Sleeping babies: Less shame. More sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently advises parents to sleep in the same room (but never in the same bed) as their babies for a year, ideally, but at least for the first six months.

In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers led by Dr. Ian Paul, professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine found that at nine months, babies who had slept in their own rooms before they were four months old slept on average 40 minutes more than babies who were still sleeping in their parents’ room at nine months.

Babies who went to their own rooms after four months slept about 26 minutes more. The effects seemed to last, too. Even at 3 years old, the toddlers who slept with their parents for nearly a year were still sleeping less than those who had been moved to their own room earlier.

“This decision in the first year has potential longer term consequences,” says Paul.

I agree. The amount and quality of sleep that a child gets has been closely linked to overall physical and mental heath, attention span, the acquisition of language, learning potential, and much more. Sleep is critical to growth and brain development, and children who sleep more are far more successful in school and life.

40 minutes per night equates to more than four hours of additional sleep per week, and 26 minutes per night equates to more than three hours of sleep per week.

This adds up fast. 

And this is coming from someone who doesn't sleep as much as most people, and never did. My mother once told me that there was never a night when she went to sleep when I was already asleep, and there was never a morning when she awoke when I wasn't already awake. She told me, "Except when you were an baby, I never saw you sleep as a child."

Still, I understand the importance of sleep. 

My wife and I moved both of our children to their own rooms sometime between the 3-6 month mark. Until then, we had a self-rocking cradle in our bedroom where our children slept every night except for the one night we tried to put our infant daughter in our bed with a co-sleeping apparatus and quickly realized how foolish that decision was.

As important as I think this research is, I think an often unspoken truth is that many, many parents have their children in their own bedrooms, and quite often in their own beds, for years.  

I've known many parents who have their children in bed with them every night well past toddlerhood. I've known parents (mostly fathers) who often find themselves sleeping in their children's beds at night as their sons and daughters take their places in their beds. I've known parents who put an additional bed in their bedroom throughout elementary school for their child. I've known many parents whose children have no real bedtime, fall asleep every night to the television, and rarely get the 10-14 hours of sleep that toddlers require. 

I've had parents talk to me about this things privately, both as a friend and a teacher. 

While these unorthodox sleeping arrangements are (at least according to the research) not good for kids, the real tragedy of the situation is the climate in which parents don't feel like they can speak about this issue openly. While parents have no problem speaking about many issues related to parenting, this one is often seen as taboo. 

I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's embarrassing or shameful for the parents. Maybe they don't see any alternative to the sleeping arrangement as it currently exists in their home. Maybe they worry about being judged by friends and family. Quite often the problem originates with the parent's inability to say no to their child or their inability to allow their child to "cry it out" at night. This can result in feelings of guilt or inadequacy, which probably contributes to the silence.  

But I suspect that if parents were better able to speak about their struggles to get their child into his or her own bed at night, solutions might be found. At the very least, parents (and children) wouldn't feel the burden of this secret. 

These taboos help no one.   

A similar problem exists around older children who still wet the bed. Every year we bring our fifth grade class to camp for four days and three night, and every year, I have at least a handful of parents bring this issue to me regarding their child. My first response is always:

"Please know that there are about half a dozen kids who I already know about in this class who also have this problem."

The relief that washes over some of these parents faces is visible. It's hard to think that only your child has this problem, even if the pediatrician says it's more common than anyone realizes. To discover it's true in real life makes it so much easier to talk about. Strip away the taboo, open up a line of communication, and oftentimes I can get the student to talk to me about the issue. 

The important part:

There are ways to handle this problem discreetly so that no child misses the opportunity to attend camp for reasons he or she cannot control. After 20 years of taking kids to camp, I know all the tricks. 

And I suspect that experienced parents know tricks for getting reticent kids into their own beds on time at night. I suspect that experienced parents have strategies for coping with the challenge of saying no to a child who wants to sleep with you. And I suspect that even if parents are unable to improve their less-than-ideal sleeping arrangements in the home, knowing that other parents deal with the same or similar issues might help parents at least feel a little less alone.

Any or all of this would be a good thing. 

Sleeping less is not the secret to my productivity. Television is.

As a person who teaches elementary school, publishes novels, writes for magazines, owns and operates a wedding DJ company, runs a storytelling organization, and performs onstage regularly, I am often asked how I manage to get so much done.

This question is almost always followed with this assumption: "You don't sleep much. Do you?"

