“Upcited”

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In many ways, babies and children are miniature adults. It is not true, however, in all areas of life, and definitely not true when it comes to showing signs of sleepiness.

 

Think of yourself when you are tired. You yawn. Your eyelids droop. If you are like my husband you just fall asleep and start the head bob. You feel lethargic and unmotivated.

 

A great paradox of parenting is that a baby or young child does not do these things. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Weissbluth states, “…when most tired young kids get sleepy, they get grumpy and excitable” page 111. He points out that well-rested children children might yawn when tired, but chronically tired children will not. His son called the state of tiredness “upcited” when he was three–a combination of upset and excited. Perfect right?

 

Dr. Weissbluth says, “Remember, when your infant or young child appears wired, he may be tired” (page 112). 

 

Dr. Weissbluth then goes on to discuss a couple of studies that shed light on this topic. I will relate one to you in my own way. You know those times in life when you have had to run on less sleep than is optimal? Maybe college, maybe with a newborn, maybe when pregnant (if you are like me and don’t sleep well at night). Have you noticed how you eventually get used to running on less sleep? It doesn’t mean you are functioning at 100%, but you learn to function.

 

I find this true in my life. When I have a newborn and consistently get less sleep than is ideal, my body copes. When I have one bad night of sleep for whatever reason, I am slammed the next day. 

 

The study found that the body responds to lack of sleep with various chemicals. One is adrenaline. Another is cortisol. “In children, cortisol concentrations remain high when they do not nap” (page113). 

 

This increase in chemicals explains why an overly tired child has a hard time falling and/or staying asleep. The body is flooded with chemicals in order to help the overly tired child stay awake, so it makes it harder to sleep. Just as sleep begets sleep, sleeplessness begets sleeplessness. 

 

Conclusion

A tired child does not look like a tired adult. You can’t wait around for your baby to ask you to put him to sleep or to peacefully drift off into a slumber. Yes, some of those children are out there, but most need you to put them to bed for naps and for bedtime. 

 

Also, let me give another plug for this book. It is a most excellent companion to On Becoming Babywise. People who try to discredit Babywise like to turn to “Gary Ezzo isn’t a doctor”  when all else is failing (despite the fact that Robert Bucknam is a doctor). There are several books written by doctors that support Ezzos claim that sleep is important and support his ideas on how to get there (do we really need a doctor to convince us that sleep is important? Can’t we tell that from our own lives? Or maybe only well-rested adults can come to that conclusion on their own?).

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