WHAT is it children don’t like about sleep?

What exactly is their beef with slumber?

My two little ones like broken sleep, fighting sleep, refusing sleep and disrupting my sleep. Any kind of variation of sleep, except actually sleeping!

My eldest loves a night prowl. When he was a tiny baby his sleeping pattern was like clockwork. We thought we’d cracked it. We were almost smug. Rookie mistake. Then he hit the six-months-old mark and everything changed.

For reasons unknown to man and beast he began waking up two, three, four times a night, mostly for nothing at all. Just checking we were there.

He’s four-and-a-half now and still it goes on.

I won’t say we’ve tried everything, because undoubtedly we haven’t. But we’ve tried A LOT of suggested solutions.

We’ve done tiring him out, keeping him up later, putting him down earlier, banning sweet treats, TV, and high stimulators before bed.

We’ve opted for bedtime stories, positive parenting, winding down and reward charts. And some of it has definitely improved his sleeping pattern but he still – STILL – gets up through the night. Granted it’s usually only once or twice now – a huge leap forward from his former nightly tallies. A small victory to us parents and one we are relishing since he has been known to get up 18 times in four hours. (No, I’m not exaggerating). At the worst times I’ve felt like I was living inside an episode of Supernanny. But without the bossy know-it-all to give me the solutions. (And letting me sleeeeep!) My youngest sleeps well, like a baby. Once he’s down that’s him for a straight 11 hours uninterrupted. It’s a cliche, but you can practically set your watch to him. If you’ll pardon the sleepy metaphors, it’s a dream. The tricky part is just getting him into bed in the first place. He’s as stubborn as a mule and fights sleep til the very last kick. I’m exhausted just watching him.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. Some people’s little ones barely sleep at all. The daughter of one friend of mine used to wake up every hour or two throughout the night for a two hour play time right up until she was almost a year old. And now, at two-and-a-half, she’s still nocturnal.

It’s the perpetual battle every parent on earth faces. And we’re yet to discover the key to successful bedtime and sleeping patterns.

So imagine my surprise when, this week, I read an article quoting ‘baby expert’ Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental psychology at the university of Bristol. He says babies don’t sleep through the night, not because you’ve been doing something wrong, but because they’re not supposed to.

Um, what?

According to Professor Fleming: “Human infants are not designed to sleep for long periods, it’s not good for them, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any benefit to anybody from having a child that sleeps longer and consistently.” Why would he say such a thing?

But I’m not sleeping through the night either. I thought it was because my restless child is waking me up somewhere in the region of 18 times a night, but no, not according to Darcia F. Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at Notre Dame University, who says that not only are our babies not sleeping right through, we’re not either. It’s just not what humans do, apparently. She says we’re all ‘waking up routinely’ but while we’re just rolling over and going to back to sleep our kids, having no concept of time, are getting up and about.

Narvaez goes even further to suggest that it’s just not in our DNA to sleep. As hunter-gatherers we would sleep for two hours then wake up to get on with business – which is obviously the explanation for my friend’s nocturnal daughter. She’s not a light sleeper, she’s in survival mode!

Professor Fleming adds: “Typically, babies love sleeping during the day, and 6pm to midnight is the time they’re going to want to be awake the most. That’s not perhaps what most parents would like to hear.” No Professor Fleming, no it is not.