Those are two of my grandchildren asleep in a heap. Sleep is a wonderful restorative. It rests the mind and body. It recharges us. So, why don’t children want to sleep? What prohibits immediate slumber? Ten minutes before I snapped the picture, one twin was asleep while the other thrashed all over the bed. Then…he just fell over on ‘brover’- out.
“A well-tended child is fed, cradled, and soothed when she cries from hunger or crankiness. This scene plays out hundreds of times in the first month of life alone. Through this exchange, the baby learns to trust that her needs will be met and that she can rely on people.”- The Connected Child.
Rafal was seventeen months when we brought him home. In the orphanage, he slept in a darkened room full of rows of cribs. Lights went out at seven. The babies were conditioned not to cry because no one could come to their aid.
“An infant lying in a crib in a sterile institution may compete with forty other babies for the attention of a scarce care-giver. During the first weeks, the institutionalized baby will cry, but when on one responds, eventually the crying stops.”- The Connected Child
It took me a few nights back here in the states to figure out the conditions he needed for sleep. Dark and quiet. For the first few months home, he slept twelve hours straight every night.
Then something happened…..
Rafal began to attach to me The circle of attachment was completed over an over. He expressed a need and I responded. He cried. I answered. Bedtime took on a whole new dynamic. He began to express needs exponentially at bedtime. The child who once upon a time slept for twelve hours straight did not want to sleep at all.
I thought I had done something to ruin this perfect sleeper until I did some research. He wasn’t ruined. He was speeding through nineteen months of missed bedtimes. Nineteen months of no one answering his cry. Nineteen months of bedtime stories with mom. Nineteen months of another drink of water. Nineteen months of completing the attachment cycle.
I thought he was afraid. He was just getting secure. I swaddled him like a newborn. He craved the tight blankets or arms squeezing him to sleep. I lay down with him. He poked my eyes and stuck his finger up my nose, exploring my face. When he finally gave in to sleep, I jumped up and danced in the hallway.
“….children hurt by abuse and neglect can learn to love and trust adults in a family setting. Growth and development continue throughout the life span, and it is rarely too late for a child to change. The better we understand what motivates these children, the better equipped we are to help them.”- Adopting the Hurt Child
Pinpointing what motivates a child to sleep or not to sleep is not always cut and dry. It can be frustrating. Children can be stuck in a ‘no sleep’ cycle for long periods of time. Some of my other children have had different sleep issues, motivated by fears. I will discuss them in another post. What about yours? Have you thought about what motivates your child’s sleep issues?