Sleep has been a hot topic in my little circle of parents. The conversation usually goes like this. First, when they hear about Oliver's bedtime, their eyes pop out of their head. Then they say, "You have it easy. My kid won't go to bed before 9pm (or 10, or in at least one case, 11)." If you moved four months ago there is no way your kid is still in the former timezone(!) if you haven't been the enabler.
I try not to be judgemental about parenting in general but sleep is one area where I sometimes can't keep my mouth shut. I really believe that good sleep habits can be learned by kids if the parents are committed and consistent. Have people forgotten that sleep deprivation is a torture technique? Or that mice DIE when they don't get enough? Quit whining about it and go read a book like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, or any of the many others on this topic. You'll find one that works if you stick with it.
A recent post from The Blogfathers (what? you don't read them? go check them out. we'll wait.) inspired me to comment, something I don't do as often as your average opinionated, loud-mouthed blogger. It also came up on ParentDish, a blog where I do comment pretty regularly (and think about applying to write for about every other day). That author cited a recent study of sleep needs of 2 and 3 year olds. Any talk of so-called "experts" usually gets my attention, since my mileage typically varies, sometimes wildly. In this case, Oliver seems to be pretty darn close to the experts' recommendations. I don't find that comforting or re-assuring. If Oliver was wildly divergent from the study, it wouldn't matter. He needs what he needs and doesn't read the expert studies.
It hasn't always been easy in the sleep department. Oliver was a horrible sleeper for at least the first year of his life. (I can't remember exactly when it got better. It's still a blur.) He was the master of the 20 minute nap, and often would not go more than 2-3 hours at a time during the night. Then we (finally) established a pre-sleep routine and things improved markedly.
Oliver now goes to bed around 7:30pm (sometimes 7:45, just about always by 8) and wakes up around 7am. If he wakes up any earlier I tell him to go back to sleep and he does, though that is easier in the winter when it is still dark. He naps after lunch, usually for about 2 hours. He goes to bed generally without complaint, so long as we do the routine, including PJs, tooth brushing, and a few stories. To my continued amazement, he frequently asks for nap when he's done with lunch on the weekend.
When things go awry, as they did last night, the results can be ugly. Oliver is 32 months old and that by itself can be challenging, but he is usually a pretty happy kid and I haven't met anyone who minded having him around, so far. We spent last evening at CD's office party and the kids did not see their beds until about 9:30pm. Oliver was having such a good time playing with a little girl his age that we couldn't get him to eat any dinner. I knew we were going to pay.
Here's the laundry list of consequences:
- Oliver woke up 4 times during the night. And not your garden variety wake up. He woke up and was very upset each time.
- He was grumpy this morning. There were no less than three meltdowns, one that I would rank in his "top ten".
- His teacher said he was a bit off his game all day. Small things bothered him more than usual but he generally held it together. (I did warn her about what was going on.)
- After holding it together at school, he was grumpy and touchy when he got home. Everything still had to be "just so" or else. I need a crystal ball to get things "just so"!
Needless to say, he went to bed as early as we could manage it, given that he needed a bath. Still he was out by 7:45pm. I am hopeful he is himself again tomorrow. This would be a pretty impressive recovery from what for us is a major disruption.
We have also had recent occasion to learn that if he sleeps too late in the morning he has trouble going to sleep at naptime. And if his nap is shortened is shows in his behavior for the rest of the day.
I think I can live with being chastised for being too rigid with his sleep schedule. As I said in my comment on ParentDish, if keeping your kid up late so you can have more time with him works for your family, go for it. If I did that with Oliver it would not be fun for any of us. I love my son and like him a whole lot better when he's had the rest he needs. He might as well be wearing a blinking neon sign that says "Sleep Deprived" when he hasn't.
Next year, we are leaving the party early. Lesson learned. The party was fun, but not enough to blow up the sleep schedule. Now I just have to get a little more of that sleep thing myself.