The Sleep Gamble

There’s one game we always seem to lose at — the sleep gamble.

Here’s how it works. We have an exhausting day and make a poor decision.

Let’s use Monday as an example.

E. spent Sunday night at my grandparents’ house since her school was closed Monday for Presidents Day. E., who looks for any excuse to stay up as late as possible, didn’t go to sleep until 11 p.m. Sunday night. She was up at 9, and then they spent the day at the Jacksonville Zoo.

E. fell asleep on the drive back to their house in Flagler County. We arrived at 6:30 to pick her up and she was passed out. Just dead to the world. DadJovi and I had the following conversation.

Me: I think we should wake her up.

Him: No, I think she’ll sleep the whole way home, then stay asleep when we get home. She’s had an exhausting few days.

Me: I’m not sure. I think a long nap will just give her a second wind, then she’ll be up all night.

Him: Nah, she’ll be fine. Just let her sleep.

I think you know where this story is going. The second we arrive home, E. pops her eyes open and immediately starts protesting, “I don’t want to go to bed!” Then the screaming and crying starts. I try laying down with her. It gets worse. After about 30 minutes, she starts with the cries, “But I didn’t even have dinner! My belly is hungry!” That was technically true, but my grandmother told me she ate all day, including an entire big bag of sliced apples right before she fell asleep in the car. So she wasn’t starving.

Finally, I gave up and let her get up and get something quick to eat. It was then 9 p.m. By 9:30, I had her back in bed, read her two stories, then left her room. At least she wasn’t crying anymore. But she wasn’t sleeping either — she was singing and talking to her stuffed animals. FINALLY, around 11, I heard her settle down. Around 11:45, I went in for my final check of her of the night, and guess what I discovered — she was STILL AWAKE. She was quiet but still just hanging out in her bed.

I knew there was only one chance of her getting any sleep — I brought her into our bed and made her lay there silently and go to sleep. I think it was around 12:30 when she finally fell asleep. Surprisingly, she woke up easily and happily at 7:30.

This child just does not need sleep.

The sleep gamble also includes another risky bet — the Attempting to Drive Around Until She Falls Asleep wager. At least three times in recent months we’ve gotten screwed by this. In this example, it will be another exhausting day (i.e. a day at Disney). We’ll get close to home and she’ll appear very sleepy but won’t yet be asleep. Using past experiences to guide us, we’ll know that if we take her inside before she’s asleep, she’ll just get wound up again. So we’ll try the “let’s just drive around for a few minutes more” trick until she falls asleep. Sometimes it works great. We went 2-2 during our Duke weekend.

Other times, it backfires. Big time. Not only will she not fall asleep, but we’ll have just lost a valuable hour of time, meaning bedtime starts even later.

I know that seems like a really lazy way to get your kid to bed, but please see the point I made above — this child HATES to go to sleep. She’s the only child who hasn’t napped at preschool for the past two years. Every single day, she just lays there on her naptime mat for two hours without sleeping at all. Who does that? How can she not realize how lucky she is to have a naptime every day?

By this point, I’m convinced that even when she wants to sleep she just stays awake to spite us.

Yup, the house always wins.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get your kids to sleep? And how much would you give to take a nap every day?


  1. says

    Sleep games are so FUN!

    E sounds A LOT like me. Growing up I never wanted to nap (I dropped my nap early) and it was definitely a struggle to get me to go to sleep. I remember my mom coming in and massaging my temples and doing relaxation exercises so it would put me to sleep (it worked!). I grew out of it by middle and high school, kinda. I mean even now I have to read in order to fall asleep and I will be dead tired and yet wide awake. I CAN nap, but it’s only when I am really sleep deprived. I am at my best with 7 hours of sleep at night – 8 is too much, 6 is OK. Thankfully the kids seem to take after Dan, who can sleep 8-12 hours and then take a 4 hour nap whevener he wants. I’m kinda jealous because I LOVE sleep. It just doesn’t love me.

    • says

      I too have always had to read a book to fall asleep. That habit started very young with me. But we read three to four books with E., then sing her Peter Pan medley of songs (yes, she demands a medley of 4 Peter Pan songs every night). But then once we leave the room she starts getting really active — playing with stuffed animals or just singing songs. Short of strapping her into bed (is that legal?!?), I don’t know how to stop that!

      Your kids must take after me. In my dream world, I’d get 10 hours every night. Anything less than 8 feels like no sleep to me.

    • says

      On flights and long trips I’ve tried to the “kid version of wine” — Benedryl. It has the opposite effect on E., though. It makes her super hyper! Too bad I learned that the hard way on a long flight when I was alone with her. But I’ll take your wine prescription and use it for me!

  2. says

    Oh the sleep gamble… I play it almost every day at naptime. It’s so much easier when A falls asleep in the car! When he was a baby, I would drive around for two hours (the gas companies love me) because he would wake up the minute the car stopped. I feel your pain. think I was the same way as a child, a`

  3. says

    sorry, my comment got sent before I finished. anyway, I was saying I never wanted to go to sleep when I was a child (even at sleepovers, I clearly remember being the one asking the other “are you still awake?” and of course they weren’t), but now I LOVE sleep.
    On the other note, I have a friend who works for PriceWaterhouseCooper and they have a “relaxation room” where employees are encouraged to take a break and relax! How cool is that?

  4. says

    Yeah – my son (who is 4) doesn’t need any sleep either. He rarely takes naps (and if he does, it’s 10 minutes in the car) and doesn’t go to bed until 9 and is up by 6 – and he’s not cranky, clingy etc. I don’t know who he gets it from because both my husband and I LOVE our sleep!

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