"Parents have to set limits," says Charles Schaefer, Ph.D., author of Winning Bedtime Battles. "That's often harder for working couples, who may feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children."
Chris York, of Merrick, NY, an airline cargo agent and father of 3-year-old Gabriella, is one of those parents. He works a late shift, often getting home at 10:30 PM, and his wife isn't back from her job as an airline ticket agent until 7 PM. "If Gabriella went to bed at 7:30, I'd get to see her in the mornings, but my wife would only have weekends with her," he says. As a result, Gabriella is usually up until about 11 PM -- a routine York doesn't see the harm in: "If she were noticeably suffering, I'd be worried."
Although some kids do require less sleep than others, by the time they're 3 months old, most need 9 or 10 hours each night, says Schaefer. And according to a recent study from Brown University School of Medicine, children whose parents don't enforce appropriate limits -- such as bedtime -- experience more nighttime disturbances.
To establish good sleeping habits and still spend time together:
CREATE SOOTHING BEDTIME RITUALS After a long day at work, it may be tempting to engage in horseplay with your child. But this will overstimulate him, making it difficult for him to fall asleep. Try to leave active play for weekends and mornings before work. At night, help your child unwind by reading to him or singing softly.
SET ASIDE TIME ON WEEKENDS TO "HANG OUT" Sometimes parents try to squeeze in quality time, say, watching their child play while they pay the bills. But kids who sense their parents' preoccupation may find waking up at night provides their only quiet time with mom and dad. You need to carve out time when your only focus is enjoying your children.