Tonight sees the start of a new series on Channel 4 in the UK, Bedtime Live. It features Clinical Psychologist Professor Tanya Byron, who I interviewed in 2005 for The Psychologist.
I just started taking the survey, but stopped because it seems to assume that you have a child with sleep problems. We had years of our youngest coming into our bed in the night, or dragging one of us in with him. But touch wood, all is good at the moment.
I'll be interested to see how the series progresses, because in my mind it all boils down to a couple of simple rules:
1) Get your children to bed at a sensible time. Ours are pretty much always in bed by 8pm, with the nearly 9-year-old getting an extra half an hour to read. Later than that, it tends to be pretty obvious the next day that they've missed out. I am usually in bed myself by 10, so any later than this also means no evening to myself! No doubt this will change as they get older.
2) Have a routine. I think every part of that routine helps with the transition from the usual madness towards sleep, and I have always found bedtime reading is a very important part of that.
I suspect the series will highlight the negative role of electronics in children's bedtimes, and I agree that a DS or TV in the room is unlikely to be conducive to slumber. But I swear by audiobooks… after storytime, if the kids aren't quite ready to go to sleep but you're more than ready for a glass of wine, sticking on a CD is just another way of helping them wind down and they tend to be asleep in a few minutes. Current favourites are Just William, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington etc.
I have no doubt that bedtime is a battleground for lots of parents. But the vast majority of kids do get tired, and want / need to sleep. Create a calming environment and a routine and you should be fine.