Now that I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the long-term (and short-term) effects of cumulative sleep loss in the persons of my two very tired children who on average have lost between 2-3 hours of sleep a night over this vacation, I can personally affirm the research I've read and believed all along. Children must sleep. They must sleep a lot.
I have a son who, since infancy, has done best with tons of sleep. Most recently, twelve hours at night and a good hour nap, sometimes two hours. My daughter's natural appetite is somewhat less, as she tends to be need about 11 to 1.5 and a similar nap (and at 20 months younger).
But the fascinating chapter from Nurture Shock (a book I highly recommend) on the correlation between mood disorders, IQ and obesity (to name a few) with sleep loss in children coupled with seeing my two so compromised, makes me feel even more fervently that we should all, well, go to sleep! For longer.
I've been known to say, jokingly, that all the world's problems would be solved if we could all get a good night's sleep. Apparently, I have been right.
In my parenthood, I've been determined to uphold night time and nap time. Two books that I worked with, The No Cry Sleep Solution, and Healthy Child, Healthy Sleep Habits, educated me about the critical sleep need for infants and toddlers (while also making me feel better about my own sleep habits and why I feel so cranky when I don't get enough). I can't recommend them enough. And for mothers who are having trouble with their young children, maybe more sleep is the answer--or an earlier bedtime, or more incentive for a mid-day nap.
There are so many worthwhile statements in Nurture Shock, I don't have time to record them but leave you with this thought: "Sleep is a biological imperative for every species on earth. But humans alone try to resist its pull. Instead, we see sleep not as a physical need but a statement of character. It's considered a sign of weakness to admit fatigue--and it's a sign of strength to refuse to succumb to slumber."
Long live the truly strong among us, who, like myself, are keen to admit their fatigue!!