I have had many encounters with friends, colleagues, and even the occasional family member who have given me a funny look when I have talked about my daughter needing a nap/ have an early bedtime. (**It is probably not anyone who visits this site) This most frequently occurs with people who don’t actually have kids of their own. I remember a specific friend of my husband’s who, when asking us if we could hang out, gave us a response like, “Well she can just sleep at the restaurant”. Or something to that effect. Basically, it is the mentality of, “Well, she can miss a nap/have a late bedtime. It’s no big deal. Why are you making it such a big deal? Stop playing the nap/bedtime card.” Now I do have to excuse those who just don’t know any better because they haven’t gone through the experience of having an exhausted child to deal with. And there also may be those parents who have children that are just very adaptable and easy-going. For them, it isn’t a big deal to have these changes in sleep. My child is not one of them. She does NOT do well with change or trying to sleep somewhere unfamiliar, takes a long time to adjust, and absolutely turns into a terror when she doesn’t get her sleep. So I consider myself a sleep tyrant advocate. When she was a newborn she had colic. It took me quite a while to realize just how important sleep was in changing her temperament. She really can be quite good natured and happy, but you don’t give her a nap or wait too long to put her to bed, you are asking for a sleepless night of crankiness. And I feel as though some people don’t realize just how important sleep is to a baby/toddler’s development. (And it is pretty darn important for Mom and Dad’s health as well!)
*Baby/toddler sleep requirement chart (based on Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child).
And according to The National Sleep Foundation, lack of enough sleep is becoming a problem for children in America. The National Sleep Foundation commissioned a research company to conduct a national survey of adults living in the United States who have a child present in their household at or under the age of 10. The primary objective of this poll was to describe children’s sleep habits and sleep problems. (Information found at http://www.sleepforkids.org/html/uskids.html)
The poll results indicate that on average, children get less sleep during a 24-hour period than recommended by sleep experts. For example:
- Infants get 12.7 hours, when experts recommend that from 3-11 months they should get 14-15 hours.
- Toddlers get 11.7 hours, when 12-14 hours are recommended for children aged 1-3 years.
- Preschoolers get 10.4 hours, while it’s recommended that children 3-5 years of age should average 11-13 hours.
- School-aged children (1st through 5th grades) get 9.5 hours, but experts recommend 10-11 hours.
There is an apparent gap between whether parents/caregivers think their child gets enough sleep and what s/he actually gets. A majority of parents/caregivers says their child gets the “right amount” of sleep; however, comparing the number of hours they think their child should sleep with the number of hours they report the child actually sleeps, it is clear that many children are getting much less. The sleep habits of children have a direct impact on the adults caring for them. Parents/caregivers whose children get the least amount of sleep are twice as likely to say they sleep less than six hours a night. On average, parents/caregivers lose slightly more than a half-hour of sleep each night because their child awakens them during the night. Parents of infants lose the most sleep—nearly an hour on a typical night.
Sleep is the forgotten country and is not getting the attention it merits. It plays out in the home, in the pediatrician’s office, and in school. Sleep is an important factor in the lives of children.- Mary A. Carskadon, PhD What is the take-away in all this? Obviously, if you are a parent, you have the right to raise your child the way you would like. If having a loose sleep schedule works for you, great! But don’t think I am weird for putting my foot down when it comes to my child getting the rest that she needs in the location that she needs. I learned a while back that sleep for her needs to be top priority. Yes, occasionally we will have to be okay with changing it up, or having her stay up late (holidays, etc.), but it is something that is very important and will dictate my schedule for some time to come. (…end rant…)
Have you every dealt with sleep problems? Let me know in the comments below.