Yes, it's true. I don't sleep as much as the average person. Five or six hours at the most each night, but it's a mistake to think that this is how I accomplish so much. My productivity is the result of a multitude of systems and strategies that allow me to get a lot done in a given day, including this often forgotten, preferably ignored, but enormous one:

I don't watch much television. While the average American watches more than five hours of television a day, I watch an average about five hours of television a week, and that's in a good week.

Last month I went eleven days straight without watching television.   

So yes, by sleeping less, I gain two or three or maybe four hours a day of productivity that most people spend in bed.

But I also gain four or five hours a day of productivity that most people spend watching TV.

To think that my productivity is primarily the result of my ability to sleep less would be a mistake.  

As Teal Burrell recently wrote in the Washington Post

"Americans are obsessed with television, spending an average of five hours a day pointing ourselves at it even as we complain we’re busier than ever."

And here's the thing: I like television. I enjoy sitting beside my wife and watching TV. I believe that we are in a golden age of television. Never before has television produced such high quality programming. I like Game of Thrones and Homeland and Veep and Last Week Tonight.  

But here's the other thing: I like life more. I like playing with my children and writing books and meeting new people and reading and talking with my wife over dinner and performing onstage and striving for the the next thing. I like filling my life with real stuff rather than the fictional lives of TV people.

Watching television is not only a terrible way to achieve my goals, but too much television is destructive in so many ways. From Burrell's Washington Times piece:

People who watch more television are generally unhappierheavier and worse sleepers, and have a higher risk of death over a defined length of time.

Avoiding television is not hard. Simply don't turn the damn thing on. Don't allow it to become the background noise of your life. Don't make it the default means of spending time because you have no other way to fill the hours.

Find something else to fill the hours. The list of possibilities are endless.

Read a book. Play a board game. Learn to play guitar. Knit. Write letters to friends. Learn to bake. Take a walk. Garden. Paint. Sculpt. Reupholster your couch. Call your grandmother. Start a side hustle. Exercise. Volunteer on a suicide prevention hotline. Meditate. Breed rabbits. Have more sex. Memorize poetry. Dance naked in your living room.  

Become the person who somehow manages to knit lambswool cardigans, teach a weekly cooking classes, and restore antique rocking chairs in your spare time.      

Live life.

When you're old and decrepit and staring death in the face, I promise you that the evenings spent dancing naked in your living room and hours you spent on the phone counseling suicidal teenagers will be more important to you than finishing The Wire or finding out if Bad Guy #625 will be sent to jail at the end of Law & Order.

Live a life more rich and real than the people you watch on television. 

I've spoken about this very subject before, if you're interested:

Children sleeping in their parent's room: I had strong opinions before I had kids. The results are now in.

The time has come. 

Prior to the birth of my daughter, I would argue that it was fairly bizarre and unwarranted to have have children sleeping in their parents' beds for any extended period of time. I expressed opposition to the idea that my children would be spending a significant portion of their sleeping hours in my bed or bedroom. I thought that making room for your child in your bed or allowing your child to supplant you from your bed was at the very least a little crazy. 

These statements were not made without reason. At the time I knew many parents who had their children sleeping in their beds or in their bedrooms for a significant proportion of their young lives. I knew many parents whose children slept in their beds through the ages of two, three, four, and even longer. I even knew of parents who installed their child's bed or a secondary bed in their own bedroom.

I still know parents who do these things today. 

Like I said, I thought this was all a little crazy.

When I expressed as much, I was greeted with comments like:

"You just wait until you have kids."
"Easy to say now when you don't have any children."
"I can't wait until you are forced to eat crow."
"Having your kid in your bed is unavoidable."

Parents making these comments were often angry with me and outraged at my assertions. 

But not all. One friend - whose daughter slept in her bedroom until she was five years-old - said to me, "I know it's crazy to have her in our room. I know it's probably not great for her, and it's definitely not great for our marriage, but it's what I need to do."

This is a person who I can respect. This was a mother who I could understand. We're all crazy in one way or another. We all do something in regards to parenting that is inadvisable, overprotective, and perhaps a little insane. Just own it. Acknowledge your insanity and people will understand your decision and even accept it.

"I'm doing this kind of crazy thing, but I understand that it's probably crazy."

Argue that your inadvisable, overprotective, slightly insane behavior is normal and perfectly fine, and that is when people will begin to question the rest of your decision-making and wonder what you could possibly be thinking.  

Since those days of my bold assertions and parents' angry retorts, I've had my kids. I've dealt with their sleep schedules. I'll determined (in partnership with my wife) the location of their sleep on a nightly basis. I have faced the same challenges of those parents who I questioned years ago. 

