Before we had kids, I would never have guessed that a set kids sleep schedule would become so important to me. But, that was back when I thought our children would sleep well. Because all babies sleep well, right? Only, ours didn’t. And it turns out a lot of children need rigid, inflexible sleep schedules, too. So, know that I didn’t plan to be here. But it’s still where we ended up – in the midst of yet another sleep regression. So, for those of you in the same boat, you’ll know exactly what I’m saying. And for those of you who don’t? Well, this open letter is for you.
Please understand – our kids’ sleep schedule is set in stone for a reason
Dear friends and family,
Perhaps your children are already grown – and so you’re long enough past the stage where your children don’t sleep well that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be here. That’s ok – that means you’re in a different stage of life. Maybe it’s harder in different ways. Or maybe you have that magical genetic sequence that means your children can sleep anytime, anywhere, and be totally fine with it. If so, that’s awesome – and I’m slightly jealous.
Our children don’t sleep well without help. Period. Full stop. Our kids have always been poor sleepers – and it only got worse as they hit specific milestones. Like that 11-month-old sleep regression – one of my least favorite. It took months to get them used to sleeping – and they get derailed so easily.
Now that they’re all old enough to actually be sleeping, they still rely on multiple environmental factors to help them sleep. In other words, my kids aren’t trying to be picky sleepers – they just are.
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Our kids can only sleep in their own beds – and they heaven forbid anyone tries to share their bed! No, these kids all like to sleep alone. Their bedrooms have to be dark – pitch black dark. Like, blackout curtains and shut doors dark. Oh, and they need this white noise machine because it doesn’t loop or skip – a subtle noise that messes with their delicate sleep cycle. Oh – and our kids have to sleep at the same time – and on the same schedule – every single day.
Trying to fudge that schedule means trouble. Big trouble.
Trouble like night terrors – a weird, seemingly awake state where they scream and are inconsolable for hours on end. There is nothing you or I can do that helps their night terrors. We just have to wait it out while they scream and thrash, lost in a weird fugue-like state. It’s awful. And it can last a couple of hours. When they finally do wake up they’re exhausted. They’re also unbelievably cranky, disoriented, and likely to slip into another episode.
In other words, we can’t let the kids stay up super late. And no, we don’t dare wake them up early. Once they’re in bed? That time is theirs to sleep – and we don’t mess with it.
Basically, our kids’ sleep is sacred. If your kids are the same way, I feel you. But if your children are more flexible when it comes to sleep? I’m amazed, slightly jealous, and grateful for understanding that mine aren’t.
Please keep inviting us to events – even if we can’t come
Because our kids’ set sleep schedule is such a priority for us, there’s a lot of evening activities we have to skip. It’s not that we want to skip them all… okay, fine. Full disclosure: there are some activities we’re totally fine skipping. And in those instances, we’re quite grateful for our set-in-stone bedtime excuse!
But when it’s a fun event and we want to attend? Like when the neighborhood is having a swim party or friends invite us over for a fun evening of dinner and board games? We would like to attend! We really would. But… we can’t. And it’s nothing personal, really.
We just have young children who quite literally have to go to bed by 6:30 every night. Fudging that in the past has never ended well. And we like you too much to let our overtired little gremlins loose in your home, no matter how cute they are before that magical bedtime hour chimes.
As our kids get older I’m sure we’ll be able to push their bedtime back and attend more activities. Our older kids are getting there – and it’s so exciting! But while our youngest children are still stuck in this particular phase, well… please keep inviting us to events. We’ll have to decline, of course, but we appreciate being invited.
Thank you so much for your patience, help, and understanding right now
Being in this stage of mandatory naps and bedtimes is hard. We won’t be here forever. But while we are here, I appreciate all you do to accommodate our crazy-rigid schedule.
Thank you for offering to babysit while a child is napping so that I can make that emergency run to the store for milk. Bless you for coming over after the kids are in bed so that my husband and I can go on a much-needed date. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for rescheduling our lunch date so that my baby girl can take a nap.
I know, in my head, that this stage won’t last forever. But in my heart, it feels like that day will never come. So thank you for your patience. Thank you for understanding – and reaching out to me so I don’t get lost in this moment.
Your very tired friend,
More on Kids’ Sleep Schedules:
- An earlier version of this letter originally appeared on That’s Inappropriate: Here’s Why We Have A Crazy, Inflexible Sleep Schedule.
- Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? Via HealthyChildren.org
- How Much Sleep Do Children Need? Via WebMD.com
My Must-Have Sleep Resources:
- Every bedroom in our house has heavy-duty, light-blocking blackout curtains. They’re especially great for mid-day naps for sick kids!
- My kids sleep so much better with this amazing white noise machine! We take it with us when we travel.
- We got a lot of our best ideas for getting our kids to sleep already from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD.
- Want more help? Join my Sleep Regression Support Group on Facebook!
You’ll Also Love:
- How to Manage a Sleep Regression at Any Age
- How to Set the Right Sleep Schedule for Your Kids
- 7 Ways to Survive A Sleep Regression at Any Age