Book Excerpt: 'Sleepless in America'

If your children misbehave, there's a very good chance that they, like many of the adults in this country, are sleep-deprived.

In "Sleepless in America," Mary Sheedy Kurcinka tells you how to make sure your children get enough sleep -- and how to restore order in your home.

Chapter One

Temper Tantrums, Morning Wars, Homework Hassles

What does sleep have to do with misbehavior? "The difference between a child who is well rested and one who is not is a smile on his face -- and on yours."

— Joe, father of two

The trouble with a child who is missing sleep is that her behavior is confusing. It's hard to believe that the real culprit behind her temper tantrum is lack of sleep when bedtime is one of your biggest battles, or she loses it simply because you dropped her water bottle. And when she can't even dress herself, even though she did it yesterday, it feels more like a plot against you than an issue of fatigue. How can a child who is supposedly so tired somehow garner the energy to veer off her path just far enough to bop her brother in the head, and jump on her bed laughing hysterically when you try to get her down for the night?

But if your child is misbehaving, it's very likely that he or she is crying for sleep. Sleep-deprived children can include babies who are sleeping less than 14 - 16 hours in a 24-hour period; toddlers sleeping less than 13 hours, preschoolers less than 12 hours, school-age children less than 10 hours, or adolescents sleeping less than 9.25 hours a night. And until your child gets more sleep, no punishment, no discipline strategy will stop the challenging behaviors. Sound sleep is a key to good behavior. The problem is that children rarely tell you that they are tired. Instead, they get wired, which escalates into a frenzy of energy. It's as though their body is out of control -- and it is.

Suspecting that your child might be tired, you may have even tried to put him to bed at a reasonable hour, but it's as though he fights sleep. If he's an infant, just as you think he is about to drop off, he jerks awake, thrashing and shrieking. And if he is older, no matter what you do, he still complains that he can't fall asleep, wakes frequently in the night, and all too often awakens early. Since your efforts are unrewarded, it's easy to assume that he does not need much sleep. The misbehavior and whining continue, and the connection to lack of sleep remains a mystery. That's what happened in Samantha's family.

On Saturday, eight-year-old Samantha was a delight. She accepted the news that her favorite cereal was gone with a mere sigh of disappointment. Over breakfast, she chatted cheerfully with her parents and even allowed her brother to join the conversation. When the baby reached for her toast, she offered him a bite instead of slapping his hand. He squealed with pleasure. Without complaining, she cleaned her room, and didn't lag behind on a trip to the shopping center. Her parents grinned, proud of their skill and glorying in their daughter's energy and enthusiasm for life. But Sunday was a different story.

On Sunday, Samantha wouldn't get out of bed, despite the planned outing with her grandparents. She shrieked in protest when her mother announced it was too cold to wear shorts, and shoved her brother away when he came to investigate the problem. The baby, hearing the high-pitched screams, sat saucer-eyed in fear. Unfortunately, it was also a bad-hair day, an occurrence that overwhelmed Samantha and dropped her to her knees, tears spurting from her eyes. No matter what her parents did to remedy the situation, they couldn't get it right. She reeled in their arms, and then bolted from the room. Same child, same parents, same week -- why such a difference in mood and behavior?

On Friday night, Samantha had enjoyed ten hours of sound slumber. She had been so pleasant on Saturday that her parents rewarded her by letting her stay up late to watch a movie. But on Sunday morning, plans precluded her sleeping in, leaving Samantha short on sleep. The tantrum got her parents' attention but not the association with lack of sleep.

Sometimes It's Easier to Recognize Sleep Deprivation in Yourself

I first met Samantha's mother, Sara, when she attended one of the weekly classes I teach for parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. Every week, for eight weeks, sixteen parents and their children arrive at the center. From the beginning, some stroll into the room ready to visit with friends, and learn new, effective strategies for working together. Others initially slip quietly through the door, weary. They wonder if there really is information that can help them, or if they are the only ones facing the issues that trouble them. Almost always I am rewarded weeks later, as they, too, arrive smiling, with a proud stride to their step. I never grow tired of welcoming them, and am always eager to understand the issues they face.

When I'm not teaching in St. Paul, I lead large workshops all over North America, as well as offer private consultations for families. I also write. My previous books have included Raising Your Spirited Child; Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook; and Kids, Parents and Power Struggles. Whether I am writing, working one on one with a family, leading a small discussion group, or speaking to a thousand parents and professionals, I am always deeply grateful that this is my work.

