My big girl is still struggling with the transition to sleep in the evenings, and since it comes at the end of the day, I am not always at my best when dealing with it. We have a list of things you can do to help yourself fall asleep. I wrote it down. I taped it to her wall. We recite them like a catechism. We brainstorm new ones. But last night she came back around to the complaint (which I haven’t heard for nearly 3 years!) that “sleep isn’t fun.”

My inclination was just to tell her, “tough, sometimes stuff that’s good for you isn’t fun. Get over it.” That’s not been the most successful response on other subjects, shockingly enough, and so I’m really excited that I was able to try another way last night. Instead, I explained to her what sleep does in her brain, based on some research I’ve been hearing about on NPR. 🙂

I told Amelia to imagine her brain was her bedroom, and that every day while she’s learning new things it’s like getting new toys and books and clothes, and they all get piled up in the middle of the rug in her room. Then I asked her, if all your things were just piled up in the middle of your room, would it be easy to play or get dressed? And she said no, and we talked about that for a while to really create a strong image for her. Then I told her that while she sleeps, her brain sends in little pixies/fairies/whatever and they clean up her brain’s room. They put the books on the book shelf, sweep the legos into a bin, and fold her clothes and put them in the dresser. That way, when she wakes up, the room of her brain is clean and she can more easily remember things, make good choices, and enjoy herself all day long.

So, it worked! She started riffing on the idea of learning things being like going to a toy store and getting all the toys you wanted, and then didn’t object to me leaving the way she’s been doing so much lately. I thought I’d share the explanation here so that other parents who are struggling with similar objections from their totally-not-sleepy kids, they could maybe try it. 🙂

A couple of good podcasts on sleep from NPR:

Russell Foster: Why Do We Need Sleep?

No Rest For Your Sleeping Brain