Sleepy Fridays

Sleepy Blog Pic

Edit: While The Equuschick was stopping by to fix a fairly obvious typo (blush), she realized she also forgot to share the DPG’s classic sleep-walking story. He once woke up in the middle of the night and took all of his sheets off his bed and then put them in the kitchen trashcan.

If you have a Busybrain, the following quotes from this article will probably sound very familiar to you.

Sleep Disorders and Giftedness: Nightmare Disorder, Sleep Terror Disorder, and Sleepwalking Disorder appear to be more prevalent among gifted children, particularly boys. It is unclear whether this should be considered a mis-diagnosis or a dual diagnosis. Certainly, parents commonly report that their gifted children have dreams that are more vivid, intense, and more often in color, and that a substantial proportion of gifted boys are more prone to sleepwalking and bed wetting, apparently related to their dreams and to being more soundly (i.e., intensely) asleep. Such concordance would suggest that giftedness may need to be considered as a dual diagnosis in these cases, or at least a factor worthy of consideration since the child’s intellect and sense of understanding often can be used to help the child cope with nightmares.

A little known observation concerning sleep in gifted individuals is that about twenty percent of gifted children seem to need significantly less sleep than other children, while another twenty percent appear to need significantly more sleep than other children. Parents report that these sleep patterns show themselves very early in the child’s life, and long-term follow up suggests that the pattern continues into adulthood (Webb & Kleine, 1993; Winner, 2000). Some highly gifted adults appear to average comfortably as few as two or three hours sleep each night, and they have indicated to me that even in childhood they needed only four or five hours sleep.

(Although having quoted it, The Equuschick must say that in her 28 years old and inexperienced and unprofessional opinion, she thinks it is highly unlikely that there are children in the world who really only “need” 5 hours of sleep. They may only get 5 hours of sleep, and they may seem on the surface to be getting by with that. But that is just unhealthy. Don’t accept that. We’ll get to that in more detail later, however.)

For his part, the Dread Pirate Grasshopper was definitely was definitely a champion Sleep Fighter from the day he was born. He had night terrors for most of his second year of life, and unfortunately for him his parents did not catch on to what was happening quickly enough and did not always handle it as well as they wish they would have. Fortunately for them, he’s a forgiving sort of soul.

The reasons for this troubled relationship between brainy children and sleep are as legion as they are obvious and simple enough to state. It can be extremely hard to fall asleep when your brain just won’t shut up.

For that reason, it isn’t just Busybrains that this applies to. Your average Calmbrain is going to go through intellectual and cognitive growth spurts often in their first 6 years of life, and during those moments their brain will be busy as well.

During these spurts of growth you might find that your child who once slept through the night is suddenly up at 2 am sitting in bed with you, and asking you questions like “Do raccoon have bottoms?” (True story.) This does not mean that your child has suddenly gone insane, it doesn’t even mean that the end of the world is near. It just means that your Calmbrain is having a language growth spurt and they suddenly need to Use Their Words, yes, even at inconvenient moments. Expect this.

But expecting something, and resigning yourself to accepting it, are two different things.

Because the experts above may say what they may, but children (and their parents) need sleep.

Regardless of the methods employed, and every family needs to make their best decisions and make sure they’re doing what works for their family, it is especially the children who fight sleep the most who probably need it the most. If you have a cranky, spastic Busybrain instead of a cheerful Busybrain, he probably needs more sleep in his life. (But you probably know this, because you’re his cranky and spastic mother who needs more sleep in YOUR life.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, The Equuschick is a co-sleeper and the babies start sleeping with her from birth and are gradually moved to their own beds by about two years old, by means of various and sundry methods of all sorts that rarely involve being left alone to cry it out.

And they don’t necessarily stay in bed all night either. Once they have fallen asleep in their own beds, if they wake up they can come get in bed with their parents. The Ladybug doesn’t always do this. Unless she’s sick (or having one of those cognitive growth spurts), she can be expected to sleep through the night in her own bed.The Dread Pirate Grasshopper has been known to sleep in his own bed from 10:00 am to 4:00 am three nights in his life, and from 8:30 pm to 6:00 am once.

