I can remember as a kid my mom saying to me, ‘You are such a brilliant kid…but if you don’t get enough sleep God help the person who may cross your path that day’.
Now my mother always told it like it was, so there was never any guessing about what she was conveying. I suppose that day I looked a little perplexed with her comment so for my benefit in understanding she also added to the above statement, ‘And I hope your children are just like you are when lacking sufficient rest so you to can experience this ‘joy’ of dealing with a bear’!
Well, she got her wish…I love my son to bits but when he doesn’t get sufficient rest, a bear’s den before dinner would be easier to manage (let’s not mention when I don’t have enough sleep either)! And just before sleep time is due, the essential need of rest it is always easy to identify by signs of whining, tantrums, unexplained bursts of energy (not linked to normal human behaviour), and/or doing everything he knows he is NOT to do… like checking-out the bin, trying to get at the fireplace, pouring juice into his toys, chucking his clothes out of the drawers to see how far the shirts can fly, etc, etc. The first sign I get is the finger in his ear – he goes mad with it, and if you’re near to him your ear will suffice!
But just because the first sign is given, this does not ensure a nap will automatically happen; if my son has not completely exhausted his battery, no sleep will be earned…and it has been that way from day one.
Ok, so the ‘I’m-tired’ signs are easily recognizable, but what causes this unruly nearing-sleep behaviour in some toddlers who are getting enough sleep - like 10- 11 hours a night and 1-2 nap in the afternoon? I started to do a little research; did some chatting with other mothers, read one of the latest books about it and surfed the net. According to Dr. Marc Weissbluth it is natural:
Now I know these points seem obvious but some times when you’re in the forest you really cannot see the trees; and reading that all children cry and act up truly is comforting. I can’t help notice the cycle of sleeplessness through the family though, when just one child isn’t sleeping right. The point that I particularly honed in on was that family & friends help. For instance, I have some really beautiful friends who have more then once offered to mind my children.
Sometimes I didn’t accept as I worried about the difficulty of dealing with the pre-sleep episodes. I suppose I felt it was imposing on my friends rather than allowing them to lend a hand. So when I decided to cash in on their offers, not only did they delight in the opportunity, after they minded him they said not to hesitate next time they be of assistance. Imagine!
Getting help from others and resting myself will aid in me helping my son rest – or at least allow me to cope with his behaviour before he sleeps. I suppose in my research I became more aware of what true rest provides. The book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child quotes, Dr. Christian Guilleminault, who along with Dr. William C. Dement “was the founding editor of the world’s leading journal of sleep research list five fundamental principles of understanding sleep”:
The temperament point here really makes sense in the fact that every child is different. Several mums I spoke with say they just put their child down at an expected time and they go to sleep without a bother. My mouth nearly hit the floor each time in sheer amazement, but it must happen in different households! But, like me, others also seem to go through the same difficulties of the pre-sleep blues.
I suppose I just have to hang on to the fact that this pre-sleep stage will too pass, and that at least not everyday is a knock-down, dragout session and display of ‘winding down’ for sleep. Dr. Weissbluth adds that, “Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery – sleep increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles.” So, with this in mind, if we need or use more brain power as we age, why do we as adults get less sleep then our children.
Shouldn’t parents get an extra nap per child?