Here are the results: 

Today my daughter is seven years old. My son is four years old.

Both of them slept in a cradle in our bedroom for the first two months of their lives in order to facilitate late night feedings. After two months, both children were transitioned to their own bedrooms. We trained them to sleep in their own beds by allowing them to "cry it out" for two or three nights. It was not easy, but it worked well.  

Both quickly became acclimated to sleeping in their own beds. 

Since then, Clara has slept in our bed three times: twice due to illness and once because of a hurricane. All of these were late night transitions from her bed to ours in response to the circumstances. 

Charlie has also slept in our bed five times: three times due to illness and twice because of  nightmares. 

In total, my children have spent less than one percent of their nighttime sleeping in our bed. 

In fact, there was a time a few years ago when Clara hit her head hard enough that the doctor asked that we wake her every hour to make sure that she was okay. We decided to have her sleep in our bed to make this process easier, but she refused.

"You have your bed, Daddy, and I have mine."


So to all those naysayers and doomsday predictors who assured me that I would find my children crawling into bed with me more regularly than I expected, I say this:

I told you so. 

Or in the words of my generation: Bite me. 

And to any expecting parents or new parents, I offer this advice:

Take everything that an experienced parent says with an enormous grain of salt, myself included. Our advice comes from the parenting of our unique child in our unique set of circumstances. No two children are alike. No two set of circumstances are alike. Parents love to generalize their child's behavior to all children. They love to assume that their struggles are universal. They love to think that their parenting style is applicable to all kids.  

None of this is true. 

Every parent is different. Every child is different. Every circumstance is different. This doesn't mean that experienced parents can't offer excellent advice. People come to me for parenting advice all the time, and I'm happy to oblige. Just don't assume that their word (or mine) is gospel. Don't assume that they know all. 

And just because you can't keep your child out of your bedroom doesn't mean that we all can't keep our kids in their own beds.

A famous writer and I agree on the worst part of sleep

Someone on Twitter sent me this poem:

Those little slices of Death. 
How I loathe them."

I read these three lines and thought, "Yes! I'm not alone! See? Someone else hates sleep, too! Someone else thinks that sleep is way too close to death! See? I'm not crazy!"

Then I saw the poet: Edgar Allen Poe

"Damn," I thought. 


"Poe wasn't that crazy."

Arrogance may be the perfect replacement to an extra hour or two of sleep

Some fascinating research seems to indicate that dwelling on how tired you are might actually make you more tired, and your perception of the quality of your sleep (regardless of reality) can impact your performance the following day.

I’ve always argued that one of the reasons that I’m able to sleep fewer hours than most people is my ability to sleep efficiently. I am asleep within a minute of closing my eyes each night, I don’t toss and turn throughout the night, and when I awake, I am instantly out of bed.

There is no wasted time in bed. I sleep, and then I leave. There is not lounging in bed in the morning. No book reading or television watching. I may only be in my bed for about four or five hours each night, but I am asleep for all of those hours.


Many (including my wife) think that my “efficient sleep” argument is nonsense.

It turns out that even if it’s nonsense, simply believing that it’s true may benefit me, thus making it true.


How I Function on Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep (and how you could, too)

Alexandra Damsker, CEO of Kira’s Kiss Desserts, explains how she is able to function on less than six hours of sleep.

As a person who also sleeps less than six hours every night, I utilize many of Damsker’s strategies, and I’d like to add a few of my own.

First, Damsker suggests reducing your television intake.

You sleep much better, and do much more work, when you don’t watch much TV. Your brain is actually less active watching TV than when it’s sleeping. This dullness is addictive.

I agree wholeheartedly. I watch less than an hour of television a day, and I find that the more time I spend engaged in reading, writing, conversing, playing with my kids, and exercising, the better I sleep.

Damsker also believes that her career is a contributing factor.

Most important, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE WHAT I DO. I love it so much! I am so incredibly happy that I get to do my job. I have days that suck. I have strings of days that suck. But they are just sucky days — my life is still pretty spectacularly awesome.

I also feel that same sense of excitement about what I do. Between teaching, writing, storytelling, and the handful of other vocations that fill my day, I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning and get started. I often bemoan the fact that I need to go to bed at all. I’ve been known to tell my wife that I can’t wait for the next five hours to be over so I can get going again.

Once or twice a week I reverse nap for this very reason.

