A super cute entry in Motherload, a New York Time's parenting blog, caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you... I am not supporting this mother's solution, but I do understand it.
This weekend I set all the clocks back. About 7 on Sunday night (which was feeling a whole lot like 8 to me and four cranky children), I set them forward again. But not all the way. About half an hour. Just enough to give the children a little edge on what’s always a sleepy week without my having to declare an early bedtime — and then listen to a chorus of complaint. I admit it: I lied, or at least, I created an atmosphere in which a lie was implied. But it was all for an excellent cause.
For every sleepless parent out there, there’s a sleep-deprived child, and there’s no “mother’s little helper” drug for the child who isn’t getting enough rest. Instead, there are a whole host of troubles associated with shortened sleep hours for children from preschool through adolescence.
A 1998 study of high school students found that students who received poor grades went to bed later and slept less on average than students who got A’s and B’s. I’ve seen other research suggesting that 6- and 7-year-olds who slept only eight hours a night did not perform as well on tests of their academic performance as those who slept nine hours or more. And although that study considered only a relatively small number of children in Spain, I can testify firsthand that the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds in my home who sleep less than nine hours do not perform as well on tests of cooperation and familial cohesion. Children who have slept well are easier to be around. They bounce back more easily from crushing blows, like an empty box of Cheerios. I don’t have any doubt that they’re doing better in their classrooms and on the playground.
But sometimes, in the midst of busy schedules and family activities, I forget to do a sleep check. Like most of us, I sleep less than I’d like, and I’m more accustomed than I ought to be to “powering through” after a late night. Without even realizing it, I impose the same choices on my children (minus the coffee). It takes something like Jennifer Moses’s article “Waking Up to Young Kids’ Sleep Troubles” in the weekend’s Wall Street Journal to remind me that while my children may cheer my decision to stay an extra half-hour at the Sunday night family party or indulge the desire to put off homework until after dinner, those things have consequences that they can’t fully appreciate. They’re as desperate for good sleep as the mothers reaching for Xanax that I wrote about earlier on Monday. They just don’t know it.
So Sunday night I sprung forward, a few months early, in the name of not just an earlier bedtime but a peaceful version of the same. No one noticed, in spite of the fact that I didn’t change the clocks by their beds. Or if they did, while crawling, clean and warm and tired, under their covers, they didn’t say anything. Tonight it’s back to normal, which will require me to remember (and enforce) the fact that if they need to go to sleep at 8:30 p.m., they need to go brush their teeth at 8 p.m., not 8:29 p.m. Tricking them into bed (like tricking them into eating vegetables) may get them more sleep, but it skimps on the message that sleep is important. Honesty is surely a better policy. But my little subterfuge was awfully effective. Four cheerful children were up on time and even a little early for school. And I felt better, too: with the children filed away, I was in bed earlier, with no loss to my treasured wind-down time. “Bedtime Savings Time” struck me as a win-win. I’m filing it away for future use.