Children’s sleep, or the lack of it, is a major preoccupation for many of today’s parents. “Does your child sleep through the night yet?” seems to be the first question everyone asks—if your puffy eyes do not speak for themselves. Someone else’s smug response, “My child has slept through the night ever since we brought him home from the hospital,” wakes up every hair on the back of your neck—even though they, like the rest of your body, can barely function.

It is, understandably, an issue charged with an entire range of emotions—anger, guilt, relief, and elation. All parenting issues seem intensely important, but this one seems even more so. Perhaps this is because sleep—or the need for it in both parent and child—can begin to affect one’s decision-making ability and undermine even the most confident parent. It can bring discord to ordinarily happy families and affect parents’ feelings toward their child.

But it is possible to look objectively at the problem, to define it as it appears in your family, and to determine a course of action with which you will feel comfortable. In order to devise a workable plan, you first need some solid information about young children’s sleep.

When a child’s sleep habits cause recurring or continuing problems for the child or his parents, there is a sleep problem.

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