How Much is Enough Sleep -- Life Lessons from a Baby
Mr. Crabby Pants
Two enemies struck at the same time last week: Runny Nose 'n Cough and Teething Aches 'n Pains. Needless to say, it was a week of no sleep for anyone in our family. My sweet little happy angel turned into Mr. Crabby Pants. I was so happy once the cold finally went away and the teething subsided, yet the crankiness didn't disappear right away. It took a few days to regulate the sleep again, but now, after a few days of regular naps and night sleep, he is back to being Mr. Happy.
I know sleep is important, but having a baby has taught me even more about the affect sleep has on the body and mind. And as I notice the difference it makes in Reese, I have been paying attention as well with the difference it makes for me.
Healthy Sleep, Happy Baby
A good friend of mine had a baby a couple years before me. I never was a huge fan of being around babies, they seemed to always cry, yet hers was so amazing and rarely ever fussed. I asked her why she thought that was and she swore it was because she was a fanatic with her baby's sleep schedule. She had used a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and followed it almost to the last letter. She said it often came at a sacrifice because she had to deny her desire to go out and do other things in order to maintain the sleep schedule, but it worked. So when I found out I was pregnant, I bought the book, the only book I have bought on parenting. I can't say I agree with everything in the book, but it is amazingly accurate with teaching on the need for sleep and sleep cycles.
I have many friends that are very strict with certain aspects of their baby's life; how much food they eat, is the food organic, how clean and germ free is everything, breast milk only...and although those decisions can be very important, I chose to focus on my baby's sleep schedule. It has been the one area in which I am very strict and regimented. And it has been a sacrifice for me to make sure my little one is well rested, but it is worth having a happy baby that makes me and others smile and laugh. Although a lot of how babies behave is based on their personality, every baby does better when they're well rested. And most babies, especially the very cranky ones, are just plain over tired and sleep deprived (as well are so many cranky adults!)
So How Much is Enough?
Sleep experts say babies need 14 or more hours. Some kids need less than others, yet there is an average and a minimum. Mine needs about 14-15 consistently every day between night sleep and naps. Otherwise, tiny obstacles can become major meltdowns and small set backs become the end of the world. Sadly, this also becomes true of myself as well when I haven't slept enough.
Ask someone, "How are you," or "How have you been," and if you don't get the pat response, "okay", you normally get, "Oh, I'm tired." The majority of Americans do not get enough sleep, yet we think that since it's so common that it's okay. We think if we get a good night's rest that we are somehow lazy or not doing enough. Most people agree that children need sleep in order to function at max capacity and do well in school. As children get older, the amount of sleep needs change, yet we wonder why kids can't concentrate in school or have a hard time listening to their parents. If teens need 8-10 hours of sleep and get up at 6 for school, they need to be asleep by 10pm. How often does that happen? Or if an elementary age child needs 10-11 hours of sleep and they wake at 7 to go to school, they need to be in bed by 8 or 9. And as adults, we need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep. And yet for those of us who don't, we wonder why the stress builds up, it's hard to concentrate on work, and little things can cause major meltdowns.
I don't claim to be a sleep expert, but there is a lot of research and information out there. I encourage you to do some research about sleep cycles, sleep deprivation, sleep patterns and sleep needs. But most importantly, try your own sleep experiment! The book I follow for my baby isn't the only one that has it right, yet as I've followed the scheduling and consistency part of it, I've seen it work. And I have learned more about my own sleep cycles, habits, and needs for change in sleep habits. We should write a book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Mommy.
I have always been an advocate for sleep and enjoy it immensely, yet often find that life gets in the way from getting enough of it. I am a sleep nazi when it comes to my baby yet I often make excuses as to why I need to stay up late to get things done. If sleep is so important, why do I torture myself by depriving myself of it? I know it just causes me to be frustrated more easily, have difficulties concentrating, more easily angered, snippy, crabby, cranky, just like a tired and whiny baby. Even now, why am I writing this so late at night when I could be giving my body the rest it needs and craves? As a mom, I guess I find after baby's bedtime, that's when I can get the most done for myself.
That said, it's time for me to go to bed now. Goodnight world. The rest can wait 'til tomorrow.