Text messages sending support and information to new parents can help improve children’s bedtime routines, according to a new study from the University of Manchester.
The intervention successfully altered early evening routines, improving children’s sleep and parental mood.
As a result of the bedtime text messages sent to parents, children’s sleep increased by an average of 8%, with fewer night-waking episodes. Parental mood was also shown to improve by an average score of 6%, with parents reporting feeling less tense, less tired and reporting higher self-esteem.
The results are published in the journal BMC Pilot and Feasibility studies.
Poor sleep hygiene affects children’s development, school performance, mood and cognitive functioning and development, as well as the well-being of parents. According to the researchers, there is a strong link between the quality of bedtime routines and children’s sleep.
Fifty first-time parents with children aged between one and three years old were recruited for the study. The researchers designed the text messages together with the parents, which were sent out over seven consecutive nights providing information on achieving an optimal bedtime routine.
Dr Georgios Kitsaras, from UCL and study lead, said: ‘Parents are on the receiving end of, at times, conflicting information and so we need to untie conflicting signals and messages parents receive.’
He added: ‘This lack of a clear consensus-based definition of limits health professionals’ ability to communicate best practice effectively with families.’
The study looked at six critical areas for achieving good bedtime routines: having a consistent bedtime, brushing teeth, reading a book, avoiding food and drink during bedtime, avoiding the use of electronic devices, and undertaking calming activities such as a bath or talking.
The overall quality of bedtime routines improved by an average score of 4.8%, with parents achieving more optimal bedtime routine activities with text message intervention.
Dr Kitsaras explained that this intervention could make a real difference to families. He said: ‘The low cost of the intervention, its adaptability and practicability also make it important in times of strained healthcare budgets and healthcare staff under pressure.’
The pilot study has given researchers optimism for a more extensive future study to explore further the sustained changes in bedtime routines and their long-term implications for children and parents.
This comes after a children’s charity last year warned millions of parents have been unable to access vital early years services.