It became very clear to me as a young mother that sleep was an important part of my children’s health. Establishing a sleep schedule for my babies paid off as they grew older. I learned keeping a regular nap schedule was both important for physical and mental health, both kids and mom, as I parented little ones.
I was the kind of mom who wouldn’t make very many exceptions when it came to the nap schedule. If something was scheduled during naptime, we would simply miss it or come late. I never apologized for having to get home for a nap because I knew the benefits. There were many times when I wanted to do something but would prioritize nap time instead.
Even as my kids grew out of the morning nap phase, I was, and still am, a stickler for the afternoon nap. Once a child reached kindergarten, they didn’t take a nap anymore although I would argue they still needed one. Preschoolers in my home always had time for a nap with very few exceptions. I have seen the benefits of sleep and how skipping nap time has its consequences.
Now, some children are harder to get down at nap time than others. My oldest always needed more sleep. He was a good sleeper and was great at naps because his body needed it. There were times when he would sleep so much that I actually had to go wake him up so that he would be able to sleep at night.
My younger two would do anything to avoid taking a nap. They keep themselves from falling asleep at nap time. My younger son had issues with being able to calm his body, and I wish I had known of weighted blankets back then. We adopted our daughter last year, so I never quite got the chance to establish the same nap time routine with her. We have been playing catch up with her sleep this past year, and I noticed a huge difference in her personality and attitude. I require a nap time after lunch, but she knew that there was no way I could actually make her fall asleep. After many weeks of being consistent, she finally let go. Over the past year, she’s slept probably 75 percent of the time.
We are starting to transition my daughter out of the nap time schedule as she starts kindergarten in a few months. As you might expect, I have a strict policy on bedtime and kept my son’s bedtime at 7:30 p.m. until a few years ago. Now lights out is at 9 p.m. for my older two. They like to read before bed but know that if they get into bed right before 9 p.m. there is no reading allowed past lights out.
Sleep isn’t just good for the children, it also creates a healthy schedule in our household. I fiercely protect my children’s sleeping times because I know that sleep helps them physically and mentally. As they mature, they will be able to pick their own bedtime in accordance to what works for their body. Going to bed at a decent hour is still something that I struggle with, so I hope that having a set bedtime as a child will help them learn when their body needs rest. What they do as an adult is up to them, but at least I will know that I gave them every opportunity to sleep well under my roof.
Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. www.mamabear moxie.com. Visit her website at www.mamabearmoxie.com.
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