The bags under your eyes, the weight you have been losing or gaining, the grumpiness and sheer exhaustion—these are the obvious reasons to make some changes. Your child’s physical and emotional well-being are also reasons.

Dr. Burton White, author of The First Three Years of Life, feels that sleep problems understandably occur in families where children are loved and whose needs have been met. So, in some ways, the emergence of sleep problems is not necessarily a bad sign. He notes that it is the continuance of sleep disturbances that can cause deeper problems.

Dr. If your child has not learned them, then his functioning during wakefulness is not “optimal.”2 Put simply, a sleep-deprived child (waking several times a night or missing out on even an hour) is not at his best. His cognitive processes will be fuzzy and his social functioning will be marked by grumpy unpredictability.

A child can “adjust” to whatever sleep patterns he has fallen into. (Look at how you have “adjusted.” Do you say “I didn’t know it was possible to exist with so little sleep”?) However, there are signs—some subtle, some blatant—that he is not at his best.

It is the parents’ job to insist on healthy sleep, just as they insist on healthy nutrition, to give the child the strongest base from which to grow. Good sleep habits do not necessarily happen spontaneously. This is a skill that can be learned by children and facilitated by parents.


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