When Peanut was somewhere nearing a year old, I read The No-cry Sleep Solution, which is a great read and helpful to many parents (especially about what to expect when it comes to sleeping through the night), but for me it just made me worry. Is my child sleeping enough? She never came close to what the charts said she needed. She fought both day and night sleep, no matter what routines I tried. The book does say that there will be the extraordinary few who don’t need as much sleep as the book states (or even some who need more!), but not to assume you’re in the bunch. So made the opposite assumption and tried my best to get Peanut to sleep more, thinking it was what she needed.
Every time I made an attempt, I’d give up pretty quick. It’s hard to spend day after day (and night after night) battling your child. So I’d modify the bedtime routine or I’d try to give us a more solid daily routine or I’d add something into our lives that was supposed to make children go to sleep easier. It never worked. Instead she’d fight me on it, we’d have a miserable week or two, and I’d give up. Until, finally, I decided to give up on the routine.
My child doesn’t sleep as much as most other kids. Then again, my husband doesn’t sleep as much as most adults. Peanut fights sleep until the second that she just can’t keep her eyes open anymore and then passes out. My husband does the exact same thing, which is why he ends up sleeping on the couch 2-3 nights a week (he’s also stubborn and convinced he can watch just one more episode of whatever it is he’s currently watching on Netflix before bed). Not to say it’s all genetic, but hey, there’s a correlation here!
It’s kind of funny that I didn’t really notice this until Twig came along. Within a couple of weeks it was obvious that there are some very big differences in how my children sleep. Peanut as a baby wouldn’t sleep anywhere except on me. Twig would wake up if I tried to wear her in a wrap while I went about my business. Peanut wouldn’t even think of falling asleep without nursing (the first time I can remember her doing so was when she was about 6 months old). Twig would fall asleep on other people or in the swing, which was where she spent many a mornings napping in the first couple months of her life. Peanut would nap for 30 minutes, Twig would wake up after 2 hours. The list goes on.
As I started to realize these differences in my children, I became more observant of how the season can affect sleep too. One day at the park I was talking to another mom and she shared her theory with me that we just need less sleep in the summer. Getting all that sun while running around outside is great for your body, so maybe it doesn’t take as much time to recoup? Not to mention that there’s less illness going around in the summertime, which is also taxing on your body.
For Peanut, light (or lack thereof) is a big indicator of sleep. In the summertime, it stays light for longer. This summer is the first one where I just plain out didn’t fight my children to get to bed. I watched for signs of tiredness and put them to bed when they were ready (and sometimes put them to bed after they fell asleep on the couch while watching Mythbusters). Fighting off the part of me that wondered if my 3 year old should really be up until 10pm, I just went with the flow. They continued to wake up right around 7am, no matter their bedtime. Then I started to realize that the sun was setting sooner. Over the last month or so, it’s started getting dark a full two hours earlier than it was in the beginning of July. And you know what? My children have been going to bed a full two hours earlier.
Just watching their rhythms, seeing what they needed, has led me to just a simple and wonderful conclusion: children sleep with the moon. My children, when we follow natural rhythm of the seasons, are happy, sleep deep, and don’t fight bedtime. We don’t do a routine. We don’t have a specific bedtime. We just put them to bed when they’re ready and we’re all happier for it. No more fighting, no more stress, no more hurrying home because they must be in bed my 7pm according to what my new routine says. Just letting them sleep when they want to sleep. It’s almost like this whole parenting thing can be as intuitive as it should be. Who would have thought.
How does sleep look in your house? Do you notice your children sleeping less in the summer? Do you have a bedtime routine or do you go with the flow?