Sleep Changes Through the Seasons

Sleep is such a hot topic in the parenting world. Where should my child sleep? How much should my child sleep? When should my child be sleeping through the night? Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

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? 

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8 thoughts on “Sleep Changes Through the Seasons

  1. When my children were younger we definitely did what you’re saying works for you-to roll with the seasons and let their bodies decide. No bedtime “time” and no wakeup “time”. Now that they’re older (12 & 8) they have to be in their beds at 8:30 but then they can read and or listen to music until 9:15/9:30 and then it’s lights out. We homeschool and they still get up when their bodies tell them to, which is somewhere between 6 & 7am usually, but the 8 yr old will sometimes push 7:30. Our littlest one (12 months) is still on the “whatever” routine and it is heavenly because I never worry about it and I never have! The only thing I do in regards to his sleep, is pay attention to how long it’s been since he woke up from his last nap (he takes two) because I need to be ready to put him down when he first starts to show signs of tiredness (somewhere between 3.5-4.5 hours currently). If I am busy and don’t notice, he gets overtired and/or it becomes too late and will interfere with going to bed at a decent hour at night. Anyway, sorry to write a book! Also, in summer it’s weird because after being in the sun and swimming, we are exhausted, but because of the extended daylight, we still stay up late!

  2. I agree with this completely having a first child like yours. We spent hours battling to get her to sleep based on what we felt she ‘should’ be getting. This is why sleep trainers really annoy me (they will often have information about how a certain amount of sleep is necessary for brain development, used to freak me out). Eventually we stopped doing battle and stopped trying to get her to sleep before she was ready. It was exhausting at times and like you would have times when we wondered if our 3 year old should be up til 10pm, but it made life easier for us. She is 6 now and is still a night bird. It does not seem to have affected her brain development at all – she is (again like yourselves), just like her Dad who will also stay up late. Our second is totally different and will bring us down to the bedroom when he needs to sleep (he is 2!!!), and loves his bedtime. And he has been going to bed later in the summer and now the nights are getting darker is starting to want to go earlier. Like you we are happier and less stressed because we stopped trying to get our children to sleep when we thought they ‘should’ be sleeping rather than allowing them to listen to their own clocks!

  3. I think it’s all just a way to get parents to understand how their children’s sleep patterns work. Get that, and (often against your wishes), they’ll end up sleeping fine.

    We were lucky in that ours has always loved his sleep and sleeps pretty much to routine (although I wanted to follow GF routine but couldn’t wake him at the specific times so gave up – he fell into the vague routine himself anyway), but it’s interesting to see what my friends have to cope with for their children.

  4. Loved reading this! My girl is now 20 months old and oh my, did we spend the first year of her life rocking, walking, singing, bouncing and doing everything else in our power to get her to sleep. It was exhausting for all of us! Much more relaxed about it now although we do try to give her a gentle nudge towards the bedroom when she still wants to run around. It’s much easier now but yes, it does mean that she is usually not in bed until 9ish at night (definitely later in summer). She wakes up around 7am every day and is happy as anything so I am sure there is no lack of sleep there!

    With the overload of information you get as a new mum, it is so hard to trust your instincts and to go with the (natural!) flow. I will have to remember it next time around!

    • Peanut also wakes up at 7am and is running out the door and happy! Doesn’t vary in her wake time in the slightest no matter what time she goes to bed.

      I found it was vastly more easy for me to just “give up” and go with the flow with my second. I think I spent way too much of my first daughter’s baby years fighting to get her to fit into some little box of my expectations. Now I realize that children have their own expectations and personalities and you just need to do what works for them.

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