The other day in Parent-Child class some wonderful conversations were taking place around the table. I was particularly aware of a conversation about sleep. With the recent time change and the various effects of our daily lives– especially if there are children in the house– this was very pertinent. It seemed to me the parents around that table were giving each other very good advice and helpful tips.

I, too, have been thinking about sleep, and the parents’ conversation reminded of an article I saw not too long ago about the cultural history of sleep in which I read about “first” and “second” sleep. First sleep, it seems, was a very deep sleep. After a few hours of first sleep everyone would get up and potter around doing various tasks by candle- or moonlight and then go back to bed. Apparently, this practice died out during the late 17th century, starting with the upper classes and filtering down, over the next 200 years to the rest of us. Charles Dickens mentions first sleep in some of his writings, for example. So, it is only these days that we are so concerned that we are not having continuous sleep every night.

There is also the value of naps to consider. Some cultures, even today, build them into their daily rhythms–siestas, for example. Some businesses in this country are also allowing time for “power naps” as a way to keep their work force more productive.

For children, sleep is especially important, as they are building their bodies and brains through sleep for their future life. You, as parents, are probably feeling sleep-deprived sometimes if not always. And, there seems to be a lot to worry about being awake in the night.

I have heard it said that we shouldn’t worry if we can’t get to sleep, rather we should consider what’s good about the moment, e.g., you are lying down and warm in bed. We might count our blessings rather than let worry creep in. This is, of course, easier said than done! But, eat a banana or drink warm herb tea with honey and remember your ancestors who may have been chopping wood or visiting their neighbors for a chat in the middle of the night.

For further reading, here is an article by a Anthroposophical doctor about sleep as a healer. And, here is a link to Helle Heckman speaking about sleep. Heckman is a Waldorf early childhood master teacher.

— Audrey McGlashan, Parent-Child Teacher