Sunday, December 6, 2009

Super Sunday Series - Holidays and Sleep

This month the Super Sunday Series talks about necessities for keeping your gifted children as even-tempered and emotionally grounded as possible during the holiday season.  Truly, the things I'm talking about this month are important to all children, however we know how important things like rest, nutrition, routine and transitions are to our gifted ones.  To me, whether these four are met or not can make or break a holiday or vacation.  I'll call them The Basics.  Nifty, huh?

Today - SleepIn honor of my personal quest to bring sleep back to my life. 

Everything I know about sleep I learned from the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth.  Just look at the peaceful little baby sleeping on the cover!  Isn't that proof of how well it works?  Just kidding, it does take a serious commitment, but I'm not talking about sleep training today.  I'm talking about recognizing every human being's need for proper rest

On average, up until 12 years old, your child needs at least 10 and up to 12 hours of sleep at night.  That's a lot of sleep!  Until age 4-5, they need a nap during the day too. 

I became, how shall we say it?  Completely obsessed with sleep after Oldest's first year.  Where I either wore her in a sling or held her all night long for the first 6 months.  Then the next 4 months she would "sleep" in her own crib, but I use "sleep" loosely because she would only sleep one cycle, then need yours truly to get her precious little self back to sleep.  Because she had no idea how to do it herself.  I thought that was just the plight of a mother - you had to attend to your child's needs, no matter how much it was affecting your mental and physical health.

I put up with this for 10 months.  Then I read Healthy Sleep Habits (when I wasn't doing things like running stop signs and crying over commercials in my fatigue) and after three long nights of crying it out, she became the world's best sleeper and I was a reformed mother. 

Why?  Because good sleep is really important for the kids.  But it's immensely important for the parent.  You can't think when you haven't been getting sleep for months and you're not a rational person.  Bad things happen and you're just not that happy.  Trust me, I'm living it at the moment.  :)

So while I'm a huge proponent of healthy sleep because children need it, I'm an even bigger proponent of healthy sleep because you're a better parent when you can do it. 

So here are some tips for decent sleep during the holidays:

  1. Stick to the sleep schedule as much as possible.
  2. If you deviate one day, try to make up for it the next.
  3. If you think you can seriously deviate the sleep schedule for the whole vacation, plan on having overtired, stressed kids and completely overtired, stressed parents by the end. 

That's about it.  I know that vacations and holidays need to be kind of different just by their nature.  I feel strongly, however, that staying as close to the sleep schedule as possible is paramount to having a halfway good time. 

Here's what Weissbluth says about this: 
Please don't think that it has no lasting effect when you routinely keep your child up too late - for your own pleasure after work or because you want to avoid bedtime confrontations - or when you cut corners on naps in order to run errands or visit friends.  Once in a while, for a special occasion or reason, it's okay.  But day-in, day-out sleep deprivation at night or for naps, as a matter of habit, could be very damaging to your child.  Cumulative, chronic sleep losses, even of brief duration, may be harmful for learning.

Healthy Sleep Habits, page 62. 

 We went to Florida when Youngest was 6 months old - without Husband.  It was an awful, awful vacation.  Seriously.  That kid woke up every 30 minutes starting on night 2 of 7.  Not wanting to wake up the whole stinking condo complex, I slept in the same room with them and replaced her pacifier every thirty minutes it fell out and she started crying.  After about 4 days, I called Husband at 6am, sobbing over wanting to come home early from the exhaustion. 

When we got home, I put her immediately back on her "schedule" and it was fixed rather easily (Weissbluth calls it boot camp).

So in regard to vacations and holiday times, I just can't be a parent who is all laissez-faire about the sleep involved.  I try to ensure my kids get decent sleep (and maybe we get a little break at night!).

I will even put them to bed earlier to make up for some of the holiday stress fatigue I know they feel (because I feel it!).  And they are fine with that - they've been sleep trained for years. 

Youngest still has her pacifier, and that's becoming a problem.  When should I yank it?  What do you think?  My thoughts are after the four airplane trips we take between now and the end of March, but that seems like a long time away.

And considering she was up 3x last night (1, 3,4), I'm debating doing it before we go to Florida (gasp!). 

I feel like I'm lecturing about this.  I don't mean to be - sleep training and the sleep schedule is that important to me.  Wait until you see my failings about nutrition next week!  I've long held the un-researched opinion that a parent is vigilant about one or the other, but not both. 

Tell me about your sleep experiences - good sleepers?  Challenging sleepers?  Do you dread bedtime or look forward to it like back in school when waiting for the bell to ring? 

I'll close with a quote from the former Executive Director of their school:
When my kids were young and would call me back to their bedrooms after I'd put them in bed for the night, I would say, 'Sorry, Mommy's done being a Mommy right now.  I'll be a Mommy again when you wake up in the morning!'
Sounds about right to me!  Besides the real issues that arise at night, like sickness, potty issues, etc.

See you for next week's Super Sunday Series - nutrition!  Tomorrow - to bake cookies or not.  Because that's some good nutrition - cookies.  Mmmmmmm. 

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