We’ve all been there, right? It’s Sunday morning and you have the day off. The house is cool and quiet and it’s an ungodly hour that you couldn’t imagine rising at, unless work demanded it. You’re curled up securely in your blanket and plan on getting another couple of hours of sleep…
Then it happens! You hear the unmistakable pitter-patter of tiny feet making their way toward you. Oh no… you think. Just relax, maybe he’s just going potty then he’ll go back to bed… Then within a moment you hear and feel the familiar nasal breathing of your toddler on your face. It’s even worse once they get tall enough to turn on lights on their own.
You foolishly think, “Maybe if I pretend I’m still asleep, he’ll leave me alone…” Then you hear a mild whisper: “Daddy?” The whisper increases in volume and intensity until you have no choice but to open your eyes. You try to reason with the little human by suggesting that he needs to be quiet because you’re still sleeping. This request is followed by a poking of the face or a manual lifting of the eyelids. When you get angry and tell him to stop, his response is simply, “What? That was quiet!”
That’s my child. He’s such a smart ass. I have NO idea where he gets it from. Let this short story be a warning to anyone who is foolish enough to listen to the grinding gears of their biological clock!
Children are most particular, because no two children are exactly the same. Hell, even identical twins will have some different habits. According to an article written in Today’s Parent, a 2007 study conducted in Switzerland found that some healthy, normal toddlers slept a total of 11.4 hours while others slept as much as 16.5 hours. That’s quite the difference.
There are some things that you can do to help balance all this out. The same article goes on to suggest that certain external factors can contribute to radical changes in sleep habits. Loss of a pacifier or bottle, a new sibling in the household or other noticeable changes in the regular flow of household life can contribute to altered sleep habits. And it can often cause levels of stress within your toddler, even if they aren’t necessarily negative changes.
There are a number of other suggestions; unfortunately they don’t apply to my son. He’s already off naps and he generally snacks before bedtime. One good suggestion is that if you notice your child is getting enough sleep but they still wake up at the crack of dawn doing their best rooster impression, moving bedtime to a slightly later time may be the answer.
All of this information is to illustrate that the important factor is to ensure a proper sleep routine. Routine, especially when it involves sleep, is exceptionally important for proper health. This is where your circadian rhythm comes in.
A circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour natural process that helps your body to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. This rhythm repeats itself every day and is the reason why it is so important to have a steady routine in regards to eating and sleeping.
Studies have shown that things like late-night television, excessive or late night eating as well as erratic bedtimes can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause a score of complications.
I don’t think I need to explain that a steady and regular routine will help with effective blood sugar and fitness regulation. If one spends half the night up in a loud night club having alcoholic drinks, one can hardly be expected to do the 20 kilometre bike run they generally do every morning. And eating your meals at erratic times and intervals will cause issues such as overlapping insulin dosages and digestive problems.
If you happen to be a frustrated parent and want some suggestions on getting your toddler to sleep better, here’s that Today’s Parent article: https://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/toddler-sleep/waking-up-early/
With the obvious exception of shift work, in and as much as your life permits it, you should your absolute best to maintain a regular sleep schedule, allowing for the same bedtime every night and enough time to get between 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep. Following this standard will help you to wake feeling more refreshed and ready for day, will help reduce the amount of required caffeine and help maintain your circadian rhythm. ☯