Some parents will try anything to get their children to sleep: turning on the vacuum cleaner; bouncing them up and down on an exercise ball; some will even pack the child into the car and go for a drive around the block.

But according to one expert, the best thing parents can do to help their children sleep better is to simply relax.

“It’s important to come up with a bedtime routine that you also find relaxing,” says Dana Urban of Germany’s Federal Conference on Child Guidance Counselling (BKE). After all, if the parents aren’t relaxed themselves, it doesn’t exactly have a calming effect on the child they’re trying to put to bed.

“Sometimes, an adverse bedtime routine can take hold,” Urban notes. For example, the child wakes up in the middle of the night and won’t go back to sleep until one of the parents has played with them for an hour or so.

In this case, she says, the mother or father should try to gradually wean the child away from the routine and get them into a new one.

“Sometimes it’s sufficient if a parent is simply present, without the whole rigmarole of taking the child out of bed, rocking them, singing or playing,” she says.

However, every child is different, she adds, so what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

“Parents shouldn’t feel the need to follow the ‘clever’ advice from their next-door neighbour whose little girl was already able to sleep through for almost six hours at the age of six months,” Urban says. – dpa