Monday, January 17, 2011


There are moms who schedule every moment of their child's day and then there are moms who have never even heard of a schedule.  Not wanting to be identified with either extreme, I've mostly floated somewhere in between the two.  However, I've noticed that the old saying is true: if you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time.  That is true for most everything in life.  And it's proven true in the matter of sleep for my children.

I've been blessed with a daughter who sleeps pretty well.  She doesn't fight us much when bedtime rolls around and she falls asleep quickly after we leave her room.  Even though she is nearly 7 years old, she will occasionally take a nap - and sometimes it's her idea! 

This is not the case with my son.  He has a very hard time settling down, falling asleep and staying asleep.  I try to get the kids in bed by 8 or 8:30 every night.  Some days they go down early and some days they may be up as late as 9:30.  But one thing stays the same: my son does not want to go to sleep and will continually come out of his room until 10 or 11 at night.  Something has to change.  And last night I spent a considerable amount of time researching sleep in children and my suspicions were confirmed.  My child needs much more sleep than he is getting and it is my job to make the necessary changes.

How much sleep does a four year old need?  Answer is about 12.5 hours, according to the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" by Marc Weissbluth.  I read as much of the preview as I could on Amazon and found the information so helpful that I've decided to order a copy of the book for myself.  How much sleep is my child getting?  About 10 hours.  So what, it's only 2.5 difference hours, right?  Well, apparently that's enough to really exhaust a child.  My child is pretty energetic and you would not view him as being exhausted if you met him.  However, the moment he gets in the car he's out like a light - that's my first clue.  Second clue is that he especially gets wound up right before bedtime, which is another sign that your child is fatigued (strange, I know).

So what do we do?  My book isn't in yet so I'm not sure what Dr. Marc Weissbluth suggests.  But for now, I have a plan of action that includes an earlier nighttime routine and naps will again be a part of his daily routine.  From what little bit I read, naps can be crucial for helping your child get the hours of sleep he needs in a day.  I've been slack in regards to naps and now I feel I need to enforce them again - my husband agrees on this, too, especially after seeing our son crash in the car on the way to the gym in the evenings (see image above).  I must admit that I'm kind of misleading when I say my son has a nighttime's more like a chaotic "OK, kids, let's hurry up and brush teeth and get in the bed!"  And then I slather him with lavender lotion hoping it'll magically make him fall asleep.

I'd like our evening routine to look like this:
Goodnight - no later than 8:00 PM

And then he stays in bed.  All night.  Until 7:30 AM.  Then nap time begins right after lunch.  Repeat cycle.

Another change is no more TV before bedtime.  A study titled "Television-viewing Habits and Sleep Disturbance in School Children" from the Official Journal of The Academy of Pediatrics website offers enough evidence to turn off the boob tube before bedtime (click here to read it in full).  The results of the study state:

"The television-viewing habits associated most significantly with sleep disturbance were increased daily television viewing amounts and increased television viewing at bedtime, especially in the context of having a television set in the child's bedroom. The sleep domains that appeared to be affected most consistently by television were bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, and anxiety around sleep, followed by shortened sleep duration. The parent's threshold for defining "problem sleep behavior" in their child was also important in determining the significance of the association between sleep disturbance and television-viewing habits."

We'll still have family movie nights every now and then.  I think the key is to not have the TV on right before bedtime every night.

I'm going to try it and see what happens.  Our pediatrician may have some tips for me as well so I plan on discussing the issue with her, too, at his well check-up.

Another key issue is consistency.  I realize that there may be times when we're out late or out-of-town and this routine cannot occur.  However, I'm going to do my best to make this routine happen even when it does come time for us to go on vacation or when my kids sleep over at my parents house.  This sleep issue is super important to us so I know we'll have plenty of support when those times roll around.

I'll check in on this issue after a few weeks and will update any progress/failure that we experience.  I'm also anxious to get my "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" book in the mail.  You can check it out for yourself here.  

Sweet dreams :o)

1 comment:

Gabrielle said...

I'm looking forward to hearing how it all goes. You're right--being wound up before bedtime is a huge clue that he is fatigued. Isabelle does the same thing if she's up past her bedtime. She can happily stay up until 10 pm, but she gets pretty hyper and excited.

We recently switched to a storytime bedtime routine with Isabelle when we moved her into her new room. She absolutely loves it, and I'm sure Christian will too.

Keep us posted on the progress!