Why My Child’s Sleep Rules My Life and I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way

I hear all sorts of things from other parents and from my colleagues about how a child’s sleep schedule doesn’t have to rule your life. I’ve heard moms proclaim, “I’m not about to let my infant dictate my schedule, she can sleep just as well in the stroller anyway.” Well, I respectfully disagree.

Children need adequate sleep to be able to function and learn well, just like we all do. And stroller sleeping is NOT the same thing as sleeping at home in a cozy and familiar bed. Sure, children CAN do it, but that doesn’t mean they should.

Just yesterday I was listening to the radio and heard that for an adult, missing an hour of sleep per night for a week diminishes our mental capacity to the same degree as it would if we had not slept for 48 hours straight. Whoa. Sleep really does impact us more than we realize.

Maybe you’re one of those parents who resists a consistent schedule or who doesn’t want to schedule the rest of your life around your child’s need for sleep. If so, my intention is not to belittle your choice or even necessarily to convince you to change your ways. I just want to tell you about why I love it that my life is completely ruled by my daughter’s sleep.

#1 Zero meltdown days- When my daughter gets a consistent sleeping schedule, she is happier, more adaptable, and better able to handle surprises or disruptions to the rest of the schedule. If she’s sleep deprived (even an hour less sleep in 24 hrs.) she is MUCH more reactive and more likely to become upset by things that seem incredibly small and insignificant to me. As long as I keep her napping and sleeping schedule consistent, we often have lots of zero meltdown days!

#2 She asks for her nap and to go to bed at night- The first time I asked, “Are you ready for your nap?” and heard a “Yes, Mommy.” I was shocked. I’ve had a LOT of experience with children resisting sleep, and she will sometimes fight it after we’re in her room, but she will ALWAYS willingly go into her bedroom for nap-time. I think this speaks to how clearly I’ve held her sleep as a priority and how consistent I’ve been with the timing and location of her daily naps.

#3 I like a consistent schedule too- Honestly, it’s difficult for me to empathize with a distaste for schedules, I find a consistent routine comforting and easier than changing things up constantly. Sure, we’re home a lot, but I like being at home! For those of you who don’t enjoy a consistent schedule, what is it about this that bothers you? Is it simply boring to do the same thing every day? Or is it something else? I guess I’m just lucky that I enjoy consistency, because it’s been clear to me all along that my daughter thrives when she knows what to expect and feels comfortable in a familiar environment. Sure, we go out on adventures, but we almost always come back home to sleep.

#4 Did I mention zero meltdowns?- OK, so not only is it easier for HER emotional state when she gets consistent and reliable sleep, it’s easier for me too! I guess I could choose to stay out at a fun activity for an extra half an hour, but the resultant fussiness my daughter exhibits has never seemed worth it to me. I make it a point to change or disrupt her sleeping schedule only about once a month. And when I do, it usually takes us several days to get back on schedule, so it has to be something really worthwhile like staying up late around the campfire, going to a special art exhibit or a musical performance I’ve been really looking forward to.

#5 When the schedule changes, she rolls with it- By providing a consistent sleep schedule as a foundation for my daughter, she knows she’ll get the rest she needs, so she doesn’t have to freak out when I keep her out an hour past her bedtime once a month. Instead, she is just her usual happy self, even well past her bedtime. But that’s only because I’ve built up a saving’s account of consistent sleep that she can draw on during unusual circumstances.

So, all in all I think my message is clear. I’ve prioritized my daughter’s sleep schedule so that our lives together will be easier and more fun. Who cares about that extra hour of time out with a friend if the rest of the day with my daughter is frustrating and filled with meltdowns?!

When I choose consistency for my child’s sleep, I’m also choosing more cooperation, ease and sanity for myself. Do you agree or disagree with me? I would love to hear YOUR opinion!

Have a wonderful and restful week, Shelly

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