As a parent, we all know that sleep is important for brain development. Even missing out on one hour of sleep a day cumulatively can have a negative impact on children right up until adulthood. Unfortunately, getting young children to sleep has always been a battle of wills and so it has been for us…
From an early age, Gavin started putting up a huge fight whenever it was time to sleep. I tried all the tricks in the book but nothing really worked for us – or at least, they did for a while and then they would lose their magic powers. Gavin dropped from two naps to one nap pretty early on and by the time he turned two, he was trying to cut out that final nap. Initially, I was reluctant to let him drop it, but after a while, it seemed to be a better idea to let him drop it because it was getting longer and longer to get him to sleep and by the time he was done napping, he would end up sleeping anywhere between 10pm (if we were lucky) to midnight (if were were unlucky) only to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7am the next morning – which clearly, is not enough sleep for a toddler.
These days, Gavin usually goes without napping during the day unless we plan to be out late. That’s when we enforce the nap. However, enforcing the nap usually involves a lot of grief all around. In order to get him to nap, we end up fighting which leads to a time out and during the silence, hopefully, he falls asleep. And once he’s asleep, we have to yank him back out of sleep or he’ll continue sleeping until even a midnight bedtime becomes a difficult target. I don’t know about other toddlers, but Gavin would be extremely cranky if he had to be woken up before he was good and ready – and that’s IF you can get him up. There have been days where the only way to wake him up is to strip him and dunk him into a bathtub of water – not very pleasant.
So whenever anyone pesters me about getting him to nap during the day these days, unless I have a damn good reason for it, I usually ignore them because:
- They don’t have to worry about getting him to sleep.
- They don’t have to worry about waking him up.
- They don’t have to worry about whether he’s getting enough hours of sleep.
Recently, I read an article which added another reason why I shouldn’t have stressed over the day-time nap. It would appear that it isn’t only the total number of hours of sleep a day that our children get that we should be worried about but how many of those hours take place overnight. Not all sleep is equivalent and night-time sleep appears to be more valuable than day-time sleep. Children who slept more hours overnight had better executive function.
Damn – I’ve spent one year of grief over a day-time nap all for nothing!