Initially, when I brought up the topic of sleep in class, Sara was skeptical. What could sleep -- or lack of it -- possibly have to do with the fact that Samantha was constantly overreacting to the simplest requests? Or that her four-year-old son became "mother-deaf," unwilling to listen every afternoon at five. Especially since the mere word "bedtime" could send both of them to the moon. So, I asked her to take note of her own feelings when she was short on sleep. The next week, she had a story to tell.

"The baby had an ear infection," she explained. "I didn't recognize it for several days, because he wasn't running a temperature. He wasn't sleeping. I was up at least four times a night, and even when he did sleep, I was lying there, waiting for him to wake up again. So, when the alarm went off, I snuggled deeper under the covers, breathing slowly, my eyes closed. Just a minute, I thought. Just give me a minute. But there was no time for rest. I threw back the covers and dragged myself to the closet. I stood there, stumped. I couldn't make a decision. A dull headache thudded in the back of my head. Frustrated, I turned to leave and stubbed my toe. Searing pain shot through my entire leg. I couldn't believe how much it hurt. Now limping, I headed in slow motion to the kitchen, hoping that eating something would ease the weight in my limbs and the dryness in my mouth. Before I got there, my husband asked me to pick up the newspaper at the front door. I snapped at him. His simple request was overwhelming to me. Entering the kitchen, I opened up the bread drawer -- no, I thought, toast would be too dry. I stood there, unable to figure out what I wanted. 'Aren't you eating anything?' my husband asked. I couldn't answer him. Instead, I burst into tears."

She paused, her voice dropping. "Until that day I never realized my kids must be feeling the same way."

Sara is not alone. I have to admit that in years past, as I worked with families, I, too, misinterpreted the signs of sleep deprivation. When parents asked me what they should do when an afternoon's outing to the discount store erupted into a temper tantrum merely because they replied "maybe" to a request for a cookie, or a child constantly demanded attention, I simply responded to the behavior. I didn't know better. As a result, I was frequently puzzled and embarrassed when the strategies I suggested -- which were tried-and-true techniques -- didn't work. I began searching for an answer to explain why, and I found it -- so simple and yet so elusive -- sound sleep. Today, my first question when consulting with families is: "How much sleep is your family getting?"

Why is Missing Sleep the Culprit?

New research has demonstrated the key role adequate sleep plays in the ability to control one's emotions, behavior, and attention span. Without sufficient sleep, your child's performance, mood, focus, and ability to work with others deteriorate rapidly. Power struggles begin with a lousy night's sleep. Even the most compliant child starts to lose it over the "little things."

Researchers are also recognizing that during the first two years of life, the average child spends fourteen of those twenty-four months asleep. During this time, the brain has reached 90 percent of adult size, and the child has attained amazing skills. By the age of five, children have spent half of their lives asleep. There is an evolutionary reason for why we sleep this much in the early years. The reason, researchers believe, is that sleep plays a fundamental role in healthy brain development, leaving us with a pressing question: Can our children afford not to get enough sleep?

How Did We Get Here?

In the United States, there's been a huge cultural shift during the past two decades, one that has affected the amount of sleep children are getting. Today, there is growing pressure to engage ever-younger children in a dizzying variety of activities and experiences. Even infants are impacted as they are towed along to older siblings' activities and exposed to high stimulation levels that leave their bodies too tense to sleep. Long commutes and work hours for parents also mean that if there is going to be any "family time," it's likely to occur at night. Unfortunately, it's leading to behavior problems for our children.

Curiously, other cultures are aware of the problem, as Sara Harkness, a professor at the University of Connecticut's School of Family Studies, has discovered in her cross-cultural studies of families. The Dutch believe their children need rest in order to maximize growth and development. They make sleep a priority, and therefore protect it.

Sara Harkness learned all this firsthand. While she was conducting her study, Sara's own children were enrolled in a Dutch elementary school. One evening, a school program ran an hour later than the children's usual bedtime. Despite the fact that there was no announcement or written notice, every parent there -- except Sara -- knew that the next day, school would start an hour later, so that the children could get their sleep.