Is it not interesting that identical methods of sleep-training led to such different results in two children? Because, you see, children are different. So are parents. So are methods.

If you think that because in middle-class america today babies are kept in bassinets or cribs and left to cry it out to “train” themselves to go to sleep by themselves, then that is the only sane, normal, and reasonable way to do it than you really must expand your horizons and realize that in countless other societies, and for countless historical ages, it wasn’t done that way at all
,and the children turn out just fine.

However, The Equuschick is now going to demonstrate her remarkable ability to alienate all sides of a single controversy at a single swoop by stating that she doesn’t actually believe CIO is always “abuse” either. Abuse is a very harsh and ugly word that means something. Abuse means that you think a child would be better raised by CPS, and/or that the child will grow up scarred in some way if the parents use cry-it-out at all, in any way. Ever.

Can cry-it-out methods be used abusively? Of course they can. All methods of parenting, if used by an idiot or a tyrant, become abusive. Are there some children who for health or whatever other issues ought not to be left to cry it out? Of course. But as for the parents with natural affection, compassion and common sense who use cry-it-out methods of sleep-training,The Equuschick suspects that their children will turn out just fine as well.

Research it, pray about it. Talk about it with your husband and do whatever is best for your family. Either way, don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and use either method because you believe it must be the only way to do it.

(Oh, but by the way, please don’t use that old “I don’t co-sleep because special time between us is important to my husband and I” line. Use your imagination. Co-sleepers have special times with their husbands, too. 🙂 )

Anyway. Where were we?

Sleep. DO IT. Specific suggestions:

Outdoor Time
Outdoor time blog pic

One of the commenters mentioned this last week, and it is very true. Hard work in fresh air is one of the best ways to quiet a busy brain.

Quiet Time

You might think this blog is obsessed with Quiet Time, and you would be right. Whether your children sleep or simply lay in bed with books, have an afternoon Quiet Time. This prevents brains that are so wired up, they’re smoking by bedtime.

Is it hard to enforce this one? Yes, for the first few weeks it will be, and even after that you’ll have your bad days. But if you aim for quiet time 100% of the time and only get a refreshing break 50% of the time, you will still get 50% more of a break than you would if you just gave up on quiet times altogether.

Avoid Television Before Bedtime, and Use Cation in Your Bedtime Read-Alouds

The Equuschick was aware of the first and had begun to consider the second, but she considered it too late. Before she knew what she was about the Dread Pirate Grasshopper was wide-eyed and breathless while she read aloud certain sections of The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia). (Jadis is rather an alarming figure you know, especially if you’re an imaginative soul.) He didn’t want The Equuschick to stop reading, but it definitely upped his adrenaline a wee bit and The Equuschick now has to read ahead a bit, and make sure she isn’t ending on any cliff-hangers.

Start Bedtime an Hour or So Before You Think They’ll Be Ready

This is actually a basic rule of time management that The Equuschick stinks at, but it is especially helpful to remember with small people. You might be thinking to yourself, “It is only 5:30 pm, why should I start thinking about bedtime?” but if you have two small people and you do lots of reading aloud before bedtime anyway, you should assume that the time between “Let’s get ready for bed” and “Lights out” is going to be at least two hours anyway.

Speaking of Lights Out-

Be flexible about Lights Out.

This is especially helpful with the Busybrain. In the DPG’s bed, right next to him, is a stack of about a dozen picture books. He looks through every single one before his eyes really start to droop, and that’s ok. The Equuschick no longer tells him when he has to be done looking at books, because what works for him is to look at the books for as long as it takes for him to get tired.

She has a moment where she is done reading to him, a moment where all lights but the bedroom night-light goes off. But there is no “You must be done looking at books now” rule for the Dread Pirate Grasshopper.

He really can’t just roll over, close his eyes, and go to sleep. If he isn’t looking at books, he’s smoking. If he gets to look at his books until he feels sleepy, then he gets a chance to gradually burn his fuse down.

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