I don’t know many people who look forward to their days with as much enthusiasm. If you don’t love what you do, then do something about it. Make a plan. Set a goal. Begin the process of changing your life.   

I also have a few suggestions of my own:

1. Spend your time in bed sleeping and nothing more. When I climb into bed every night, I am asleep within a minute or two, and when I awake (usually on my own but sometimes with the help of a pet or an alarm), I am out of bed almost immediately.

The amount of time people spend lounging in bed in half-conscious states of unproductive slumber or (even worse) watching television is astounding. Oftentimes they will include this non-sleep time in their total amount of sleep, bringing five or six actual hours of sleep a lot closer to seven or eight perceived hours of sleep. But the number of hours spent in bed is not the same as the number of hours spent sleeping. The goal should be to spend nearly every minute in bed in meaningful, productive sleep.


2. Exercise regularly. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the more I exercise, the more energy I have and the less sleep I appear to need. A sedentary lifestyle results in the need for more sleep. 

And if you're experiencing an energy slump or feeling sluggish, exercise.

Go for a 15 minute run. Do push ups and sit ups. Do something to increase your heart rate for a sustained period of time. A 15 minute run at 8:00 PM will often sustain me until midnight or later with ease.

3. Train yourself to fall asleep quickly. The quicker, the better. Be a productive sleeper. Treat the time you spend in bed as a precious commodity. If I spend five hours in bed, I spent almost every minute of that time in sleep. If you have to sleep, at least make it worth your time.

It sounds fairly obvious, but I think it’s often overlooked:

It’s much easier to function on less sleep when you actually spend your time in bed sleeping. To this end, a few strategies to help you fall asleep faster and remain asleep throughout the night:

  • When I was a boy, I had a difficult time falling asleep, so I developed a routine to relax each part of my body, beginning at my toes and moving up to my head. I can do this automatically today, and it helps me fall asleep much faster.
  • This process has also made me aware of the two places on my body (my hands and my jaw) where I are likely to still be tense when I lay down, so I purposefully relax those two places as soon as the light is turned out. Find your centers of tension and learn to relax them as quickly as possible.
  • Awaken at the same time every day. I may go to sleep at 11:30 or 1:30 or 3:30 depending on what I am doing, but I awaken at the same time almost every day. Most of the time, I wake up without the assistance of an alarm clock, and rarely do I awaken not feeling refreshed. It's only when I sleep late - usually because I have arrived home and gone to bed so excessively late - that I feel sluggish the next day. I firmly believe that it's better to sleep four hours and wake up at your regular time than sleep six hours and awaken later than normal.
  • Don't sleep later on the weekends and holidays. It only serves to confuse your body and make sleep times less certain. Consistency is key.  
  • Use a white noise machine to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Even if you don’t think you need one, the white noise will serve as a trigger to your body that it’s time to sleep, and you will fall asleep faster. It will also filter out any sounds in the night that might awaken you unnecessarily.
  • Don't eat before bed. I eat almost nothing after dinner. If your body is digesting recently eaten food, it will be more difficult to fall into a restful sleep. 
  • I’ve always been able to clear my mind fairly quickly, but since I began meditating in the mornings, this ability has increased exponentially. Many people have trouble falling asleep because they cannot quiet their minds. Learn to quiet your mind through meditation.
  • When your alarm goes off, get your ass out of bed immediately. Start your day. Find a reason to want to get up (love your life) and create a routine that you enjoy. For me, my morning routine includes reading, writing, sitting with my dog and taking her for a walk, doing pushups and sit-ups, meditating, sweeping the kitchen floor, listening for my children to wake up, and eating an Egg McMuffin. All before 7:00. All before most people are awake.
  • Hate sleep.

This may be the least helpful bit of advice, but if you love to sleep, it will be hard for you to sleep less than six hours unless it's a necessity. And if you love sleep, then sleeping less than six hours a night is probably a bad idea. Do what you love.

But if you want to sleep less, learn to I despise sleep.

I believe that human beings' need to sleep is their greatest weakness, and I've been saying that since I was a teenager. Sleep interferes with all of the things I want to do and accomplish in life. Sleep is time stolen from me. An interruption in the flow of my day. It resembles death in a way that makes me entirely too uncomfortable.  

I can't stand going to bed every night.

It’s become popular amongst some of my friends to scoff at my five hours of sleep and worry about my future health. In response to these concerns, I offer the following:

Science has proven that a small segment of the population are genetically predisposed to needing to sleep less. This predisposition seems to run in families. Since I have rarely slept more than 5-6 hours for my entire life, and since my brother and sister are also extremely short sleepers, I may be one of these genetic mutants. 