Things are very different in the United States. Recently, Kim, the mother of three, described taking her five-year-old son, Michael, to a children's concert. It was supposed to be a fun family outing, but instead it turned into a public battle. Once inside the concert hall, Michael refused to walk down the steps to his seat. Kim found herself dragging him down the aisle. As soon as the concert began, Michael proceeded to whine and complain that the lights hurt his eyes and that the music was too loud. The glowering stares of the people around them drove Kim to take Michael back to the lobby. There, he caught sight of the souvenirs. When she refused to buy him one, he threw a knock-down temper tantrum, complete with shrieking and kicking. Kim had had enough. She took him home. Once in their house, she sent him to his room. He cried for a bit, and then fell asleep on his bed. While he slept, Kim fumed. The tickets had been expensive, yet he'd been so ungrateful. He'd turned what was supposed to be a "fun" outing into a fight.

It was then that she picked up the telephone and called me. She'd heard me speak at a local seminar. Knowing that I had written books for parents and that I taught parent-education classes, she hoped I might be able to help.

Her anger quickly spilled into the conversation. She described the glares of the other concertgoers and her own embarrassment, and then asked, "How should I punish Michael for acting that way?"

I let her talk until the intensity faded from her voice and then simply asked, "What do you think he was feeling?" She groaned. "I think he was worn out," she said. "Worn out from what?" I asked. She explained that he'd recently started a new school, which was very draining for him. He was also taking karate and gymnastics lessons three nights a week. But the real confirmation of his exhaustion had been his own words. Just that morning, he'd entreated, "Mom, I'm too tired to go. Please, can't we stay home?" Her voice soft and despondent, Kim said, "I heard him, but I didn't want him to miss the opportunity." Kim and Michael are not alone. Children of all ages are simply not getting enough sleep as we frantically attempt to balance the demands and realities of life today with the needs of our children who are literally crying for sleep.

As a parent, I have lived this reality. As a parent-educator, I see it every day. I understand the struggle of trying to "fit it all in," the constant mental wrestling matches of priorities and responsibilities. How does one honor a bedtime when it means missing a school play? Is it more crucial to insist your child get sleep or participate in one more activity? Is a nap really that helpful? When a workday and commute grab ten or eleven hours a day, how does one find time for family without skipping sleep? It can feel like a lonely struggle. The reality is that you are not the only one. A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 69 percent of parents reported that their children experience one or more of the sleep-related "misbehaviors."

Discovering That Your Child Is Missing Sleep

You may have recognized that since infancy your child was sleeping less than other babies. Perhaps she had colic and screamed for hours, or caught twenty-minute "cat naps" on the fly. Maybe it wasn't until she dropped her nap that late afternoons became the "poison hour." Or perhaps you're not even sure that your child is missing sleep. Maybe he's been irritable and short-tempered for so long you're not certain if this is fatigue or his personality. And since the "good days" can be interspersed with the "bad ones," you may have thought he was deliberately acting this way just to "get you." What you do know is that the conflicts and temper tantrums are too frequent, the whining and constant demands exhausting, and the inability to listen and pay attention infuriating. You've tried every discipline strategy in the book, yet his poor behavior is still getting him into trouble.

The Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is confusing. It's baffling when you are out with friends, and your child, who has missed her nap, seems unfazed. Thriving on the excitement and interaction, she's crazy with energy -- until you arrive home and she falls apart. That's because the quest to stay alert is so strong for children that instead of getting drowsy, many get "wired." Their behavior appears wild rather than tired as long as stimulation levels are high enough to keep them awake. But at home, when stimulation levels drop, they torment siblings, argue with you, and chase pets, all in a mad drive to create enough commotion to stay awake.

Sleep deprivation is also sneaky. It's cumulative, and creeps up on you. Miss a nap on Saturday, watch a late movie on Sunday, attend a weeknight hockey practice that extends an hour past your child's normal bedtime, and the result is a child hours short of sleep. Yet, two days later, the whining, the shove on the playground, the inability to stay focused, the poor test score, or the fit over the dirty T-shirt don't necessarily scream out "sleep deprived" to you. All too often, however, it is the culprit lurking in the background. But it seems so insignificant. Can missing an hour or two of sleep really make a difference? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes. Every child has "bad days," but when a child is fatigued, her most challenging behaviors are more rampant. She loses the ability to "regulate" her actions and responses, and, as a result, the intensity and frequency of misbehavior increase exponentially. Not all children will demonstrate all of the following behaviors, but each will exhibit enough to make you realize something is amiss. When your child is sleep-deprived, you will see more difficulty managing her emotions, her body, her focus, and interaction with others.

