While sleep is a natural biological function, Kim West, a mother and a social worker, makes the argument in her book "Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide To Helping Your Child Go To Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy" (CDS) that people need to be taught sleep habits.
There's no better time to start than infancy, she says, because getting enough sleep leads to other important things in a child's life, such as learning independent play, flexibility and taking in one's surroundings. Proper rest also will help curb irritability and short attention spans, she says. Here are some sleep myths identified by West -- and her myth-busters:
If babies are fed late at night, they'll sleep longer.
Sleep Lady: Babies will sleep for a longer stretch when they no longer need to eat at night and if they know how to put themselves back to sleep without being fed.
If children skip their naps, they'll sleep longer at night. Also, the later children go to bed, the later they'll sleep in the morning.
Sleep Lady: The more overtired you allow your children to get, the more wired they'll get -- making it harder for them to get sleep and stay asleep.
It's a simple fact of life that children don't sleep through the night for the first year or two.
Sleep Lady: Healthy babies 6 months or older who are growing well can often sleep 11 hours at night. Although teething, illness and developmental milestones can disturb sleep at various times, they're only temporary interruptions.
Newborns sleep all the time and know what they need. You don't need to schedule their sleep times.
Sleep Lady: Even very young babies benefit from scheduling and consistency at night time and nap time. It cuts down on their crankiness and crying and lays the groundwork for learning how to sleep through the night once they're a little older.
Children know when they're sleepy and when they should go to bed.
Sleep Lady: Not once they learn to fight sleep for your company! Children need direction and guidance with a soothing bedtime routine to help them slow down and transition to sleep.
Some children, including babies, don't need as much sleep as others.
Sleep Lady: Very few children need less than the average amount of sleep for their age. They need enough good quality sleep to grow and learn at the incredible rate they do! They need us to protect their need for sleep.