Kristina Beers: Evaluate sleeping patterns for your family

By Kristina Beers

Special to the Pioneer
The lengthening of the evening hours, the assault of the cold mornings and (especially lately) the dreariness of wet and rain all make me think of one thing: warmth, snuggling deep into a comforter, and sleep. I love sleep and I feel like I don’t ever get enough … does that resonate with anyone?

Sleep has always been a priority in my household; while I may not be as stringent about bedtime now that the boys are older, I think because we made it such a top priority in the early years, there isn’t too much complaining. I will add a caveat that the midnight oil has been known to burn here, typically due to intriguing literature or a procrastinating soul, but only on rare occasion. Much more often, kids are in bed by 10 p.m. and the husband and I have wrapped up our rounds by 10:30 p.m. Sometimes earlier, rarely later.

When the boys were little, sleep was the absolute No. 1 priority. Outside play was No. 2. Everyone had nap times and I often felt my life consisted of juggling diapers and naps! But, my kids played better, grew stronger, and ate much more heartily. They were less cranky, (usually) didn’t complain about bedtime and had a cheerful countenance. (Unless he didn’t — nine times out of 10 any whiny boys were because one or more was tired.) Two times of the year loomed large for me: the dreaded Spring and Fall Time Changes.

I see sleep guidelines floating around social media, heavily during “back to school” time. I often wonder how many kids are falling well short of adequate sleep for health and well-being. I see it firsthand through family and friends with their little ones and busy schedules. Playdates, tot time, literacy centers, preschool, etc. — all of these are worthwhile and excellent for development, but everything comes at a price. If a toddler needs up to 14 hours of sleep and mom and dad get him from day/afterschool care at 5:30 p.m., have dinner at 6:30 p.m., then bath, stories, and bedtime at 8 p.m. and up at 6 a.m. for work/school/daycare, this family is already running at a four-hour deficit. Plug in different versions of the same scenario and I will wager most families are falling behind and we are all feeling the effects of a lack of sleep.

I don’t know how I ever became so strict with sleep, but I’m glad I did. It helped our entire family be the best they can, with the boys growing into fine young men and the parents aging a tad more gracefully. Good old dirt and fresh air were (and still are) natural allies in the work of growing boys, going together hand and glove. The napping years were rough. During that time, you’re dealing with fake sleepers (who doesn’t want to miss out on more playing?!) and the drudgery of sending a little guy, for the 10th time, back to his room, or saying “no” for the hundredth time, but I can see the fruits.

Part of my job, as a mom, is to be aware. If I see a 2-year-old needs 14 to 15 hrs of sleep and my son is cranky because he woke up early, he definitely needs his nap and all things revolve around that now. If my morning schedule cannot be moved, then I work with the evening schedule, even if it puts more burden on me.

I can’t replace the inner workings and miracles that happen during sleep for a growing child. There is no make-up time when they are older. At the teen years, it’s not necessarily a schedule we need to worry about, but measures taken to ensure good sleep: No electronics of any kind in a bedroom.

As we close in on one of my most hated times of year, Time Change, I encourage you to evaluate your routines and schedules, then compare them to adequate sleep recommendations, both for kids and adults. Start from the pivot point of “What’s your bedtime?”

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

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