Alexandra Damsker may be as well.

So I may have an unfair advantage over most people.

Even if it’s not genetic, I ask these naysayers and detractors a simple question:

Do I ever seem tired? Lethargic? Do you think that the quality of my work is suffering due to my lack of sleep? Am I not accomplishing enough because of my need for rest? Am I short tempered? Prone to depression? Abusing drugs or alcohol?

If you were to pick ten people from your life who appear chronically tired or fatigued, would I make the list?

Would my name have even popped up in your mind?

I don’t think so. It’s convenient to think that sleeping as little as I do is somehow hurting my productivity or turning my days into fatigue-riddled disasters, but it’s simply not the case. 

Here’s the real problem with all of this advice that Damsker and I offer:

Following it will require people to watch less television, cease snacking in the evening, exercise more often, learn to meditate, and make changes in their careers that will require great effort, long term planning, patience, and enormous sacrifices.

I do not know many people who would be willing to make these changes in their lives.

I sleep as much as my body wants me to sleep. But I also believe that most people could be sleeping less. By avoiding wasted time in bed and by making a concerted effort to awaken one hour earlier than usual, I think most people could shave at least an hour of their sleep each night. 

Last year a friend asked me how to be more productive. She had just had her second child and felt like she was never getting anything done. I told her to wake up an hour earlier than normal each morning and use that hour as productively as possible. "Give it a week," I advised. "See what happens." 

A few weeks later, my friend posted a public thank you on Facebook, telling her network that she had taken my advice and had accomplished so much in the hours she had recaptured and felt no negative impacts to her loss of sleep.

That was more than a year ago. She has continued to sustain the change and remains happy about it.

You could probably do the same if you're sleeping eight or more hours every night.  

Give it a week. See what happens.

Productivity tip #10: Get out of bed.

I’m not saying to sleep less, though I think that a lot of people could stand to get out of bed a little earlier.

No, this is much simpler.

Once you are awake, get out of bed.

My alarm goes off, and within seconds, I am out of my bed and starting my day.


Would I prefer to remain in the confines of my soft, warm cocoon? Of course. But the purpose of my bed is to sleep, and when the sleeping is done, it’s time to move on.


Not only does remaining in bed hurt your ability to fall asleep quickly in the future, but the amount of time that people waste lying in bed after they have awoken is staggering.


If you want to stay in bed longer, set your alarm for a later time. Actually spend that time sleeping.

If you’re too tired to get up, sleep more.

Otherwise move. Now. 

I am like a tree in one very specific way, at least according to my daughter.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my daughter doesn’t think I sleep. Because I am out of bed every day by 4:30 and back in bed well after she has gone to sleep, Clara has never even seen me lying in bed.

At the time, I explained to her that I sleep. I just go to bed late and wake up before most people.

I thought she believed me.

Last night I was reading a book to my daughter called Chicken Bedtime is Really Early. In it, the hamsters stay awake all night while the rest of the animals sleep.


“Hamsters must be nocturnal,” my daughter said.

“I think so,” I said.

“And the other animals like the sheep and the cows are diurnal,” she said.

“I think you’re right.”

“And I’m diurnal,” she said. “And so is Mommy and Charlie.”

“You’re right. But what about me?”

“You’re…” She paused. Looked at me. Squinted her eyes. Tilted her head. “You’re no-urnal, because you don’t sleep. Like trees.”

I’m like a tree. No-urnal.

I’m going to have to jump back in bed one of these mornings to knock this idea that Daddy doesn’t sleep out of her mind. While I would love that to be my super power, my actual super powers do not include the ability to avoid sleep altogether.

Did you know that Daddy doesn't sleep. My daughter has proof.

My daughter woke up at 5:45 this morning. Sirens from nearby fire engines and police cars woke her up. After checking in on her mother and finding her asleep and fairly nonresponsive, she came downstairs.

“Dad, I just can’t sleep.”

“I know,” I said. “But it’s okay. It’s morning. You’re allowed to be awake. It’s early, but it’s still morning.”

“But Mommy’s still asleep,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “It’s still really early.”

She paused for a moment beside a window, and then she turned to me. She had a smile on her face. “Listen, Daddy! The birds are awake! They went to sleep, and now they’re awake.”

“Yup,” I said. “The birds are awake, and I’m awake, and you’re awake.”

