The more we integrate technology into our lives the more we wonder if it would be best to convert human life into bits and bytes so we could then use a matrix to better schedule our lives. Naturally this is only a momentary thought. However, if we could figure out how to make a day longer than twenty-four hours, we might just be able to slip in a goodnight’s rest routinely. Imagine being rested enough to take on all the daily challenges that manage to come your way. We are all aware of what happens when our children don’t get enough sleep—something as simple as taking off their shoes can suddenly become insurmountable.

Instead of thinking about your child’s sleep, let focus on yours. Who among us has not experienced limited sleep because our lives are filled with demands of parenting young children, a job, stress or all three? When faced with lives that overrun your ability to sleep, you may count sheep, drink warm milk, use sound machines, drink special teas, exercise and meditate in hope that we will get some sleep. Or maybe you are a member of the “I only need 3 to 4 hours a night” club. (You are a disciple of Mr. Edison—read on.) Then there are those that never get consistent nightly sleep. You are not a bad person for being in any of these of groups, but you should think about the consequences of remaining a member. Here is a measurement that should stay in the back of your mind: sleep studies have shown that if a person goes twenty-four hours without sleep it is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.1%—which means that person would be considered legally drunk.

Historically sleep was considered one the most important functions in human life. Because it took up a third of a person’s life, sleep held a monumental need. When did respect for sleep change? As with so many things, the change came with the Industrial Revolution. The revolution brought advances in machinery and assembly line production that changed how productivity was measured and how that measurement influenced profit. As productivity fueled company revenue and profits, industry demanded that employees work longer shifts which cut into their ability to get reliable rest. How did the industry get the workers to work longer? They authored a new story about sleep. This new story linked masculinity with an ability to work longer on less sleep. “A strong man could work more hours with less sleep.” Thomas Edison famously encouraged this mystic stating frequently that he was heroically dedicated to only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night. The rest of the time he worked.

Sleep is the best meditation. –Dalai Lama

The complex brain is an organ that oversees many functions that sustain daily life and leads to healthy old age. What refuels the brain, after a full day of thinking, tasking and doing, is sleep. Memory, learning, brain development and cleaning, appetite functions, immune functions, aging, and effects on mood, creativity and relationships are all function that the brain deals with daily. One of the last functions noted is mood, which in my mind should have been first. An important way to maintain calm and patience is with a well-rested brain. There is a common used statement is that sleep can be gained back, but the fine print under this statement reads: it takes a multitude of weeks to gain back the sleep, not just a few well rested nights.

What Mr. Edison did not know is that sleep deprivation ebbs away at the fabric of a person’s life. Science, focused on physical and mental health in the past 100 years has helped to prove that adults need sleep, at least a good 8 hours, if they hope to be competent in daily life and age well. It was not until 1919, when the steelworkers demanded a reduction in their work hours that the revolution was dealt a blow. Legislation made it mandatory for workers to be allotted an 8-hour workday. Although this law was enforced—the idea of that a man or woman needs only a few hours of sleep remains a common adage.

Like your children, you need a good 8 hours to function properly in your daily life. It’s okay to recognize your exhaustion and adjust your life to allow for the opportunity to get sleep. Try hard to make 8 hours your objective. Visualize the well rested you—better handling in your daily life—work, co-workers, your children, all the chores and responsibilities. It’s good to be ambitious with your time but being ambitious with your sleep provides you with greater long term benefits.

Sleep, sleep, sleep
It’s magnificent and nice,
With dreams beyond wonder,
Sleep! sleep! sleep!

Sleep, sleep, sleep
Eyes tightly closed,
A little smile on your cheeks,
Feeling the warm sensations
Of the pure and precious sleep,
Sleep! sleep! sleep!

Sleep, sleep, sleep
Forgetting insane things of the mixed world outside
Relax my little one, feel the gentle breeze,
Do not worry about tomorrow, do not weep,
Wake up fresh in the morn with a recuperated mind,
Fresh and blessed with a wonderful sleep,

—Sleep by Jerine James

Supplemental Material


Dreams Come True All They Need Is You!
Mike Dooley | Illustrated by Virginia Allyn

Mike Dooley’s first children’s book offers inspiration on every page. This lovely illustrated books brings to life dreams that expand a child’s thinking and encourages them to consider possibilities. The colorfully beautiful illustrations are a joy just ponder. After a day full of fun and learning, this is an excellent book to wind down with.


