If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.
Imagine an upright wheel slowly rotating to make a complete revolution every twenty-four hours. It looks like a Ferris wheel, but I call it a Sleep Wheel. The Sleep Wheel illustrates how your child’s sleep is not made up of independent, isolated parts but instead is composed of different but related parts.
The Sleep Wheel is driven by a giant engine, perhaps the largest motor you can imagine: the rotation of the earth on its axis. As the earth rotates, it creates alternating periods of light and darkness. This alternation of daytime and nighttime creates the circadian sleep rhythm (Blog Post 112). You have no control over the speed of the Sleep Wheel. It turns round and round no matter what you do as a parent.
However, as a parent, you can build the spokes that radiate from the center to the rim and create the structural integrity of the wheel. There are four spokes of the Sleep Wheel that support the rim:
1. Start early, think of healthy sleep as nourishment for the developing brain. The brain is the only organ in the body that has an absolute need for sleep (Blog Post 148).
2. Many hands (get Dad and others on board).
3. After a bedtime routine, put your child down while drowsy but still awake, and leave the room.
4. Many naps (no cumulative sleepiness, no second wind).
These spokes support the structure because they allow your baby to begin to learn self-soothing. If the spokes are strong, your child will have a smooth ride as the wheel turns round. If the spokes are weak, the rim will wobble in the wind. If some spokes are missing or there are no spokes at all, the rim will bend or collapse altogether.
(To be continued)