Difficulty Managing Emotions

Sometimes it's obvious that your child is exhausted. Little things that would never bother him on a "good day" send him over the edge. A request to put on pajamas catapults him into a full-fledged tantrum. Dad unexpectedly arriving to pick him up, instead of Mom, as expected, is cause for tears. When he "loses" it, you know it will be a bloody battle trying to bring him back. Every emotion is exaggerated. When he's not screaming, he's laughing hysterically at his brother's joke. The one that wasn't all that funny.

But sometimes it's not quite so apparent. Sleep deprivation also lowers one's ability to manage pain. The child who experiences headaches in the late afternoon may actually be short on sleep. A bump on the head can send him into orbit. The whiny, clingy, anxious child may also be fatigued. She can't tell you what she needs, and instead slips into the words and tone of a much younger child.

All children have more difficulty managing their emotions when they are fatigued, but some children, by their very nature, demonstrate stronger emotional reactions. These children -- the spirited ones -- are especially vulnerable to missing sleep. They're already working harder to keep their emotions in check, slow their bodies, and calm themselves. Without sleep, the task becomes excruciatingly difficult.

Difficulty Controlling the Body and Impulses

It's not that children never hit. They do, but when they're tired, they hit more frequently. As exhaustion increases, it's as though they become crazed. There's fire in their eyes, and their hands are in the snack cupboard, grabbing carbohydrates to keep going. They hit and throw things, when on a "good day" they would not. Naptime is resisted, and bedtime is a battle.

As Stephen Sheldon, a pediatrician at Northwestern University and director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Children's Hospital in Chicago, noted in a U.S. News and World Report article, "Tired children have difficulty regulating their behavior. One theory is that the brain and muscles in children are not synchronized and don't tire simultaneously. Instead, the brain gets tired first and loses control of the muscles, meaning drowsy kids may start running around chaotically."

It's hard to imagine that the wild child is actually tired. The clue is the "frenzy" of activity. A high-energy child is on the move throughout the day, but her movements are smooth and well coordinated. Fatigue alters this fluidity. Actions become jerky, tight, and frenzied. Unexpectedly, she trips or falls. Research has shown that preschoolers who sleep less than ten hours a day are 86 percent more likely to incur injuries requiring emergency-room treatment.

And then there is the child whose body does slow down, to the point that he can barely function. Suddenly, a child who always dressed himself simply can't. A child who carried his own book bag finds it too heavy. The child who is capable of walking needs to be carried. If sleep deprivation continues, his immune system is weakened and he succumbs to whatever "bug" is going around.

Inability to Stay Focused and to Perform Well

It's the exhausted child who insists on having the radio or television turned up louder and louder. "I can't hear it," he shouts above the roar. That's because a tired child will constantly seek stimulation and change focus in order to stay alert. He gets into trouble for incessantly demanding your attention, not listening or not staying on task. In a study of 866 children age two to fourteen, parents who said their children were sleepy also reported that the children were easily distracted and forgetful, talked excessively, fidgeted, took inappropriate actions, and had difficulty completing tasks. The completed assignment left at home, or the missing jacket, may reflect your child's exhaustion rather than his irresponsibility. Even the ability to make decisions disappears with fatigue. Figuring out what you are feeling or what you need takes energy and focus. Without it, it's hard to decide which shirt to wear and whether or not you're in the mood for spaghetti or pizza. Exhaustion leads to irritating waffling and, ultimately, a puddle of tears.

Performance also deteriorates when attention is unfocused. Avi Sadeh, a researcher from Tel Aviv University, found that sleep-deprived children (restricted by a modest forty-one-minute shortfall) react more slowly and have diminished mathematical, verbal, and memory skills.

Children are not aware of their shrinking capabilities when they're sleep-deprived, and it's often missed by adults as well. Yet the impact on performance of one hour of sleep deprivation accumulated over eight days can be as significant as being totally deprived of sleep for twenty-four hours.