The Sleep Revolution
Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time
Arianna Huffington

There are many books to be found that discuss the current crisis of sleeplessness. What makes this one stand out is its clipped pace and direct content. Ms. Huffington touches on the highlights of the highlights and offers great references for those who would like to know more. Although the book is about sleep , Ms. Huffington’s presentation does not put a reader to sleep. If you would like to delve deeper into what this crisis means for everybody, this book is an excellent start.


Question for Lonna

With every new class, you talk about a child’s need for sleep. All parents agree with you about the importance of sleep for their children but what can you share about the need for parents to also get proper sleep. How can a lack of sleep affect the family as a whole?

Torture is a topic often debated. Is water boarding an uncomfortable method of interrogation or inhumane torture? I don’t know—I’ve never been water boarded. I have, however, been deprived two hours of uninterrupted sleep over the period of six months. Sleep deprivation is torture. A body unable to sleep will shut down, the mind will deteriorate, normal reasoning will not occur. Captives will no doubt confess anything to their tormentors and parents will think cookies are an excellent dinner choice for a two year old.

In a family, everyone needs sleep, and plenty of it. I have long and openly taken the stand that children need their own bed and parents are to discourage the occasional shared family bed. Yes, I’ve heard the other side. Yes, I have families whom disagree with me. I stand firm, children will sleep longer and better when in their own bed and more important, so will parents.

This is actually called Sleep Hygiene. Families with good sleep hygiene have a bed routine including a predictable bedtime, books, hugs and tucked into bed. IF a child wakes up they are promptly put back in their bed. Yes, even a dozen times in one night. Sleep hygiene is not a time t o be relaxed and unpredictable. Parents are slot machines. Slot machines that do not pay out do not get played. The occasional exhausted compliance resulting in sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed is a big pay out. When a child knows there is no chance parents will let them stay in bed, or worse, join in their bed, they will stop playing that slot machine.

Families with poor sleep hygiene can be spotted by professionals within a few paces. Usually, everyone is disheveled and exhausted. They look like extras from The Walking Dead. Sometimes one parent manages to get sleep while the other is ready to join the Peace Corps for a restful vacation. Poor choices are made all around, from what the children wear to school to what they bring for lunch. When the Zombie Parents come to my office asking for advice I say, “You’re not going to like it and you likely aren’t going to do it.”

Creating limits without feeling like the bad guy is the hardest thing for parents. The urban myth that being a parent is always joyful and
loving your child will be enough for everyone creates more anxiety perhaps then anything. At the end of a day the last thing any parent wants to do is create a sleeping plan and s tick to it after a long day. Parents want bedtime to be sweet and cozy time, conflict free. Letting the beautiful toddler climb in bed and stay at 3:00am seems harmless and sweet…until it becomes a habit and all members of the family bed are not getting the proper amount or quality sleep.

Cuddle, spoil and indulge your child from time to time. When it comes to sleep, everyone has their own bed and wakes up refreshed and ready for their day at work or school.


Health with Dr. Dana

Children really do grow when they sleep. The night time burst of growth hormone is directly related to sleep, and most often occurs during deep sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers (3-5 year olds) get between 10-13 hours of sleep, and this includes naps.

A healthy sleep routine will help your child grow and thrive. Keep them active during the day, and avoid screen time before bed time. A calm sleep environment also helps. If your child is distracted by toys, he or she will have a harder time falling asleep. A few books and a soft night light are the best. And when they ask you for one more story… say yes. They will be teenagers before you know it and you will miss these days!


AAP Healthy Children

Growth Hormone Secretion During Sleep

Growth hormone and cortisol secretion in relation to sleep and wakefulness

Dr. Lisa Dana was born in Bologna, Italy. She attended University High School and went on to complete her undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara. She attended Georgetown University for Medical School. She completed her Internship and Residency at the UCSF. Dr. Dana is on the clinical f aculty at UCSF, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She works as pediatrician at Golden Gate Pediatrics in San Francisco and Mill Valley.