I just finished an amazing book. You shouldn't be surprised to learn that it was about sleep--because I pretty much obsess about sleep these days. This book, Sleepless in America, was not your typical sleep book. It deviates from the norm in a number of ways:
1. It is not just about infants and toddlers. Rather it talks about sleep and sleep challenges for all ages of children, infant to teenagers.
2. I think it successfully avoids being placed in either of the Cry It Out or Not Cry It Out camps. Rather the focus is on the mechanics of sleep and how to successfully have your child make that switch from awake to sleep.
3. The most unique and beneficial part of the book talks about temperament and how to navigate the sleep pitfalls of certain temperaments.
Nothing about this book is earth-shatteringly new. I think it is pretty obvious to everyone that children need sleep and can act out if they are tired. The author though does a really fantastic job of arguing that sleep should be made a priority by the parents for the whole family and then provides a wealth of suggestions and examples of how you can make that happen.
Obviously, you can't make a child sleep when they don't want to. I can attest to that fact. However, the author argues that you have great control over your environment, and you can create an environment that really promotes good quality sleep. This is why it is important to know your child's temperament. Each temperament has its own sleep challenges. The author breaks temperament into 5 categories: intensity, sensitivity, adaptability, predictability of body rhythms, and energy. As I was reading about each of the different temperaments and the sleep challenges associated with them, I felt like she was writing about Finn.
"The advice to teach the intense child to calm himself by letting himself cry does NOT work. Because of his physiological makeup, he has great difficulty calming himself, and can cry for hours, vomiting as his distress increases. "
Um. Hello! This is really true. I literally feel like punching people who say that their child cried for 10 minutes and then fell asleep, easy peasy and then looked at me like I was crazy for not trying this method.
"It takes much less stimulation for the highly sensitive child to feel agitated, increase her activity, or burst into tears. That's why she awakens when her diaper is wet, she's slightly hungry, or is feeling a bit lonely."
"For those children who are intense AND sensitive falling asleep is a significant challenge."
This makes so much sense. I hate mentioning to people how often I get up during the night. On the few times that I have, their eyes have bugged out and they have said something asinine like, "I would absolutely DIE if that were the case." Really? You might think so, but somehow the days just keep coming....one after another. Reading this though did help temper my frustration at my son a bit. I now understand that he is just easily alerted. I am looking forward to the day when he can tell me what is bothering him and waking him up rather than playing a continuous guessing game. Too cold? Too hot? Is his diaper too wet? etc. etc.
"Slow to adapt children like predictability. Slow to adapt children do not sleep well in new or different situations. By making it a priority to be home for naps and bedtime whenever possible, you ensure that your child gets the sleep he needs."
This again had me nodding my head in agreement. I feel so out of the loop sometimes because I can no longer go to any sort of evening activity. They all start right at Finn's bed time (or later). I am just now taking advantage of story time at the library since Finn has dropped his morning nap. I would get so frustrated that every activity conflicted with a nap. I wanted to get out of the house too! Other friends with kids said things like, "Oh, we just skip the nap that day" or "We just nap a different time" and then look at me as if to say, "why are you such a stick in the mud?" Those just weren't options for us.
The best part of reading this book was the validation I felt. I am doing what needs to be done for my son to get the sleep that he needs. I am not creating these problems nor am I perpetuating bad habits. These are the artifacts of his personality. It is a really great book to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone with children.