Sleep, the Miracle Drug

I've been thinking a lot about sleep lately. I've got a newborn baby to wake up with in the middle of the night. I've also got a toddler who doesn't always think he's tired! I also have some friends who are really struggling with sleep-time in their homes. Sleep deprivation is no fun!! It can turn a typically pleasant, happy child into a little monster. And it turns a normally thoughtful, patient and creative parent into a frustrated and possibly angry tyrant. I've been there. It's rough.

Nothing is going to solve the problem better than a nice long nap -- for your child AND you! Unfortunately, there's no easy fix. Creating the right environment/schedule/routine for daily napping is a process. And, to add an even more complicating factor, all children are different! But I believe there are some really important principles that make things a lot easier. At least, they have worked for our family. Mind if I share?


Don't wait until it's obvious that your child is tired -- watch for the earliest cues of sleepiness (a quick rub of the eyes, loss of coordination, a subtle yawn). When you've discovered the best napping time for your child (ex. awake for 5-6 hrs, nap right after lunch), stick with it! Routine is a child's safety and security. They need to know what to expect every day.

Over-stimulation will make those early sleep-cues hard to recognize. Your child needs a quiet, low-stress environment leading up to nap-time to create the easiest transition to sleep.

Don't try to "get them real tired" in order to get a better sleep! I've noticed that the more good sleeping my 2 year old does, the more willing he is to fall asleep again, not the other way around.

Should you discipline (spank) or let them cry it out?? From my experience...crying it out only works when my child is capable of putting himself to sleep (not so overtired that he will be falling asleep out of exhaustion). The goal of crying it out, as I see it, is to teach self-discipline. If your child is crying in order to manipulate you and not because of a genuine need, you should not respond to their manipulation in a way that they are getting their desires met. Once the child realizes that crying will not bring mommy or daddy back (even if you are right outside the door) and they commence putting themselves to sleep, you have succeeded. They shouldn't need to continue crying themselves to sleep every nap-time/bed-time. And they shouldn't be crying for long, long durations (you decide how long that is, but for me it was generally longer than 15-20 minutes). After a certain amount of time, I believe the crying isn't going to serve its purpose any longer (teaching self-discipline).

Spanking hasn't worked well for us. The only thing it seems to do is give my child the strong message that I have lost my creativity and am frustrated to the point of near-anger. Since it is usually a last resort and happens after our bedtime routine and after I have tried putting "piggy" to bed, etc., my son knows there isn't much else I can do! Rather than appear so frazzled and frustrated, I find it works better for me to gently finish up the routine as normal, say goodnight and leave the room, even if he is upset and fighting me. This saves us both a lot of stress and crying.

If something isn't working -- stop before you and your child go crazy and try something else!! There are more creative ideas than my husband or myself have thought of yet, I'm sure. And we are constantly working to find unique methods of motivation. So keep trying!!

I feel like I've barely scraped the tip of the iceberg on this topic...but I should be getting a nap in myself, speaking of sleep. =) Please write your comments on this issue and I'll post a part two, three or four as I get inspired!