Thursday, March 07, 2013

We Need Our Rest

Historically I have undervalued sleep.  As an elementary-aged child I would hide in my closet with the light on and read for hours after bedtime. During summer vacation in high school I would sometimes be going to bed as my step-father was showering for work at 5:30 a.m.  During my year as a teacher with a 35 minute commute and thus a wake-up time of 5:20 a.m., I discovered the beauty of going to bed early and waking up somewhat rested and wondered how I had ever lived on so little sleep.  But that lesson didn't last all that long, and I returned to my night owl ways. 

Now as a first time mom I am a huge proponent of sleep...for my son at least.  In fact, one of my little pet peeves as a mom has been how much attention our society seems to give to the breast milk versus formula debate while ignoring how incredibly important sleep is to basic human development.  I guess that's because my son quit napping (except in the Ergo) for a week around 2 months of age or so until I began offering a bottle after nursing, and on the occasion I had to use formula to supplement I had to read a label that reminded me that breast milk was the superior choice for my son.  Could you imagine any other product bearing such a label? Couldn't everything on the junk food, juice, or cereal aisle be labeled "Fruits or vegetables are better choices for your children?" Anyway, I digress.

I wonder how much of the misbehavior and fussiness we see in young children is because they are overtired, and their parents lack the knowledge of how important a decent sleep schedule and short wake times are--particularly at young ages.  I imagine some parents have an inkling but don't want to be inconvenienced by a schedule, and then other people like me may be at the other extreme and a little over-zealous or analytical with the schedule.  I figure a second child will break me of some of this, but almost every time I veer too far from our schedule, my son's temperament takes a nose-dive in the form of crying and fussiness which generally are not part of his routine behavior.  Seriously--when it gets close to bedtime Jackson hits a wall.  We describe it as "melting," and it's marked by falling down and sometimes even hitting his head on the ground.  It's so pitiful, and sometimes it begins just 3 hours after he's woken from his last nap.  We try to keep him awake until 7 but often poor guy just can't make it.  Now if I could just get myself in bed 8 hours before my alarm (a.k.a. Jackson) sounds around 6 a.m. :)

p.s. I'm thankful that most nights my son sleeps without making a sound for 11 hours.


Bumble Of Joy said...

I totally agree that some parents don't realize that their kids are having a melt down because their tired. And it is true that the importance of sleep isn't discussed as much as the whole formula vs. breast milk debate. I saw a huge change in my day when I stuck to a schedule and put the girls down for a nap around the same time each day. Nice post! ~Zi

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

When Gavin was in the NICU, we constantly reminded ourselves that sleep is good - it's healing and growing time for him. We continued with that mantra when he returned home at five weeks. Around 6 months, when we started going out more, we let him sleep wherever he wanted or needed to. He was good at sleeping in restaurants, the car or in the stroller. As he entered toddlerhood, we actually started keeping to a stricter schedule ... he needs his one nap a day; it's not as easy for him to sleep wherever (he wants to be a part of the fun); and we haven't ever asked him to skip it ... which means we're either home or in someone else's home where he can have a devoted room for sleep. We also have a normal nighttime routine that starts at a given time, plus or minus 30 minutes. It works for us and we find that he's overall a very happy kid.

PS - Gavin also gets clumsy when he's tired - it's a sure sign that it's time to wind down.