That Pesky Time Between Dusk and Dawn

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.  ~Leo J. Burke

I have a full day, everyday; errands, laundry, chauffering – you name it – it gets done at some point.  And as we sit here at the end of winter, with it’s short days, there never seems to be enough time to get it all done.  Add to that the fact that by the time my husband gets home, we have dinner and get the kids bathed –  it’s their bedtime.  Or it should be.  But that means little to no time with their father.  Oh how I long for those lengthy summer days – we have plenty of time for everything, but right now, not so much.

I am however concerned with the amount of sleep my children get.  It’s always been important to me.  I remember reading early on about the importance of adequate sleep and it’s one of the only things that stuck with me from those infinite “how to be a parent” books I read.  It mostly “stuck” because it made sense.  It was from – Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weisbluth.  In it, he notes:

“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”

I know how much I can drag when I don’t get enough sleep.  Because children need different amounts of sleep at different ages, I can’t expect them to perform optimally if I’m not encouraging that target amount (and don’t we all want optimally performing kids ? 🙂  And let’s not even look at my performance v. sleep situation, um, k.

The following amounts are noted on WebMD as optimal targets for amount of sleep in children:

Sleep needed: 1-3 years old 12-14 hours / day
3-6 years old 10-12 hours/day
7-12 years old 10-11 hours/day
12-18 years old 8-9 hours/day

I can say that 14 hours for my one year old is just about what she gets.  But we’ve been very lucky with her as she’s a natural sleeper.  But what if you struggle to help your child sleep – as we did with my older daughter?  If your young child won’t sleep, how can you make sure she’s getting what she needs?

And as children get older and they stop napping – as has my older daughter – how do you encourage good sleeping habits then?  Once I get her to sleep at night, she sleeps soundly – but she doesn’t go down easy – at times she’s still up 2 hours after she’s “gone to bed”. She’s often groggy in the morning and could obviously use at least an additional hour of sleep – but unfortunately due to time constraints, we just don’t have it.

As parents, we all do the best we can.  We all read the same guidelines and cross our fingers we’re doing it all right.  So, I think half the battle of fighting sleep deprivation in children is just being aware of how much they need.  And if we can all encourage the little darlings to nod off – that means we can all have a peaceful night too, right?

My new plan is to rearrange our nights a little.  I plan on giving baths in the afternoon, thus buying us a few extra minutes with Daddy in the evening.  We’ve been doing this now for 3 nights and it’s working.  We’ve gotten an additional hour of playtime with Dad because we’re not spending it bathing, drying hair… So, for us, we may have solved the problem – for now, anyway.

Do you have any scheduling secrets that satisfy both your hectic schedule and your child’s need for sleep?

4 thoughts on “That Pesky Time Between Dusk and Dawn

  1. With my oldest, we had a behavior problem at school and attributed it her sleep schedule. At the age of 4, her schedule was to wake at 7, go to school, come home, take a nap from 2-4 or 5 sometimes and then go to bed at 9! She would wake up at 7 and sometimes tell me that she didn’t sleep good or she was still very tired. I quickly learned that when she told me that she would misbehave at school. So I rearranged the schedule. The first thing that I did was eliminate the nap and move bedtime up to 8! It worked really well and is still working.

    Now my son, is quickly getting to the age that we cut out naps for my daughter and I’m soooo not ready for it. I just have to remember that what works for one kid may not work for the other!! He still NEEDS a nap so for now we will stick with it!!!

  2. When my daughter was born (a little prematurely) she was very colicky. Our doctor said it was because her digestive system was not fully functional yet and she’d grow out of it. However, for almost a year she could not sleep unless she was being held upright against our chests…maybe gravity for her digestion, the warmth on her tummy, enablement by weak-willed parents, who knows…In any event, for the first year of her life my husband and I took turns in four/five hour shifts holding her so she and at least one of us could sleep. She did eventually grow out of it, but to this day nearly six years later, she requires very little sleep. She sleeps solidly for about seven hours a night – far below the recommended amount. She seems none the worse for wear. She’s up at the crack of dawn and never groggy or irritable. I guess every kid is different. The only advice I can give to parents for their own sanity is to stick to a strict schedule for bedtimes. If they stay awake for hours after you put them to bed, so be it. At least now she’s old enough to know that she has to stay in her room and let us sleep!

  3. Hi Jamie,
    Thanks so much for the post–Excellent information, and I appreciate you alerting others of the importance of sleep. It can be such a stressful time for parents and kids alike, and it seems you have found some solutions in your own home that are working wonderfully. In terms of scheduling secrets in my home, one of the things we’ve done is empower our kids to make the decisions regarding the timing of everything we do once we start dinner. This takes a little planning ahead, simply so we can ask our children “do you want to take a bath now or in ten minutes, do you want to read a book upstairs or in your bedroom, etc…” By giving our kids choices, and therefor control, the nights have gotten so much smoother.

  4. Kristen – I LOVE the idea of giving them some decision-making power – I thoroughly believe in giving children the power of choice – so why wouldn’t I extend that past what my daughter wants to wear or what she’d like for breakfast. Great input – thank you very much.

    Candace – I agree with re-arranging to suit your individual needs. Obviously, what works for me, won’t work for others…

    Shelly – I think you’re right that what is best for some, isn’t for all. I think that parents know their kids best. Also, (I alluded to this in the post) but the needs of my two children are completely different. I think I’m struggling now to find the balance in what they need v. what I can encourage them to get.

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