Difficulty Getting Along with Others

It was six thirty p.m., and three-year-old Emma was exhausted. When her five-year-old brother Bjorn picked up the packet of books Grandma had given them, she snatched them back, screaming, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Her mother touched her lightly and said, "Emma, you both want the books, so what else could you do?" Normally, Emma would have stopped to think about this request, but on this night, she simply declared, "NOTHING!" "Could you each have two?" her mother suggested. "NO!" Emma shouted, pushing her mother's hand away. "Can you tell your brother when you'll be finished with the books?" she continued. "NO!" Emma shrieked.

"Could you find something else for your brother while he's waiting?" Mom asked in one last, valiant attempt to mediate the situation. But once again, Emma turned away, clutching the books and shouting "NO!"

This was not typical behavior for Emma. Usually, she listened well and solved problems easily, but on this night, fatigue had robbed her of any critical-thinking skills. She could not solve a problem, could not consider other options, or even think. She could only grab her books and shout "NO!"

Working with others requires the ability to manage emotions, remember social rules, and, at the same time, decipher information about the situation. It's a very complex process, which can become nearly impossible when a child is missing sleep. Exhaustion leads to rigidity and locking in, because to "shift attention" and think of a different solution takes energy that's not available when a child is fatigued. The result is frequent conflicts with siblings, peers, and you.

Sleep Deprivation or ADHD

Looking at these symptoms, you might think these are common characteristics of children who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. In fact, research demonstrates that perhaps as many as 20 percent of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD actually have a sleep disorder. The reality is that an estimated 70 million American children, from infants to teens, are short on sleep. Might yours be one of them?

You Can Use This Book as a Guide

Fortunately, the parents who have participated in my classes and workshops have been willing to share their experiences with you. I've now collected their stories, read the research, and interviewed the researchers. The result is this book. Like the parents in my classes, let it serve you as a friend, a guide who understands the challenges you face, the emotions you experience, and offers you practical strategies that are effective and long-lasting. Take what fits for you and leave the rest. You know your family better than anyone else. Working together, we can move toward our goals of less conflict and more sleep.

As we go along, I'd like you to know the things I believe will help you the most in becoming a well-rested family.

The Essentials

You're not the only one.

There are literally millions of parents who struggle with children in need of sleep and a schedule that doesn't seem to allow it. You are not the only one with lights on at midnight, or who is playing musical beds in a heroic attempt to get some sleep. Your child is not "spoiled" or "inflexible." You are not a "pushover." Truly, there are others who understand your frustration and exhaustion.

You can make a difference

You can't force your child to sleep, but you can create an environment that reduces tension and makes it much easier for your child to slip into sleep and to sleep more soundly. Often, when your child is misbehaving due to lack of sleep, it seems like a battle of wills that leaves you wondering what you are doing wrong and why your child is acting this way. But sleep is actually a matter of biology. Your child's brain must choose between being asleep and alert. If his body is tense, he's on alert and wide awake. You play a significant role in helping to ease the tension, thus allowing him to move into calm, deep sleep.

You can't make your child sleep, but you can set the stage

Every body also has a sleep/wake system that tells the brain when to be awake and when to be asleep. It's this body clock and the hormones and chemicals that go along with it that help the brain to know when to "switch" from alert to sleep. In this book, you'll discover that a good night's sleep begins in the morning, and that all day long you are making decisions that either help your child to fall asleep easily or innocently disrupt his sleep. Little decisions, like allowing your child a caffeine-laden soft drink at lunch, skipping a nap, or staying up late (just this time) can throw your child into "jet lag" and make it more difficult to sleep.

By becoming aware of the decisions you make each day, you can reduce the hassles and enjoy your child more -- at least on most days. I'll be honest with you. Our goal is to increase the frequency of the "good days." I can't promise utopia, but I can assure you, it will be much better than it is now!

You may select strategies that fit your child

Every child is different. One child may shift into sleep within moments, while another takes at least forty-five minutes, and that's with your help. Some crave cuddles. Others squirm in your arms until you put them down and just let them sleep. Energy flows all day through certain children, and yet they conk out easily. Still others dash across the room at the mere suggestion of bedtime. Miss his "window" of sleep, and he's up for the next ninety minutes.

