Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Month and a Day

Oliver continues to sleep.

Nik and I are grateful, of course, but we certainly can't point to a single thing that might have brought about this dramatic change. After years and years -- Oliver's whole lifetime -- of charting and guessing and trying to draw lines from point A to point B, it seems right and appropriate that this shift should also seem so random. Whatever it is, we'll take it.

It has been a whole month now, or a month and one night, as the sleep cycle started on February 7th -- a day that I hope we celebrate in some fitting way next year after 333 more days of good sleep. It hasn't been all smooth sailing -- Oliver woke at 4am two mornings in a row this past weekend. We worried that our run of good sleep was coming to an end but the next two nights were fine.

Over the past 4-5 years, if you asked me, I might have told you that Oliver didn't seem that affected by his lack of sleep. I might have told you that he simply seemed to need less sleep than almost every other person on the planet. I believed this to be true because lack of sleep never seemed to affect him in the way I thought it should. It certainly didn't seem as debilitating for him as it felt for the rest of us. Getting so little sleep, all of it broken, caused me to feel cranky and irritable, it affected my eating habits, I had trouble concentrating, I couldn't remember things like I used to, I was easily distracted, easily frustrated. ... none of that probably seems very surprising for a person who averaged 4-5 hours of sleep for years and years. But Oliver! Oliver is one of the most easy-going kids I know (considering all we ask of him) and always, always so full of energy. In fact, keeping up with him when we were often so very tired has been one of the most difficult parenting challenges that we face.

After a month of sleep, I'm revising my former opinion about Oliver's need for sleep. I see changes emerging before my eyes and now realize how much the lack of sleep had impacted his ability to function and to learn. Exhaustion just looks different for him than it did for me. For one thing, the manic energy is decreasing. He doesn't run or gallop everywhere these days. His appetite -- while still hearty -- has decreased. He is calmer, spends longer periods of time focused on tasks and doesn't seem to get Lost in Space quite as much as he used to.

A couple of days ago I noted the George Will editorial -  "How to Ruin a Child" in which he writes: "Until age 21, the circuitry of a child's brain is being completed. ...  Research on grade schoolers showing that "the performance gap caused by an hour's difference in sleep was bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth-grader." In high school, there is a steep decline in sleep hours, and a striking correlation of sleep and grades.

Tired children have trouble retaining learning "because neurons lose their plasticity, becoming incapable of forming the new synaptic connections necessary to encode a memory. . . . The more you learned during the day, the more you need to sleep that night."

I found this very interesting in light of what we have been observing in Oliver after just a month of long, restful nights. 


  1. I am just so happy that you're all sleeping. I have seen a change like this in a child in the past year when he started to sleep well for the first time, and it truly is amazing. "How does he/she sleep?" is now one of the initial questions I ask families. This is a great post - have a restful night!!

  2. Aren't you afraid to talk about this aloud?? The gods might hear you. :-D Seriously, I'm just grateful you're all getting some rest. Terrific post ... as always.

  3. YAY!!!!!! I've been afraid to ask because I didn't want to jinx your good run.

  4. We figured out that eliminating apple products cured Pamela's insomnia! Praise God, we figured it out when she was only four.

    Thanks for the hat tip to George Will. I will forward that to my 17yo NT son. He is a junior in public school (his first year as a nonhomeschooler) and he is getting honor roll grades. Just as George Will pointed out, he goes to bed between 9 and 10 and gets a good night sleep! Verrry interesting!

  5. OMG sooo happy for you
    Melatonin has been a big blessing for us
    I truly think 10 hours of sleep is ideal and we are not there yet
    Very interested in the info you quoted

  6. High five! That's wonderful news. I find it really fascinating the changes you're noticing in Oliver since he and John seem so similar. I always thought that J. just didn't need as much sleep as the rest of us, but I think you're on to something! I'm noticing more words on our end, more focus. (Still a lot of galloping here, though!) But sleep, blissful sleep :)

  7. Anonymous11:59 AM

    i am SOOOOOOOOO thrilled about the sleep! it makes a world of difference. i've noticed the same thing around here, though our version of sleep troubles seemed trivial in comparison.

    sending a continuous stream of sleep dust your way!