With the holidays approaching, many parents will be packing up their little ones for a road trip to visit friends and family. If sleep is a priority for your family, these situations can present some opportunity for discussion about sleep. Many clients tell us their friends and family members don’t understand why they try to keep their child’s sleep on schedule during holidays and travel. Some parents feel pressure to let babies and toddlers skip naps or stay up far later than usual so they will be present during the festivities. How can you convince your loved ones that you’re not being a scrooge when it comes to your child’s sleep? Be prepared to talk about the importance of your child’s sleep by reviewing the following points on why sleep is the best gift of all this holiday season.
- Give your loved ones a lesson on sleep science. The body of knowledge regarding sleep science is growing rapidly. There are studies published daily about the benefits of healthy sleep for both children and adults. We know that children need sleep for physical recovery and repair, for their cognitive development and for their emotional well-being. Studies have shown that when children are sleep deprived they are at a higher risk for illness, physical inactivity and childhood obesity. Leading pediatric sleep expert, Dr. Marc Weissbluth has stated, “Sleep is to the brain as food is to the body.” We would never deprive our children of food, so why is it okay to deprive them of sleep?
- Be prepared to tackle the most commonly believed sleep myth. It seems that attitudes and beliefs about the importance of sleep run in families. If you have worked through SleepWell Sleep Planning, it’s likely you will be the first in your family to adopt a new attitude about sleep. Well-meaning family members may encourage you to keep him up later so he’ll sleep longer in the morning. This is a very commonly held myth about baby and child sleep. Children who are well rested have certain times during the day when their bodies experience a biological pull to sleep. It’s important that we respect this need and allow them to sleep at these times. When we don’t allow for this we create a cycle of overtiredness that leads to increased night wakings and early morning rises.
- Remember that you are the parent and you get to choose the path for your family. You may hear the statement, I don’t know why he needs to sleep so much, you never slept that much and you turned out fine. As a parent, you get to determine which areas of life you will prioritize for your family. Many families prioritize children’s sports or activities while some parents focus on nutrition and healthy eating. If sleep is an area you have decided to make a priority for your family, you have the right to do so. Just as your parents could choose what was important to them, you can look at the information available to us today and choose how you will raise your children. Responding in a respectful way about why you have chosen to prioritize sleep for you family is a good way to approach this critique.
- If your child will cope well with slight changes in his sleep schedule, be flexible. If your little one will adapt well to staying up a bit later in the evening or taking the occasional nap on the go, then go ahead and make these small changes while you’re on holidays. Children who go into the holiday season well-rested, with a good foundation for sleep, tend to adapt well and recover quickly from slight changes to their sleep schedule. If you have a child who is particularly sleep sensitive or sleep is a very new skill for your child, sticking to your schedule will be the best way to make it through the holiday season without feeling like a scrooge.
Happy Holidays from all of us at SleepWell Baby!
Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at [email protected]