I’ve decided that there are two types of people in this world: those whose lives revolve around sleep (either their’s or their little-one’s) and those who are oblivious to what it is like to be obsessed with sleep.
Historically, I was not a very good sleeper. My mom says I didn’t sleep until I was two. I don’t remember that, but I do remember regularly staying up until 3am in middle or high school working on an assignment, chatting on ICQ, or doing who-knows-what, just to wake up early to go to work or school. It wasn’t until I married someone who had a high value on sleep that I even considered changing these habits. When Ben and I first got married, I think I went through a period of “sleep training” just so I wouldn’t mess with his sleep patterns. Even then, I was oblivious to the obsession state.
Enter baby. Even if you have a “good baby” (because obviously infant behaviour and morality are intertwined…) who gives you 4 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep, you will still rearrange your entire life around the potential for your little one to nap. Doctors appointments, travel times, social engagements, meals … everything. It will all be moved like pawns on chessboard and anything and everything will be dropped or rescheduled at an instant if baby chooses not to wake. And if you don’t arrange the planets around naps on a particular day? The guilt trip you get (either from yourself or some stranger) will make you seriously reconsider leaving the house again tomorrow.
And nap times are a feverous event! “Nap when baby naps” they say. Ha! Nap times are for house cleaning, computer work, and coffee! You don’t know if you are going to have 20 minutes or 2 hours, so you need to produce at a frantic rate to make sure you make the most of it. Since having a baby, my standards for certain things has certainly reduced slightly and my efficiency has increased greatly. It takes me way less time to do payroll, clean the bathroom, and fold the laundry. Or maybe it just feels that way because I am doing everything with two hands for a change…
You may find yourself laying awake at night thinking about sleep. It’s like when you are on a diet and you can’t stop thinking about the slice of cake that you absolutely cannot eat. When anyone invites you to anything, your first thought it to scroll through your day and quickly sift through sleep schedules. It’s not your fault. You’re tired and your brain is wired to require rest. I honestly don’t know how you mamas with more than one little one make it through a single day. In denial that you are really that obsessed with sleep? Consider your relationship with coffee…
If you have a colicky baby or a night party owl, I don’t need to tell you anything. (In fact, you probably aren’t even reading this blog.) The rest of the world is so out of touch with YOUR reality. If you are cosleeping, I applaud you. It is a special skill to maintain that level of half-conscious wake-feed-sleep-repeat while there is a monkey on your head kicking your spouse in the ribs. The unsung group that I would like highlight is those of chronic brokenness.
This is a very sneaky systematic torture technique. At first, you feel like you are doing pretty good. This isn’t so bad. Baby’s sleep patterns are within relatively normal ranges. You get decent stretches of sleep; only having to wake up one to six times a night. For the most part, you are still a well-functioning, human being. The kids get fed and you’re wearing a shirt. Kudos. Then you start to notice you are feeling more warn down. You snap at the dog or your husband. Your patience is waning. You can’t keep your grocery list in your head anymore. Maybe you are even getting a little weepy or your milk supply is dwindling. What you may not realize is that your brain is dying. OK, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’m not wrong. Your brain needs a specific type of sleep in order to eliminate waste. That brain fog and soggy memory are not an incidental “mommy brain” moment.
Sleep is kind of a big deal. You need sleep to heal tissue, repair DNA, eliminate waste in your brain, and process and store your memories and learning experiences from the day. Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, sickness, irritability, hyperactivity (in children), learning difficulties, and so much more! You simply can’t be your best self and the best mama you can be while your brain is slowly, silently suffocating.
Solutions? Get some sleep. Easy, right? We really weren’t built for the lifestyle and expectation that we currently put ourselves through. In most traditional cultures, a new mom is pampered and her only concern is feeding that baby and resting and replenishing herself. This mama of ancient wisdom is not waking up after a night of broken sleep to go to work, or keeping the house show-ready, or driving around town to get attend 50 different mommy-groups, kids-sports, and music lessons. We do too much. We are asking too much of our bodies and then we get impatient when our physiology can’t keep up with the impossible.
Anyway, this blog wasn’t meant to be a lesson, just a rambling from one sleep-greedy mama to the next. Hopefully it made you take a breather and encourages you to slow down and take care of yourself. Happy Zzzz’s.