Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

When our boys were under eight years of age, we tried very hard to stick to rigid sleep routines. Our eldest seemed the most sensitive to changes and the youngest would wake through the night for just under the first three years of his life and even was occasionally prone to sleepwalking. At times, especially when the children were under one, I found my mother would be critical that we were being too structured. I felt like I was being painted with the brush of the controlling bossy teacher. We found by having set routines we were able to honour our children’s sensitivities. Moreover, I tend to be very unstructured and creative with my daily activities, hence the structure at night offered balance as a grounding anchor. Moral of the story? You have to do what is right for your family and follow your intuition. Try to ignore the input from well-meaning grandparents when you know intuitively what best works for your family.

One thing I know is that everyone’s sleep needs are different. In addition, regardless of a person’s unique minimum sleep requirements, if they get less than their personal need, they are grumpy, and resiliency drops. In one family I know the mom has only needed 6-7 hours of sleep whereas her husband and sons all need eight to ten hours of sleep (and at times even more).

As a teacher, I could see the children who came to school with enough sleep as they looked rested, they tended to be optimistic, better problem solvers, less reactionary, calm, focused, and productive. Children who came to school with dark circles under their eyes tended to be reactionary, quick to anger, less focused and less productive, struggled to think of solutions, were more fidgety, and unfortunately if one asked a few questions found out that the lack of sleep wasn’t always due to the lack of bedtime, but due to the disruptions by the adults in the household (loud noise, loud music, t.v., hunger and arguments).

We all have struggled with sleep at some point in our lives, Sleep hygiene awareness has exploded over the past ten years. Take the time to research and read options from the many resources available online and otherwise. One thing that seems to be a commonly suggested solution is the practice of meditation or mindfulness. Sleep seems to be one aware deep breath surrender away.