From my sojourning in different countries, I’ve noticed that general sleeping patterns seem to differ between young children (namely toddlers) in certain Western countries and Asian countries. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post (see ‘A Matter of Philosophy’) that I’ve observed differences in attitudes towards how and when babies should sleep during the first year of life, and the noticeable pressure in western countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) of whether ‘babies are sleeping through the night’.
In regards to bedtime, however, there do seem to be cultural differences. In western countries like the UK and US, much emphasis is usually placed on ensuring a child ‘sleeps enough’ and goes to bed early at a fixed time. An early bedtime is more or less strictly adhered to, often around 6:30-8:30pm at night for a toddler.
In Asia and certain European countries, however, there is generally a more relaxed approach. Children tend to go to sleep later. In Singapore and Taiwan, I’ve noticed friends and relatives have children whose bedtimes are closer to 10:00 pm or so. This seems to be a product of a more evening social environment with family members wanting to share a meal or time together after work and before bedtime in the evenings. Both parents may also be working, so the child ends up being in child care much longer if no extended family members can help to care for the child. To compensate for a later bedtime though, toddlers may have a longer nap in the afternoons to compensate (possibly 2-3 hours long) and children may be allowed to sleep in later in the mornings.
Is there one approach that’s better? Not necessarily. The most important thing, which I think we all agree on, is that the toddler gets enough sleep overall. I know there can also be much individual variability as well in regards to the total number of hours of sleep a child needs in a day. I think the take home message is this: if your child/family practices a different routine or sleep pattern from the societal norm around, you may not need to fret as much. It’s possible that there’s another part of the world that practices a similar sleep routine as the cultural norm as your child!