She looked out the window again, and then she turned toward me again, hazing hard. She furrowed her brow. She tilted her head slightly. She looked utterly puzzled. “Daddy,” she said. “How come you don’t have to sleep?”


Then it occurred to me:

Except for bouts with pneumonia and the stomach bug, my daughter has never, ever seen me asleep. For the first five years of my life, I have always been awake, out of bed, and fully dressed before she ever opened her eyes.

My daughter doesn’t think that I sleep.

She thinks that her Daddy is a superhero.

I fear that I have set the expectations on her future husband exceptionally high.


My 3 best pieces of parenting advice

A reader recently asked me for parenting advice. She is pregnant, reads my blog regularly and would like to know what are some of my best parenting tips.

I was honored by such a request, though I know that some might think it crazy to ask for parenting advice from me. I’m certainly not an expert on parenting, and some might even say that I’m the last person to ask this kind of question, but I’m not without experience.

I’m an elementary school teacher who has been teaching children for more than 15 years.

I’m the father of two children and a former stepfather who raised a stepdaughter from the ages of 6-16.

So yeah. I have some experience with kids.

I wasn’t exactly sure what my best parenting advice would be, so I scoured my blog for posts on parenting and found three that I think are my best:

Raising my daughter is a piece of cake, and there’s a good reason why I say this as often as possible.

It’s fine to be a slightly insane parent. Just don’t pretend that you’re not.

How to sleep train your child.

All are slightly controversial to one degree or another, but I stand behind all three posts just as much today as when I wrote them years ago, and I’m fairly confident that my wife would do the same, but with less bravado and certainty.

And if the proof is in the pudding, just look what I have to show for it?


A pill that reduces the amount of sleep that a person needs? Blasphemy!

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias reports on the economics of a new drug called Modafinil, which appears to let people get by with much less sleep than they do today.

When I first read about this drug, I was thrilled.

I can’t stand sleep. I don’t like to sleep. I’m appalled by my need for sleep. Sleep is like death. I’ve always thought that sleep was human being’s greatest weakness.

If this drug could allow us to continue to function normally on less sleep, this would be a crowning achievement of the medical and pharmaceutical establishment.

Then I realized the possible personal implications involved.

I already require less sleep than most people. I slept a little more than five hours last night. The previous night I slept four. I probably average about five hours of sleep per night.

Some might argue that I actually require more sleep and am depriving my body of what it needs. A recent report in the New York Times argues that people who believe they can get by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep are probably shortchanging themselves when it comes to the rest they require.

I admittedly got nervous while reading this piece until I came to the list of effects of this self-imposed sleep deprivation:

From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

I don’t think I suffer in any of these effects. In fact, I think I excel in many of these areas. They are some of my areas of greatest strength. 

Don’t get me wrong. I have many, many shortcomings (22 in all by the latest count), but none of the effects of sleep deprivation appear on the list.

As a result, I have 2-3 extra hours a day in comparison to the average American. Add to that this that the average American watches about six hours of television per day and I average less than one and it’s easy to understand why I manage to get so much done.

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked at my author talks is how I manage to squeeze so much into a single day.

I often cite my near-death experiences as  providing me with an ongoing, diabolically existential crisis that makes me want to suck the life out of every minute of every day.

I speak about my experience working at McDonald’s, learning and embracing the idea that unwavering, well-planned routines boost productivity.

I talk about how daily exercise boosts my energy level. I talk about my belief in minimalism as a means of stripping my life of unneeded noise and clutter. I talk about my ability to prioritize tasks and delegate.

All of these things are true, but at the heart of my productivity is the fact that my day is 2-3 hours longer than the average American, and if you factor in the amount of television that the average person watches, it’s 6-8 hours longer.

I simply have more time in the day than most.

This is why I find myself despising the idea of a drug that reduced the amount of sleep that a person requires. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the added hours in my day. My reduced need for sleep is the closest thing I have to a super power (other than my immunity from bruising, hangovers and vomiting).

This pill would render my super power meaningless. 

How would Superman feel if everyone could take a pill and suddenly leap tall buildings in a single bound?

Depressed is my guess. Downright annoyed. 

It’s how I feel now.

I’m secretly hoping that the clinical trial for this new drug fail miserably. Maybe the mice will grow a third eye or get lost in the simplest of mazes.

Anything to maintain give me an edge on the average person.

My advice to you:

Get plenty of sleep. Maybe even more than you require. Don’t take any chances. Did you see that list of adverse effects of sleep deprivation? Memory loss? Emotional instability? A lack of creativity? It’s nothing to mess with. Go to bed early and wake up late. Sleep until noon on the weekends.

