A recent study suggests that being emotionally available to babies' needs is the key to a good night sleep.
According to the study, it's not so important how much time parents spend with children or what they do at bedtime, but rather the quality of that time.
The findings may be important for both sleep-deprived parents and their kids.
Chronic sleep troubles in childhood are associated with daytime behavioral problems, sleepiness and attention problems, and poor academic performance, the researchers say.
Being emotionally receptive would include things like gazing at your infant while breastfeeding, or noticing if your child is not interested in a book, and so putting the book down.
Some sleep experts have advised parents set a strict sleep schedule and keep certain routines that become associated with going to sleep, such as reading a book and dimming the lights.
When parents provide reassurance through emotional communication, the researchers believe that it lets children know they are in a safe environment. They argue that feeling safe is ultimately a prerequisite for achieving deep sleep.
"Bed time can be a very emotional time. It heralds the longest separation of the day for most infants," Live Science quoted study researcher Douglas Teti, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, as saying.
"It struck me that going to sleep, and sleeping well, is much easier for some young children than others, and I wanted to assess what factored into this, and what parents and children contribute to sleep patterns," Teti added.
This study involved 35 families with infants 24 months of age and younger, and is the first to use multiple video cameras in the infants' and parents' bedrooms to capture parent-infant interactions at night.
Fathers were also included, but since only seven of them interacted with their infants for a long enough time (at least two to three minutes) during bedtime, the researchers focused on maternal bedtime behavior only.
Infants whose moms were more emotionally available during bedtime showed fewer disruptions when settling to sleep and less sleep disruption overall compared with infants whose moms were less emotionally available.