Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter and we’re a concerned about her sleeping patterns. Most people we know who have kids the same age worry that their children aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ve got the opposite problem—including naps, she sleeps about 14 hours a day! Is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?
A: Sleep is one of the things that parents of infants and toddlers struggle with the most—and, as you said, the problem is usually too little of it, not too much. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly natural to worry about anything child-related that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s something that would make a lot of other parents envious. The general consensus among experts is that children your daughter’s age should be getting 12-14 hours per day of shuteye, including naps, so you’re within the range of what’s “normal.”
Children do a lot of their developing—both physical and mental—when they’re asleep, so there’s no question that sleep is important. But as we all know, kids develop at different rates, so it’s no surprise that what may be plenty of sleep for one toddler could be nowhere near enough for another. Bottom line, we all need as much sleep as we need—and those needs change over time. At six, your daughter probably won’t need any more than 12 hours per night. And by the time she heads off to middle school, she’ll be down to 10 or 11. When she hits the teen years, her sleep needs will increase (but since worrying about her will keep you awake at night, your family’s total average sleep time will stay about the same).
The thing to focus on here is the quality of your daughter’s sleep, not the quantity. And one way to assess that is to simply pay attention to her behavior when she’s awake. If she’s generally happy, energetic, playful, engages with you, and seems to be having a good time, all is well. But if she’s sluggish, tired, irritable, or behaves differently (worse) than usual, there could be a problem. It could be something as simple as iron deficiency, but it’s worth making a call to your daughter’s pediatrician.
A note on last week’s column on the Obama Administration’s exaggerated claims of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses. I received a huge number of responses from men and women around the country. Most were quite supportive and some shared their very poignant experiences of having been falsely accused of assault and how difficult (or, in some cases, impossible) it has been to recover. A smaller number of people disagreed with my take on the issue and shared their equally poignant stories of instances where legitimate cases of rape or assault had been ignored and, again, how difficult or impossible it has been for the victim to recover. But whether they agreed or not, these emails had one thing in common: they were written by people who had an interest in a respectful, healthy debate of an important issue.
Unfortunately, there were a few outliers—people (all of whom disguised their identities in some way) who felt the need to call names, make accusations and threats, and even suggest ways I should kill myself. I truly enjoy interacting with readers of this column and am happy to discuss pretty much anything with anyone, but if your email is inappropriate (you’ll know it if it is), don’t expect an answer.