toddlers on a bed

Giving the Gift of Sleep

In this season of gift-giving, I am reminded of my longstanding belief that there’s really no better gift than a full night of blissful slumber. Sleep is always a safe bet in the gift-giving department, given that 30-40% of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough of it. If only such a gift could be wrapped up in a bow or bestowed upon the weary with the simple wave of a wand…

It’s also fairly safe to assume that a large number of those sleep-deprived adults are parents of young children, whose chances of getting a good night’s sleep are dependent on whether their children are sleeping soundly. This offers a great opportunity for the perfect family-friendly gift. Readily available, inexpensive, fun and long-lasting (not to mention easily wrapped up in a bow), giving young children the gift of a good sleep-related book or two (or three or four) also serves as a step toward getting them to sleep soundly.

Bedtime books  including but not limited to those that are specifically sleep-focused make for great gifts on multiples levels. Introducing a nightly routine that includes reading to even the youngest of children not only introduces them to new concepts, vocabulary and imaginative tales, but helps instill a soothing routine and a lasting love of reading. Long story short, making a habit out of reading books together at bedtime is one of the very best ways to not only build young brains and cultivate important skills, but build up a set of shared memories that will also last a lifetime.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the fun part: taking a closer look at the books themselves. Many years have passed since the days when my own children were young and I regularly read them to sleep, so I headed on over to my local bookstore to see what’s available these days. Shelf upon shelf of both new and time-tested favorites reinforced that the subject of sleep  including in the form of children’s books continues to be of utmost interest. The following are some of my favorites that collectively cover a range of common sleep themes, as well as sleep challenges. In turning to these pages, it’s my hope that you and your children will be well on your way to happy bedtime reading… and happier sleeping!

Books that say “good night.” If you’re looking for a book to establish a bedtime routine around saying good night and going to sleep, you won’t have to look very hard. Of course there’s Goodnight Moon and Goodnight Gorilla  both of which were such favorites in my household that I can still recite them from memory more than fifteen years later! But whether your child is interested in trucks, mermaids or teddy bears, there’s a good night book that will help convince them that saying good night is just what you (and everyone or everything they care about) do.

Pages and pages of bedtime fun. It’s always a good idea to start by presenting bedtime as a a fun, routine, and eagerly anticipated activity. Taking this approach, you really can’t go wrong with the likes of Sandra Boynton, whose Pajama Time book will put a smile on your face by turning the nightly routine of putting on your pajamas into a party, rather than a chore. In similar, fun-loving fashion, Boynton also contributes to the genre with The Going to Bed Book, a book that adds a touch of “everyone’s doing it” to the case for a no-hassle bedtime routine.

Bedtime books for truck- and train-lovers. Ever wonder where diggers and monster trucks and fire engines sleep, and what they dream about? Maybe not, but it’s a safe bet that more than a few truck-loving toddlers do, in which case there are books for that, starting with Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? Thanks to the recommendation of a truck-loving toddler (and his mother) I happened to meet in the aisles of the bookstore, I can also share that Good Night, Good Night Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train are also likely to fit the bill.

Bedtime resistance books. For children prone to bedtime resistance who struggle to fall asleep, and for whom a simple “good night” isn’t likely to do the trick, there are plenty of books to turn to. In Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep, a very tired panda bear has a very hard time falling asleep. In I’m Not Sleepy, a baby owl similarly in need of sleep fights his fatigue. As you might have guessed, both books have a happy ending that involve everyone falling asleep.

One thing any parent of a young child will appreciate is the gift of a better night’s sleep for their entire family  that’s a gift that will keep on giving, long after the holiday lights come down!

About The Author

Dr. Laura Jana

As director of innovation at The University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Laura Jana is a pediatrician, award-winning author and health communicator specializing in a wide range of health topics – from early literacy, child care and development, to health and nutrition promotion, among others. With degrees from the University of Michigan and Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Jana focuses her efforts on pediatric and health-related issues extending well beyond the four walls of a pediatric office.

Dr. Jana co-founded the Dr. Spock Company – one of the first online health sites ever – in 1999, and also founded her own company, Practical Parenting Consulting, shortly after. Her passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle for children and has been recognized on a national level, as reflected by her role in the nationally-acclaimed “Learn the Signs. Act Early!” campaign, which is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of social, emotional and cognitive development in our nation’s youth.

As media spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Jana has also served on the National Executive Committee for Early Education and Child Care. Her professional efforts are increasingly dedicated to addressing the earliest and most pressing needs of children and families.

When she’s not giving speeches or traveling, Dr. Jana enjoys spending time with her husband and their three teenagers.

Best Night’s Sleep: Dr. Jana gets her best night’s sleep when she returns home from a trip and gets to sleep in her own king-sized bed with her blackout curtains drawn. The best nights – getting to wake up without having to set an alarm!

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