Discussing NurtureShock: The Importance of Sleep

nom nom sleep!

We’re discussing NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. We’re using the book NurtureShock as a jumping off point for discussing some interesting topics. Please join the conversation regardless of whether you’ve read the book or not – we’d love to hear what you think!

Read Karissa’s previous post here.

Karissa, you’re totally right about sleep. Since we have little ones, it’s a hot topic at our house. But the book makes a good point. We totally obsess about our babies’ sleep, but once they start falling and staying asleep on their own (a milestone we’ve hit with one of our kids), we really stop thinking about it much.

In fact, I really don’t think about enforcing bedtime in the same way I do about, say, making sure the kids get their vegetables, etc. In my head, good or bad, I enforce bedtimes mostly because I need the kids to sleep so I can get some work done. It’s hard to admit, but it’s more about my convenience than it has been about their health and wellness. The truth hurts.

I’m not the only one though. In reading the section about school start times and achievement, the research says that just moving the school start time back an hour significantly affected student performance, particularly with the best and brightest students. Other areas of well-being were affected as well: students reported higher levels of motivation, lower levels of depression, lower incidences of car crashes, etc.

School start times are also scheduled for adult convenience, much in the same way I was thinking about bedtimes. As a employed mama, I totally get this, by the way. It’s easier to send your kids to school when you are on your way to work and pick them up when you are coming home. But, if this is impeding their education in such a startling way, we need to make a change. Workplaces need to be more flexible to accommodate their employees who are parents. As a community, we need to recognize that our future depends on ensuring that the next generation is properly educated. If this means that we are slightly inconvenienced by an hour late start time in school, then so be it. It seems like a small sacrifice for such a big gain.

The big takeaway for me on this chapter was that even one hour of sleep missed makes a huge, measurable difference in our children’s ability to learn and retain information. Enforcing their bedtime is about more than just schedule predictability and the preservation of this mama’s sanity. Now if I could just get my two-year-old on board…

5 thoughts on “Discussing NurtureShock: The Importance of Sleep

  1. I haven’t read this book, but I really want to.

    I have two boys – 10 months and 2 1/2 – and sleep has been the single most important parenting issue we’ve dealt with so far. I do believe that each parent should do whatever she feels comfortable with regarding her kids and sleep, but, given all the research showing the benefits of sleep and all it does to help our kids develop healthfully, it seems that we might consider sleep like we do nutrition: make exceptions sometimes, but encouraged a balanced plan overall.

    • Megan

      @Kristen – that’s a great point. Sleep really should be treated more like nutrition. When my kids were your kids’ ages, our lives revolved around their sleep patterns. For us, what happened is that once the oldest mastered falling and staying asleep on his own, we pretty much stopped focusing on it. Since he’s only 4, he still keeps a pretty regular sleep schedule, but I can see how by the time he’s 14, we might let it lax a bit. After reading this chapter in NurtureShock, I realized we really need to remain focused and steadfast about sleep, even after those first sleepless years. (I say years because with my two-year-old…well, he hasn’t mastered the art of sleep yet. Some day!!!)

      • Z has never liked sleep except when I haven’t wanted him to sleep. He is 4 and we are on a pretty regular schedule right now of 7 to 7, if he doesn’t have a nap, because of preschool. Sometimes when he naps in the car he will go to sleep later but he does on average get at least 12 hours of sleep a day. Which I have to enforce otherwise he drives me crazy, I can tell instantly from his attitude that he needs more sleep. And I will admit that he still sleeps with me as much for his want and for convenience for me enforcing him to sleep. Ever since he was an infant I have had to practically hold him down in the dark in order to get him to sleep. It is a pain and I am often asleep with him because of this not grabbing a whole lot of time for myself in the evening, but it is better than me wanting to pull all my hair out because he is sleep deprived and snarly.

        However him, his father, and myself are naturally inclined to be up later in the night and up later in the day, if we were allowed. If Z could pick his schedule he would probably sleep from 10 to 10. And even if he goes to sleep early on the weekend he naturally won’t wake up to 8 or most of the time later. Interestingly too I can’t let him go to bed any earlier than 7 even 6:59 or he will wake up at 8 thinking he had a killer nap and want to stay up until midnight. So are society clock is kind of a pain to us, but those are the breaks. I don’t care when he gets the sleep just that he gets it.

        • Megan

          I feel ya, Steph. We’re currently in napping purgatory with Rey. He still needs a nap, but if he sleeps too late, he won’t go to bed at night. I really hate waking him from his slumber, but we sort of have to if he wants to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

          I’ve actually been working on a post about it, but was holding off since it isn’t my best work. You’ve inspired me to post anyway :)

  2. Hi Melanie,I can totally retale to your situation. I have a daughter who is also about 2.5 years and fussing more and more at naptime and bedtime. One thing that has recently helped is playing a familiar book on CD for her to listen to. It usually lulls her to sleep. Here are some ideas for you, although it sounds like you are already doing all of the right things:1. Lots of physical activity in the morning2. More guidance with relaxation (see: )1. I would try playing a book on CD or noise machine when you tuck her into bed.2. If that doesn’t change things after a few attempts, then you might want to consider putting her in a stroller for a short walk and transferring her to bed. You’ll want to tell her about this change beforehand. I always tell my kids on such jaunts that the schedule will be different and if they fall asleep then I’ll carry them into bed and tuck them in.The other option is that your daughter is actually moving out of the napping stage. Seems a little early, but I’ve known others who are just as young. If after trying the other options and you think this is the case, then you can put her to sleep between 6-7pm. My daughter usually naps from about 1-3pm. She’s back asleep by about 7:30pm. This is more sleep than lots of toddlers that I know, but I have noticed that the more sleep kids get, the easier it is for them to go to sleep.I’d love to hear how you resolve this situation. Please keep me posted. I’m also curious where you are living now?Good luck.Emily

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