Thursday, February 18, 2010


We implemented early bedtime for Ezra when he was about 18months old, and we've been pretty committed to it for the children ever since. It took a bit longer for us to see the impact of our own sleep-lack, like maybe 7 years, or once Sylvie started sleeping through the night consistently. It's amazing what good sleep means for everyone in a family.

I know that we've all heard how much our bodies need sleep, how ADD-type symptoms can be strongly correlated with too little sleep or even inconsistent sleep, how driving when tired is marked in some locales as an offense. I just think it can't hurt to say it all again.

For our family, there are many obvious signs that one, or many, of us is getting too little sleep. Sylvie cries more and screams more and annoys more when she goes to bed too late. Phaedra gets a bit mean and inflexible when her worries or anticipations keep her awake. Ezra is more prone to tears, the long-suffering kind, as we all seem to be more unjust when he's tired. Jason gets snippy and I get angry. Each of us is more easily overwhelmed. These things are only obvious when the regular pattern is enough sleep; many behaviors would seem normal or understandable if we were not more familiar with our own resiliency and adaptability.

A commitment to sleep in our family means we miss out on many things. For the most part, we do not do anything as a family in the evening. There are naturally exceptions, but we acknowledge the price in family harmony ahead of time. This means sports have been pretty much out of the question. It means one adult accompanies one or two older children to live music or plays while the other stays home with the younger one or two. It means many evenings when Jason comes home, Sylvie is already in bed and the other two have had reading time before dinner.

As the children get older, we test the envelope. Truthfully, Ezra does not seem to need much sleep for a child his age; he gets a much later time for lights out and still lays awake for another hour most nights with no sign of irritability the next day. Phaedra and Sylvie seem to need eleven to thirteen hours of sleep most nights, Phaedra on the low end, Sylvie on the high end. This can be difficult, because Phaedra finds it extremely unfair that Ezra gets to stay up much later than her. We haven't found a good compromise beyond, "Go to bed!"

For Jason and me, 10:00 seems a pretty good bedtime. We like to think we can stay up to 11:00 without a problem, but one errand the next day will reveal my sleep lack. Sometimes, it's hard to be the adult.

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