You may be expecting your first child and wonder what all this fuss about sleep training and schedules is about. Or you’re a new parent and all the “good” advice you’ve received so far has your head spinning. Or you’re a veteran parent but you’re uncertain if you should sleep train your kiddo. Below is my list of 5 top reasons why sleep training and prioritizing your kid’s and your own sleep may not be the right choice for you.
1. Your kid is already a super sleeper.
Well, this one is kind of obvious. You are the envy of your tribe. You are the proud parent of the equivalent of the mystical unicorn. This is awesome and like winning the lottery twice on the exact day when Christmas and Easter coincide. Celebrate!
But wait- why are you reading this then?!
2. You think sleep is overrated.
You don’t have kids yet and think that you know what it feels like to be tired. You know how to push through it and all these new parents are whiners anyway.
Bless your heart.
There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as requiring exceptionally little sleep and thinking that sleep is overrated. After all, I was able to party all night long and still go to university, earn my degree, and work a part time job. What I didn’t realize was that I still had the luxury to catch up on sleep (= I didn’t party every night and I was largely able to march to my own drum).
Before kids, I was eventually getting all the sleep I needed because no one was depending on me to have their basic needs met. Once that happened, it was kind of a game changer.
3. Lack of sleep makes you a better human being.
Really? That’s so cool and I want to know the makeup of your DNA! You should probably also sign up for a scientific study. The vast majority of people I talk to report that less sleep makes them more cranky and less fun to be around. Me personally? I can push through pretty much anything, but sleep deprivation is and always will be my kryptonite! I get short tempered, moody, distracted, forgetful, my performance- mentally and physically- tanks, and my dark chocolate consumption skyrockets.
Studies have shown time and again what sleep deprivation does to the human brain and body. Here’s a well written article on the topic https://www.mamamia.com.au/torturing-new-mothers/?redirect=tm&utm_source=parenthoods&utm_medium=app&utm_campaign=app.
4. You flat out don’t like to be tied to your baby’s schedule
You can’t imagine being tied down by your baby’s schedule. You may see it with friends or family that have their kid on one; while their little tike is pleasant to be around, the schedule thing is not so cool. You’ve got things to see and places to go!
You like freestyle and want to see how this experiment plays out.
You may have even heard that you can still sort it out later on down the road if things don’t shape up the way you would like them to. And you’re right. You can absolutely teach an older kid the necessary skills to sleep soundly. But it gets harder and harder. Which in turn means it becomes a much bigger headache for you. On top of the headache you may already have from bedtime battles and being up and on call all of the time.
5. You love the Walking Dead & want to look the part
I got it- I do. Being partial to a certain tv series comes with obligations. I quit smoking back in the day (a loooooong time ago) because the wager was a Star Trek uniform. It was the typical teenage scenario of “you will never xyz” and I showed my friend (I am not gonna tell you what I would have had to do had I lost).
Pick your poison, but also take a step back and evaluate if extreme fandom is really worth putting your health and wellness on the line.
Chances are, you need to get stuff done during the day. Sometimes that may require you to operate a car or other machinery. Sleep deprivation (and surprisingly low levels at that) have the same impact on your alertness as alcohol consumption https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/drowsy-driving-vs-drunk-driving-how-similar-are-they.
You age faster https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723155002.htm and are at higher risk for chronic conditions https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/health-risks/the-effects-of-sleep-deprivation
Sleep is necessary for us to function our best. If kids don’t get enough quality sleep on a regular basis, they are at higher risk for: accidents, getting sick, learning difficulties, and more challenging behavior, to name just a few. A recent study in teens came to the alarming conclusion that it ups their risk for future heart disease https://www.realhealthmag.com/article/lack-sleep-among-teens-may-lead-future-heart-troubles
Bonus reason: High coffee consumption increases longevity.
Yeah, that study report did pop up on my newsfeed the other day, too. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/16/456191657/drink-to-your-health-study-links-daily-coffee-habit-to-longevity
Here’s my take on it: Drinking coffee may be beneficial-just as they point out in the article- if it’s part of an otherwise healthy lifestyle. I define a healthy lifestyle as one that includes adequate amounts of quality sleep. So burning the candle on both ends and hoping gallons of coffee will fix it won’t work. But I like coffee too.
What does this mean?
As you can probably tell if you made it this far, these “reasons against teaching your child to sleep” are my way of getting your attention. I want you to start thinking about what it actually means if your child and by proxy you aren’t getting the sleep you need. No judgement here- I know that sleep training isn’t for everyone, that it sounds scary and tedious, and that there’s A LOT of conflicting information out there.
I am all for prevention and building the right foundation so that sleep training is not necessary. I don’t even like the term “sleep training”. For me, it’s about teaching, learning, and growing. Both for the parents and the child. In my mind it shouldn’t be understood as something that’s being done to the child but with the child, taking into account his/her individual sleep needs, personality and family.