A search on Amazon for “child’s sleep habits” returned 266 hits in the book section. Can you say we’re obsessed with getting our kids to sleep?
The overwelmning majority of books are about sleeping babies, but there are books about kids from toddlers to teenagers (Snooze or Lose: Ten No-War Ways to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Habits). And even when you search for adult sleep books (which do exist), most of the hits are for improving your children’s sleep.
But what about you?
When you are checking off your child’s scientifically designed bedtime routine (guaranteed to promote healthy sleep habits for life!), what are you thinking about?
“God! I wish he would just go to sleep so I can RELAX and watch TV!”
“Hurry uuupp, I need to get these toys done for this order that HAS to go out tomorrow!”
And after they finally conk out or get into bed, what do you do?
If you are anything like I used to be, you head downstairs and open your computer. Under the auspices of needed to “relax,” you fall into the world wide web, usually for WAY longer than you had planned. Just five more minutes, just one more article, just one more episode of Freaks and Geeks (after all, they’re pretty short).
So after gazing into the bright (very UNrelaxing glow of the computer screen), you stumble off to bed, hopefully remembering to brush your teeth and complete your nightly ablutions (my dad’s word). And you get into bed. But you’re all wound up from the latest murder on Pretty Little Liars and trying to figure, who is wearing that red coat anyway?
So you figure you aren’t really that tired, and maybe you read a book or get up and do some work. Or just lay there with your mind spinning in circles until you finally crash.
The next morning, your healthy sleep habits child is rested and raring to go at 7AM! They after all went right to bed at 8 last night. They weren’t being stimulated by watching things before bed (“sorry, son, no TV after dinner, it messes up your sleep”). They have a predictable routine to help them drift off with a minimum of fuss.
You on the other hand have to drag yourself out of bed resenting every second of the morning. You need at least 1 cup of coffee before you can think about the day. And you think, damn, why don’t these darn kids know how to sleep in??
That was me, minus the coffee (hate the stuff), up until about last year (still is on some days). Because what I realized was that, I couldn’t control myself once Caleb was asleep. Hours and hours of uninterrupted time stretched out before. I could watch whatever I wanted. I could follow rabbit trails through the internet for hours.
Sure I occasionally did some work at night, but often I would be tired, easily distracted, and never actually make it down to the basement. If I got into a TV series, I could watch episode after episode and couldn’t seem to stop! Even reading a book, if I was into it, I could read for hours without even realizing what time it was.
And I always regretted it the next morning. The funny thing was, when I was laying down with Caleb as he drifted off to sleep, I was almost always tired enough to fall asleep with him, so I decided that’s what I was going to do.
Healthy sleep habits change everything! Think about how your kids are when they haven’t had enough sleep. They are snappish, grumpy, lethargic, occasionally manic, clumsy. That’s why you encourage them to go to bed at a decent hour. So why do you think you are any different?
People constantly say to me about Caleb, “Boy, I wish I had his energy.” But that energy does not come out of a void. Or rather it does, the void of sleep. SLEEP and only sleep replenishes our stores of energy.
COFFEE and tea actually drain our energy reserves. Caffeine stimulates our bodies to produce extra energy, which leaves us with less than if we had skipped the drink or chocolate bar in the first place.
Sleeping is non-negotiable. If you cut yourself short night after night, you are short changing yourself and your kids. Your kids deserve a well-rested mother. After a good night’s sleep, you are happier, more patient, even healthier!
Sometimes, if you work from home, have your own business, particularly if you are a single mother who can’t afford any child care, you HAVE to work at night. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But don’t use that as an excuse to stay up half the night. You should constantly be trying to find ways to work that don’t involve cutting into time you should be asleep.
I had a paper route when my son was a baby. I had to get up at 2 or 3 am (12 or 1 on Saturdays) to have the papers delivered on time. I was always tired that year. But you better believed I went to bed early most nights, and napped with him during the day as much as humanly possible.
Then when I started the craft business, the first 2 Christmas seasons I was up late night after night. One year after Christmas, I crashed and burned with a terrible cold that lasted for almost a week, for a day or two I didn’t even want to get out of bed.
Many mothers (I was one of them) claim they NEED this quiet time at night to unwind and relax (usually in the light of a glowing box or two) and feel Human. But it’s surprising how much easier the day goes when you are ready for it, when you’ve had your rest. And getting lots of sleep does more to make you feel human than anything else.
If you go to bed early, then you wake up rested BEFORE your children get up, then you can have quiet time alone, and you can really enjoy it, because you aren’t so tired!
It’s time we started treating ourselves with the care that we treat our children. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to go to bed, you NEED to go to bed. Right Now. Not five more minutes. Now.