Sleep Pattern Problems

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2004

Help, my boyfriend who I have been dating for two years, has a 5 year-old little boy.  Since he was three, he has been allowed to stay up until midnight or when ever he decides to go to sleep. 

His mom likes to sleep late and he will sleep until eleven AM.  I know when he visits we canít undo everything she does, but his dad doesnít even try,  It drives me nuts,  Shouldnít we have a set of rules of our own? 

I have a five year old.  He is never allowed to do that.  Also she lets him play X-Box a lot.  He canít spell his name, but he has mastered adult games with not problem.  Help, Iím ready to scream.


Dear Ready-to-Scream,

If the child lives with the mother, you have no recourse. From what you told me, the mother is the problem here.  She has no problem with the child staying up, because she stays up.  This is her life-style.  Unless she changes her life-style, you cannot change the child.   

If the child were to live with you, that is a different story.  The child has an internal clock called "Circadian Rhythms" which become set over time because of his pattern of sleep.  You can try to send the child to bed at 9 PM, but his sleep pattern or Circadian Rhythms, mandate that he is not tired yet and cannot sleep.   

You see this problem with people that cross over into other time zones.  They call it "Jet Lag."  They cannot sleep even though they know that they must to be able to participate in the new time zone's activities.  If this problem happens constantly, it can literally take off years from a person's life. 

Over time one's Circadian Rhythm can be changed by moving the sleep time backwards or forwards in small increments or staying awake for so long that the body demands sleep.  This would mean missing one's sleep period, until the wanted sleep period comes.  It will take a week or so for the body to be come comfortable with this new arrangement. 

The question I have is... How does a 5-year-old cope with going to school (kindergarten), when he should be sleeping?  Does he go to school or has his mother opted not to change her life-style and kept him out of kindergarten.  Children do not legally have to attend school until first grade, but if a child has not had a great deal of exposure to reading, he will likely fail first grade, as most of those children are readers.

This brings up a problem as to the child's future.  Studies have proven, time and again, that a child that gets behind becomes the butt of his peer's jokes.  He becomes angry and either gets in fights or withdraws into himself.  Either way the child is in trouble.  He believes his peers that he is stupid and fails to try to learn.  These individuals having no education usually end up our criminals.

So... What is being done for this child?  If the mother will not change her lifestyle, then the child might be better off with the father or a more stable environment. Perhaps the mother can be reasoned with, for the sake of her son.  He needs school and all the help he can get to learn to read well so he can participate in the rest of his schooling.  If one cannot read, he cannot do well in any of his studies or his life. 

I hope this helps.


Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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