Embrace your bed for the friend and companion that it should be.

Sleep, my friends. Sleep long and hard.

I need all the help I can get.  

Snooze button sucks

I have always been anti-snooze button.

There is no better way to waste time than to remain in bed after you have awoken. People waste hundreds, if not thousands of hours, a year doing this. If you’re going to be awake, you might as well start your day.

The snooze button is a contributor to this problem, and according to science, you should not be using it. Ever.  

My most useless super power

In addition to my fairly useful super powers is one that is no less extraordinary but useless. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, for whatever reason, I can accurately state the time within fifteen minutes of the actual time, and oftentimes much more accurately than that.

Every time, without exception.

How I manage this is a mystery to me.

But an even bigger mystery:

How am I ever going to use this super power to defeat evil?


Reverse napping: Science says yes.

In addition to gaining coverts, it turns out that there is actual science behind the Reverse Nap.

From a Wikipedia entry on segmented sleep:

Historian A. Roger Ekirch argues that before the Industrial Revolution, segmented sleep was the dominant form of human slumber in Western civilization. He draws evidence from documents from the ancient, medieval, and modern world, which he discovered over the course of fifteen years of research. Other historians, such as Craig Koslofsky, have endorsed Ekirch's discovery and analysis.

According to Ekirch's argument, typically individuals slept in two distinct phases, bridged by an intervening period of wakefulness of up to an hour or more. Peasant couples, who were often too tired after field labor to do much more than eat and go to sleep, awakened later to have sex. People also used this time to pray and reflect, and to interpret dreams, which were more vivid at that hour than upon waking in the morning. This was also a favorite time for scholars and poets to write uninterrupted, whereas still others visited neighbors, or engaged in petty crime.

Did you see that?

“This was also a favorite time for scholars and poets to write uninterrupted…”

I’m not a scholar and only a hack poet, but still, that’s me!

There is also a TED Talk on the subject:

In truth, I’m not sure how I feel about this.

While it’s rewarding to know that science supports my idea of the Reverse Nap, I’m a little disappointed that the idea does not appear to be originally my own.

In a perfect world, preeminent scientists  and researchers would have read my blog, been intrigued by my idea, and conducted a massive study to confirm the validity of my idea.

Instead, it seems as if I have stumbled upon something that others stumbled upon previously.

Decidedly less rewarding. 

I can teach you how to sleep

TIME magazine reports that “the business of helping people get a good night’s rest is likely to remain what it is: A fast-growing sector in an otherwise slow-moving economy.”

In a piece published earlier this week, writer Gary Belsky outlines some of the products and services being offered to a sleep-deprived population, including The Benjamin Hotel’s “sleep concierge,” which is “just one aspect of a smartly differentiated approach to business travel; specifically, a focus on the part of business travel that involves sleeping.”

If you are one of these sleep-deprived people, I’d like to point out that I am an unlicensed sleep expert, and unless you have an honest-to-goodness medical condition that interferes with your sleep, I can probably improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the number of hours of sleep that you require rather simply.

I offer you three simple steps to improve your sleep, and I offer them to you free of charge, unless of course you are inclined to send me some money, which would be perfectly fine.

In addition, I can probably improve the sleep habits of your infants and toddlers as well by presenting to you these four simple steps, also free of charge, though donations are accepted if not encouraged.

If “the business of helping people get a good night’s rest is a fast-growing sector in an otherwise slow-moving economy,” I want a piece of that pie, damn it. 

How to sleep train your child

This post is being written by request. I say this because every time I write a post that implies that I know something about parenting, I receive a mixed bag in terms of response, include a few angry people who believe that if my assertions regarding parenting run counter to their own beliefs, I must be attacking them.

I am not. I just think that I am right.

So today I write this post at the bequest of several readers who are curious about the methods my wife and I use to teach our children to sleep well.

It’s true that both of my children are outstanding sleepers. My three-year old daughter has been sleeping through the night ever since she was three months old and now routinely sleeps ten hours or more a night. My infant son began sleeping through the night (at least six hours at a time) at less than two months old and has topped out at eight hours several times, including last night.


It’s also true that we may simply be lucky. Perhaps our children, unlike their father, are genetically predisposed to sleep.

Genetics may play a role, but I don’t think they tell the whole story. When asked by parents how we managed to train our children to sleep through the night so effectively, I often list strategies that the parent has never heard of before or could never support. This leads me to believe that effective sleep training involves employing the correct strategies, and too many parents are either unaware of the strategies or are unwilling to use them.

