worry about the baby’s safety because Filipino and Swiss parents transfer their sleeping babies from the hammock to the bed – at least, in most cases. Many parents will also let their babies sleep on the hammock or swing for their naps so as to avoid disturbing them but transfer them to a bed for their nightly sleep.
Filipino babies are also more likely to co-sleep with their parents (i.e., sleep on the same bed). This isn’t such a weird practice either as the Afghans and Egyptians do it, too.
Which ones of these bedtime routines can be applied in the American setting? As a parent, you have to decide for yourself because your family dynamics will be unique.