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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Leg cramps, migraines, poor academic achievement -- even marital discord can be attributed to an affliction that many might consider prosaic: lack of adequate sleep.
So says author and pediatrician Will Wilkoff, who, during his 25 years of practicing medicine, has found sleep deprivation to be the culprit in numerous health problems. In his new book, Is My Child Overtired? The Sleep Solution for Raising Happier, Healthier Children, Wilkoff admonishes parents to take a critical look at their children's sleep patterns as well as their own.
"Although there is a wide variation in the stamina of children, most parents underestimate how much sleep their children need," he writes. "Before you consider a later bedtime you must be able to honestly say that your child is happy, successful, and healthy -- and that you are rested and have enough time for yourself."
The premise is intriguing -- think how often new parents worry that they are not meeting their infant's sleep needs properly or wish desperately for a couple of hours to themselves at night. Could it be that lack of adequate sleep for both you and your child could be detrimental to your child's overall health and happiness?
Wilkoff believes that getting an early start in helping your child form good sleep habits is essential. Within the first few weeks of life, he writes, you should place your baby in a separate room, or at least in a darkened corner, and pick him up only for changing and feeding. You must keep the lights low and activity limited between 7pm and 7am to begin the process of teaching him the difference between night and day, sleep time and play time. By consistently putting him in his crib to sleep, you will help foster an association between a cozy place and slumber. These rules for infancy establish the guidelines for childhood and beyond.
Although the author discusses the various obstacles parents may encounter in implementing his sleep schedule, his solutions invariably turn to behavior-modification techniques. He does not offer different tactics for different personalities, nor does he discuss the more complex psychological reasons for sleep difficulties.
Wilkoff's approach can seem coldhearted. He believes that in some instances parents should let a baby cry herself to sleep for up to an hour without visits -- and in the case of an older child who repeatedly leaves her room at night, they should lock her door. "Don't worry if you find your child asleep on the floor," he comments on the latter scenario. "If you have provided her with warm pajamas and enough blankets she will be able to keep herself warm." Such an unyielding approach will certainly repel some parents.
Still, to his credit, Wilkoff makes numerous creative suggestions for a wide range of sleep-related dilemmas. He recommends serving lunch mid-morning for an overtired or sick toddler who could use an extended after-meal nap, preserving an afternoon siesta, or quiet time, when your child has outgrown naps, and negotiating realistically with teenagers, who need more sleep as they approach adulthood, not less. He offers practical advice on choosing a sleep-friendly daycare, getting decent rest while traveling, and balancing children's visits between divorced parents.
Although the book's strongly behaviorist bent is surely not for everyone, Wilkoff's clearly stated thoughts on the vital importance of sleep will make you think twice about taking your one-month-old to a wedding or planning a busy overseas vacation. The book will inspire you to reassess your own and your children's sleep habits and perhaps make some real changes to get the rest you all badly need.