These strategies are not our own. My wife read two books, The Happiest Baby on the Block and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby, and the following strategies (except for one) were pulled directly from these texts.

It’s not rocket science. It’s simply following the advice of experts.

Does this mean that these strategies will work for every child? Of course not. But I think they will work on 95% of children, and I think they will help all kids sleep better, if not well. If you have not yet tried to use these strategies on a consistent basis,  then you really can’t discount them or complain when your child is not sleeping well.

The following are the four most important strategies that we use. There are others, of course, like a consistent bedtime routine and insisting that our children sleep in a darkened room (our son has blackout shades), but these seem obvious and not nearly as important as the following:

White noise: Both of our kids sleep with white noise. Clara is three years old and still uses it. In the beginning, white noise mimics the sound of the womb for infants and makes them feel at ease. As children get older, it serves as a signal that it’s time for sleep as well as a means by which outside noises (a barking dog, a car horn, thunder) are eliminated. If you are not using white noise with your infant or toddler, you are making a huge mistake. Even Elysha and I sleep with white noise now.

Swaddling: Both of our children were swaddled from day one. This means wrapping them up tighter than a burrito before putting them to bed. There are specially designed swaddle blankets with Velcro straps for people like me who have difficulty achieving an effective swaddle, but my wife can swaddle with just about any blanket. I have spoken to parents who think that swaddling is “mean” and “scary” for kids, but babies like to be swaddled. It mimics the confines of the womb and prevents them from waking themselves up with flailing arms and kicking feet. In fact, the only night that Charlie has slept less than six hours in the last month was the night his swaddle came undone.


Never ever let your children sleep in your bed: This is the rule most often violated by parents, and it is the most important. Children sleep best when they sleep alone in their own bed, and when they are old enough, in their own room. It is critical that children be taught to do this. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children to be effective sleepers, and when we place our own emotional needs ahead of this important job, we are hurting our kids. We made the mistake of allowing Clara to sleep in our bed once when she was feeling ill, and it was the worst night of sleep that all three of us have had in a long time.

Never again.

Both of our children slept in a cradle beside our bed when they were infants. Charlie is two months old so he is still there, though for the first night, he actually slept on the floor because the cradle was not ready. Anything but our bed.

  • When Clara was about four months old, she was moved into her own room. It was not easy. We liked having her in a cradle beside us. It was easier and made us happy to have her near us, but we knew that in order to teach her to be an effective sleeper, she needed to be moved. The longer we waited, the harder it would be. Listening to Clara cry for the first three nights that she was in her own bedroom was incredibly difficult, but by the fourth night, she was sleeping in her room, in her crib, without complaint. It must be done. She is a more rested and happier child because of it.

The self-rocking bassinet: This was not included in either of the books that Elysha read, but after three nights spent rocking Clara to sleep as an infant, I thought that there must be a machine to do this for me. There was. When I bought the self-rocking bassinet three years ago, it was the only one on the market and it was not exactly stylish (the mattress appears to have been imported from a Guantanamo Bay prison camp), but it did the job. Clara spent the first three months in a self rocking bassinet and Charlie is there now. Turn a knob and the bassinet rocks itself, allowing Elysha and I to sleep while the bassinet gently rocks the baby to sleep, switching off after 30 minutes. And when the baby begins to stir around 5:00 AM with the rising of the sun, it’s the self-rocking bassinet that puts him or her back to sleep for another hour or two. It’s indispensable.

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It’s also true that Elysha and I are blessed with two children who have been easy to manage thus far. Perhaps they are both waiting for their teenage years to raise hell, but for now, both kids are more than we could have hoped for in terms of their behavior.

Are they genetically predisposed to these easy-going natures, and has this made sleep training much easier? Possibly.

But I also know that they are both well rested children, sleeping through the night and napping on regular schedules every day. If your child is challenging in terms of behavior, ask yourself:

Is your child getting enough uninterrupted sleep every day and night?

As teacher, I can assure you that a tired student is one who is more likely to misbehave during the day.

As a parent, I can tell you that a missed nap almost guarantees a deterioration in behavior later in the day.

Children who don’t sleep enough or spend portions of their night sleep beside parents and drop out of REM sleep every time someone tosses or turns in the bed have a more difficult time regulating their behavior.

I’d love to think that my wife and I produce well behaved, easy-going, naturally precocious children, but in truth, our kids might just be getting enough sleep every night.

I might be that simple.