Part of getting Gavin adjusted to school has been to get his sleep-wake cycle in tuned with the hours of school. It has probably been as stressful as trying to get Gavin to accept the idea of going to school.
Ever mindful of the problems that arise when children don’t sleep enough, I confess to be somewhat anal about making sure Gavin gets his forty winks. But the biggest problem about trying to make sure a toddler gets enough sleep is that most of them would like to think that they don’t need to sleep at all. Even when their eyes are half-glued-shut with fatigue, they will still be protesting that they aren’t tired. Such is Gavin whenever the subject of sleep arises…
It was a little more relaxed before we started school because I could always accommodate a shortfall of sleep by allowing him to sleep in the mornings or to take a longer nap in the afternoon. Now that we’ve started school, I am under even more pressure to make sure he sticks to the sleep routine.
Just how much sleep does a 2-3 year old toddler need?
Baby Center has a good chart to observe if you want a rough guideline. However, it is important to note that individual toddler variations can be as much as plus or minus 2 hours. There are minor variations in the recommended amount depending on who’s quoting the information.
If I followed the recommendations from Baby Center, that would mean Gavin requires, on average, 13 hours of sleep a day (that’s overnight plus the afternoon nap). Minus the 2 hours variation for toddlers and the minimum number of hours of sleep he should be having is 11.
Now that he’s started school, I try to get him to bed by 8:30pm (which means starting his winding down routine by 7:30-8pm). He normally sleeps anywhere between 8:30 – 9:30pm. He has to wake up by 7am for school. School ends at 12:30pm, but I usually pick him up early. By the time we’re done with lunch, the earliest I can get him to nap is 1:30pm. If I want him in bed by 8:30pm, I can’t really afford to let him sleep beyond 2:30pm because he has a magical 6 hour window of wakefulness between sleeps that is almost impossible to break.
All this means is that his afternoon nap is never longer than an hour. So to ensure he gets 11 hours of sleep per 24 hour cycle, he has to sleep at least 10 hours overnight – and that’s just to meet the minimum hours of sleep a toddler should have. Which also means he should not sleep later than 9pm.
WebMD says that toddlers need as much as 14 hours of sleep a day, but most usually only get 10 1/2 – well, that’s a relief.
According to Kidshealth, “there is no magical number of hours required by all kids in a certain age group”. Different kids respond differently and the key is observe your child’s behaviour to determine if he is getting enough sleep for his own individual requirements. A child who isn’t sleeping enough can “become hyper, disagreeable and have extremes in behaviour”.
Lately, that’s starting to sound a lot like Gavin. Last night he was Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde. Switching between crying and laughing all in the span of a moment, you could have been forgiven for assuming he was bipolar. His ability to accept and handle new things like going to school is also affected by lack of sleep, which we noted on his second day of school when he slept at 10pm the night before. When he’s tired, he meltsdown easily and the smallest bumps are treated like a life and death injury.
So while I’d like to relax and let him sleep when he’s ready, I’m afraid that won’t work where this toddler is concerned.