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Sleepless in America

by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka Harper; $13.95

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The day we arrived in Ethiopia to adopt our six-month-old son was certainly the most glorious day of our lives. It was also the last day that my husband and I had anything close to a decent nightís sleep. Our son, Fasil, delight that he is, woke up at least every two hours; 18 months later, not much has changed. So here we are, exhausted and in desperate need of help.

Iíve skimmed other sleep books (reading being another beloved activity thatís temporarily gone by the wayside), but most donít help families who share a bed, as we do. Thatís not the case with Sleepless in America. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, who wrote the acclaimed Raising Your Spirited Child, doesnít care where your child sleeps; she has warm, empathetic advice for everyone.

The book begins by addressing the link between sleep deprivation and misbehavior. I intended to skim this, believing that the connection is clear enough in our home. But the parentsí stories pulled me in, as did some of the startling statistics. ďPreschoolers who sleep less than 10 hours a day are 86 percent more likely to incur injuries requiring emergency room treatment,Ē Kurcinka writes.

The author also surprised me by saying that preparations for a good nightís sleep should begin in the morning. Establishing calm energy and a predictable routine for the whole day are key to getting your child to fall asleep, and helping him learn to sleep well.

Itís too early to tell whether this book is going to change our lives, but itís given me a much-needed sense of hope. For now, Kurcinkaís motto, ďProgress, not perfection,Ē is one Iím willing to adopt as my own.

Reviewed by Lexi Mitchell, an adoptive mom and art therapist in New York City.

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