Radical Unschooling and Sleep Struggles

In our experience, our children’s sleep seems to run on a seasonal, natural cycle. Our family changes our sleep patterns with the changing of the seasons and we have always lived this way. Much like cycles that follow the rhythm of the moon, when sleep is viewed from this natural perspective, one can see how it could be the most organic, intuitive way to live. In order for freedom and releasing control to flourish, one needs to step into a space of trusting children with their ability to tune into their natural rhythms and they can, without our interference.

Trusting your child to find balance and naturally slip into a healthy rhythm for themselves is an aspect of this life that is difficult for many.. As important as sleep is and as much as my kids have the freedom to sleep as much as they want, I have found that without outside stresses, and without imposed schedules and living other’s agenda, their sleep quota is very different than what most children in our culture require. Their bodies run efficiently, because their minds and bodies are unhindered.

Sleep is time for our bodies to recoup from the day before. Children in our culture need that repair time for their bodies after a day of eating poorly and living in a way so out of alignment with nature. Also,It can be quite exhausting living a life where one has to push up against control all day. Sleep needs to be long and regular for children living in such a way. When you have a lot to heal, you need a lot of sleep.

This isn’t to say that Radically Unschooled kids always sleep less. They sometimes sleep more than the average child and this is good! In our family, we all do this, much like how we eat. Some days we eat very lightly, according to the needs of our bodies. Some days our bodies are detoxing or needing different vitamins and minerals and we crave and eat much more than usual. The same is true for sleep. I am grateful that our children have the freedom to  tune into their individual needs in regards to sleep, each day, everyday. I believe that there is no healthier way to live.

Our kids have very efficient bodies. We provide great fuel for their bodies and they spend their days living without resistance. They do not have to push up against the adults in their lives, to squeeze out even the tiniest sliver of freedom and joy. It is exhausting, unhealthy and damaging for a child to live in this way.  The way to ensure children get enough sleep to repair this avoidable damage is to give “sleep requirements” for children., which are backed up by doctors and experts, in the field of sleep and medicine. In our lives, we have no use for this information, as it isn’t applicable to our lives.

Our children, do not deal with the wear and tear on their bodies and minds that most in our culture live. They eat maybe 50% less than the average child, as we don’t need nearly as much food as our culture pushes on consumers and their bodies run efficient, potently and powerfully.

I believe that Radical Unschooling is truly how humans would live if there were no cultural or outside influences. What our culture knows about children and sleep today, is wrong for our children. I realize that it is hard to trust your child when we live in a culture that fears them, if they aren’t controlled. Sleep is as easy and effortless as breathing. When you let go of the fear and the cultural conditioning, you will see how joyful and beautiful it is to step into the space of allowing your child to tune into their innate knowledge about what their bodies truly need.

Peace & Love, Dayna


  1. Margaret Wallace says

    So incredibly true. Not only children, but us adults too. We see healthy, unforced natural behaviour of sleep and eating patterns in free non- human creatures. This article is illuminating and a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Peace and love, Dayna.

  2. Amanda Kowalski says

    How do you manage YOU needing to replenish and a younger child not being ready for sleep? Do you follow the child’s needs always or is there give and take? Also, my kids want to just eat all day. What am I missing?

  3. I am asking a similar question to Amanda. I am a morning person and need to go to sleep earlier than my children would prefer. I also need to be up for work. I am a childminder and a single mum. The kids have chosen a few home ed groups to attend which sometimes means i need to wake them up if they have stayed up late. But usually they can wake naturally. In theory I don’t mind if they stay up (preferably if they brush their teeth and turn off lights to conserve electricity), but they wake me up with laughter or noises or questions etc. and then I am up for hours and really struggle. I am an introvert and find I really need a quiet bedtime routine to transition. The kids are 6 and 10 if that matters.

    I keep thinking about encouraging more activity late in the afternoon to tire them out, or meditation in the evenings to help bring calm, or both. But I am not sure if I “should” or not.

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