It's not a sign of failure if your child does not sleep like your sister-in-law's child. You're not doing something wrong when your child needs more help from you to wind down and ease into sleep. It's true that your child may need protection from the stimulation of the day. It's all right to discover what your child needs to sleep. You can decide the best way for your family to sleep Whether you choose to bring your child into your bed, have him snuggle up with a sibling, or sleep down the hall on his own is up to you. You won't find one method that fits all, in this book. Decisions regarding when and where you sleep, and whether you sleep with or without your children depend on your personal preferences and your family's values and culture. There really isn't one "right way" to sleep. So, what you will find instead are four simple goals:

Sensitive, responsive care for your children

Structure to help your children "fit" your family's way of sleeping

Sleep for everyone

Opportunities for intimacy for you as an adult

I'll help you use these goals as guidelines to find the best way for YOUR family to sleep.

You don't need to worry about bad habits; they can be changed Inevitably, you will be surrounded by predictions of dire consequences, like: "If you start that habit, you'll be doing it forever." Yet sometimes your gut tells you that at this moment, your child needs something more. In this book, you will be given permission to adjust your strategies when life's stresses have piled up, putting your child chronically on "alert." Habits can be changed. You can meet your child's needs, help him sleep, and still gently nudge him back to more independence when he's ready. Consistently meeting your child's needs and getting sleep for yourself is most important. How you do it may change at different times, depending on the situation.

You Will Enjoy the Delights of Being Well Rested

As I have worked with families, helping them to find their way to sleep, the changes in the children's behavior and in the family's well-being have been thrilling. Each story is unique, but, like Jennifer's, often amazing. I first met two-year-old Jennifer when things were not going well. The whining would start the minute she woke up. She'd ask for something to eat, take a bite, and then throw the rest of the food on the floor. Immediately she'd demand something else -- and scream hysterically if she didn't get it. In fact, every word out of her mouth was a command: "Get me this now!" Her parents nicknamed her Queen Jennifer.

The tantrums became regular occurrences, although the reasons for them varied. One day she went over the edge because her dad arrived home unexpectedly. A firm "no" from her mother triggered yet another forty-minute outburst. Her parents spent their days walking on eggshells as Jennifer rolled from one tantrum to another.

Between fits, Jennifer wreaked more havoc. Whenever her mother's back was turned, she would throw food, water, or toys in all directions. Even the family dog suffered from her behavior as she chased and hit him with all sorts of objects. Bedtime became a particular nightmare for Jennifer's parents. Their daughter would scream and struggle in their arms for ninety minutes or longer before finally falling asleep. Yet the peace was short-lived. Every night, Jennifer awoke, sobbing inconsolably.

Jennifer's parents tried punishment and letting her "cry it out" in hopes of turning her behavior around, but nothing worked. Finally, in utter desperation, they signed up for my class "Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?" They quickly learned that they'd been unwittingly making decisions that were undermining Jennifer's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep; decisions that they could change. By slowing down and making different choices, such as reducing the number of errands they were running, changing bathtime from nighttime to morning, and setting up a regular naptime, they were able to give Jennifer what she really needed: more sleep.

Within three weeks, Jennifer was sleeping thirteen hours instead of the nine she had been getting, and the tantrums disappeared. Today, Jennifer is well rested, and her behavior has completely changed. If she drops a toy, she will ask for help instead of collapsing into a screaming fit. When her mother says "no," she can be redirected easily to another activity. She also can be trusted to be in a room alone for a few minutes without causing chaos. Even the family dog has found peace.

The good behavior has spilled into the night as well. The former ninety-minute bedtime battle has been replaced by a twenty-minute routine, which includes a story, a back rub, and a sweet kiss good-night. Middle-of-the-night awakenings seldom occur, and when they do, they tend to be mere five-minute interruptions.

Jennifer's parents learned that no punishment, no threat, no discipline strategy could stop their daughter's challenging behaviors. What Jennifer needed was a simple good night's rest -- not just once in a while, but every night. Jennifer had been literally shrieking for sleep.

When your child is well rested, the tantrums begin to disappear. A child who is not tired is calmer, more flexible, cooperative, attentive, and energetic. He gets along with others. You also benefit. Miraculously, as your child's hours of sleep increase, so, too, does your skill and effectiveness as a parent. Your own fatigue diminishes, and your confidence soars.

Ah, sleep, deep, sound, restorative sleep. It brings forth flexibility and patience, smiles and laughter. The difference between a child who is well rested and one who is missing sleep is a smile on his face -- and on yours.