Sleep leads to sleep
When Elliot was an infant, I remember reading in “Baby 411,” co-authored by pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, that putting a baby to sleep earlier rather than later would actually help him or her sleep longer. Sounds like the opposite of what it should be, right? If you want your infant to sleep in, common sense tells you to put him or her in bed later than you normally would, right?
Common sense would also suggest that a toddler who goes without a nap for the day will be so tired by bed time that he or she will sleep like a rock.
Well, I have to say, in these cases, common sense is wrong – at least in my experience.
Sleep is a mysterious thing. Even Dr. Richard Ferber, who has studied sleep in children for decades, wrote in his book, “Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” that, despite his multitudes of research, “we do not fully understand why we need to sleep, what causes us to sleep, and what purpose sleep serves.”
I often study Elliot’s sleep in an amateur way, and I have to admit, putting him in bed before he becomes overtired definitely nets the best results. He sleeps more soundly and for more hours.
In addition, an Elliot who does not nap is guaranteed to wake up as many as 10 times during the night. Despite my repeated encounters with this situation, Elliot’s grandparents have debated me on this issue, saying something like, “He’s going to sleep well tonight since he didn’t have a nap!” I always pipe up and reply, “No, actually, he’ll wake up a lot tonight because he will be overtired.”
While I’m certainly no expert when it comes to pediatric sleep, I have learned the two aforementioned items through nights that included whimpering, sometimes crying and occasional screaming. And, if it gets to the screaming point, then I am irrational, for sure!
I have also learned to apply what I know about my own sleep habits to help Elliot sleep better. My most recent revelation is – when I work out, I sleep so much better. So, I’m trying to keep Elliot as physically active as possible by taking him to the playground or the pool while the weather is still nice!
And, just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, Elliot knocks me off course. On a recent day, I took him to the playground for about an hour and a half, fed him lunch and laid him down for his nap. He talked to himself for about a half hour and jumped in his crib for another half hour, never falling asleep (and irritating me to no end!). (Side note: It is part of our routine that if Elliot lies in his crib for an hour without nodding off, nap time is over.)
Well, so much for the line of thinking that activity equals a tired child. Isn’t it just like a toddler to shake things up?
Originally published on ovparent.com.