Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sleep begets sleep

Once upon a time, I was a stay-at-home-pregnant-woman and had nothing better to do than stock up on baby supplies and read books about taking care of newborns. One of the books I read (I forget which one) talked about how with babies, it's important to get them a lot of "healthy" sleep, because unlike adults, "sleep begets sleep." Basically, the point was that with older children (and adults), keeping the day filled with activities that will tire them out means they will sleep well at night, but babies are not this way. They need lots of healthy sleep, healthy meaning good long stretches that won't be interrupted by the motions of a car or swing. The well-rested infant will sleep more because he/she is getting lots of sleep. The infant who does not get enough sleep will not be able to fall asleep easily because they will be "overtired" and thus, will not settle.

When I first read this, I shared it with John, who told me that it didn't make sense at all. I thought it made perfect sense after I had a newborn and experienced the overtired state that could also be called the fifth circle of hell (not so bad that it has to be relegated to the seventh circle). Now, I have proof of this "sleep begets sleep" thing.

Johnny slept for 17 hours on Saturday night. No joke. We put him down at 7PM and he slept until 11:30AM. He woke up a little here and there, but never cried to get up, so we didn't go get him. Now, according to most people, he wouldn't be able to go to bed that night, right? He should have been wired and tireless with a bedtime closer to 10PM than 7PM... not true. He went down like a ton of bricks at 7:30PM. And stayed asleep for the next 12.5 hours. No wakings, no midnight wimperings, nothing. Out like a light.

Last night, however, Johnny did not sleep very well. The heater in our house really dries out his nose and throat and makes him uncomfortable, so there was a lot of waking and adjusting and he woke up earlier than normal. Nap time? Way worse than usual. Kicking, screaming in agony, writhing as I tried to calm him down. I finally managed to get him to sleep, but it was an epic battle and some tears were shed. Putting him down tonight after a short nap and not sleeping well last night? The same kind of struggle.

It seems to me that some of those experts might actually know what they're talking about... even if it doesn't seem to make sense.

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