Researchers found that of the 2,880 children followed from birth to age 6 or 7, those who were able to soothe themselves back to sleep by the age of 5 were more likely to have an easier time adjusting to school than those who had sleep issues. The study — one of the first of its kind to use such a large sample size to examine long-term effects — also found that one-third of the children had sleep problems that led to emotional and behavioral issues in the classroom, including a greater risk of developing attention deficit disorder.
I’m calling bullshit on this simply because my own experience is so different. My 6-year-old daughter definitely has sleep issues. She’s not a huge fan of going to bed in general, and hates being in her own bed. As a result, she ends up in mine most nights.
When she started school last year she adjusted extremely well, which I put down to the fact that she wakes up well-rested every morning because she’s slept so soundly by my side. I believe that because I’m not putting pressure on her at bedtime, she goes to sleep feeling content and secure and wakes up happy, ready to face the school day. I’m not stressing about the fact that she’ll probably climb into my bed at 11 p.m. (or 2 a.m. or 4 a.m.), so she’s not stressing about it either.
Her teachers certainly haven’t had to deal with any hyperactivity, poor self-regulation in the classroom or emotional outbursts — which the study associates with poor sleep habits (namely an inability to self-regulate their attention or to soothe themselves back to sleep without the aid of a parent).
A recent piece by Lisa Selin Davis in The New York Times, “Our Sleep Training Nightmare,” speaks to me as a parent more than any study ever will. As Davis so beautifully articulates, sometimes the experts — all the experts — get it wrong. Like her, I refuse to parent the child I want my daughter to be, “and not the child she is.”
However, I’m well aware that my daughter may be the exception to the rule. If you listen to the experts, I’m the worst example of all time of sleep training. Everything we’re told not to do (let kids into our beds, lie with them until they fall asleep), I do. But I also refuse to feel guilty about it. Until I have a reason to believe that my daughter’s sleep habits are impacting her health or her education in a negative way, I’m happy to carry on sharing my bed with her.