We are not a culture that values sleep. We act like it is a treat or a sign of weakness or maybe a privilege. For our kids it is too often a threat,a punishment, a bitter tonic or a battle lost. It is something grown ups crave but seem to make no efforts to pursue.
Did you see the story about the school that has nap pods?
My first response was WTF? Those snowflakes, back when I was a kid we just fell asleep at our desks. And then… this is how we’ve come to think of sleep- something only for the losers. Now I have to admit that I think a nap pod at every school, every workplace, every mall might be good for us.
Magically, on Sunday March 12th at 2 am, by government degree daylight saving time begins and somehow an hour is taken out of our day and banked (no interest accrued) until November when I guess we will need it more. No one I know seems to think this is much of a plan. If you happen to be picketing a senator’s office this week, perhaps add DST to your list of grievances.
I don’t believe in sleep training infants. I believe that cosleeping can be safe, can be best for families and does support nursing. I think all the pressure on parents to have their babies “sleep through the night” isn’t helpful at all. “Is he a good baby?”…. We know what that means. The problem is, by being responsive to infants, we have few skills about how to manage toddlers around sleep.
However you got through the first year, good for you! Whatever worked for your family, whatever your baby needed, you just do you. Babies are supposed to be the most important person in the family. Babies have no wants, everything is a need.
But like almost everything with our kids, what worked 6 months ago isn’t necessarily the best plan now. Sometimes what you did became a habit and what seemed healthy became a burden. That doesn’t mean you did something wrong, it just means you might need to try something new. Diapers make a ton of sense for babies. Diapers are not a bad habit. Diapers make life a ton easier. And then it becomes time for potty learning.
Sleep learning is a lot like that. Sleep learning is a big change and not without lots and lots of mishaps. It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen once. It happens again and again.
Consider that more than good nutrition or educational toys or exercise, your family needs sleep. And adults- caffeine is in no way an appropriate substitute for sleep. Make sleep a value. Make sleep primary in your life. I love reading Arianna Huffington talk about sleep. She really gets it. If sleep is the most important thing than you have to set your life up that way. She talks about setting your alarm, not to get up in the morning to but go to bed at night. Kind of like planning your commute- if you need to get there by 8, what time do you have to leave? What time do you have to get up to do that? If you have to get up at 6 in order to get to work on time then the only way that is going to happen effectively is if you go to sleep 8 hours before 6. Need 20-30 minutes to fall asleep? Then set your alarm for 9:30. I know it sucks but that’s the math. You are not a special form of human- you are the form of human that sleeps to fix your brain, restore your mental and physical well being.
How do you react when I try to send you to bed at 9:30 (9 is what your friendly marriage therapist would suggest so that there is time for sex, intimacy, snuggling too.) I’m not tired! But I have so much to do! Are you kidding me? Nobody goes to bed that early! You don’t understand! I need to…. Suddenly you sound just like your kids do.
- Make sleep a primary family value.
- Make plans to tackle any sleep habits that are no longer serving your family.
- Be the weird family- don’t make exceptions to sleep easily. Get people to bed at the same time every night- weekends and summer too.
- Invest in sleep. Put time, resources, make sacrifices.
- Stop kidding yourself that you have superhuman strength and need less than most people. (You get a pass if you bounce out of bed without an alarm most mornings and don’t fall asleep midday.)
- Consider sleep might be a medical issue. If sleep isn’t working for you, it is likely impacting you more than you are willing to admit. Sleep issues have a huge impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, memory, aging, weight. Ask for help.
Good night, sleep tight!