Sleep Schedule, Timing of Sleep
Please note that this section contains my personal notes from my readings on this topic.
“When sleep / wake schedules are not in synchrony with other biological rhythms, attentiveness, vigilance, and task performance are measurably decreased and moods are altered….
Junk food is not healthy for our bodies. Neither is a “junk sleep” schedule. You try not to let your child become overly hungry, so don’t let your child become overly tired.”
When thinking about sleep schedules in babies and toddlers, consider sleep to be “food” for the brain, just as breast milk or formula is food for the body. You don’t breast-feed on the run while doing errands; instead, you find a reasonably quiet space. Same for naps. You don’t withhold feeding because it is socially inconvenient; you anticipate when your child might become hungry. Same for naps. You don’t try to force feed your baby when she’s not hungry; you know a hungry period will naturally come. Same for naps. A parent coming home late from work would not starve his baby by withholding food until he arrived and could feed the child. Same for the bedtime hour; don’t “sleep starve” your baby’s brain by keeping her up too late.
- Abnormal sleep schedules usually evolve in infants and young children when parents keep them up too late at night.
- If the parent returns very late, the child should be put to bed as usual; keeping a tired child up to play with a tired parent does no one any good. At the cost to the parent of having less time with his child, the benefit is no bedtime battles, no night-waking habits, no early-morning arousals, good-quality naps, a well-rested child, a well-rested spouse, and relaxed private time for the parents in the evening.
- One common mistake is keeping bedtime at exactly the same hour every night. Usually this hour is too late and is based on the parents’ wishes than the child’s sleep needs. It is important to have a fairly regular routine of soothing events before putting your child to sleep, but it makes biological sense to vary the bedtime a little. The time when your child needs to go to sleep at night depends on his age, how long his previous nap lasted, and how long his wakeful period was just before the bedtime hour.
- Allowing brief naps in the early evening or long late-afternoon naps in order t keep a child up late at night will eventually ruin healthy sleep schedules. If your child misses his early-afternoon nap, in order for him to be able to fall asleep close to his biological bedtime hour and avoid the overtired state, it is better to have no nap and an early bedtime than a late nap and a late bedtime.