Who Needs Sleep?

The Moms do, because this week we are too tired to come up with a witty intro.

Kathy

I recently read Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think because, well, who doesn’t want more time? I liked her suggestion of figuring out what your “core competencies” are – the things that are most important to you or that only you can do – and eliminating or outsourcing the rest. It helps with all the saying no that we talked about last week. Making my own cheese? Not a priority for me. Handcrafting all my holiday cards? Not a priority for me. Having all the laundry done? Not, apparently, a priority for me.

You know what else is not at the top of my list? Sleep. Anyone who knew me before kids will tell you that’s crazy because, you guys, I was such a good sleeper. I’m a night owl, so I’d stay up until 1 or 2 AM and then sleep till late morning. Okay, or noon. But there are several reasons I’ve had to give up my champion sleeper crown.

  1. The sweet, little-girl-shaped alarm clock we acquired seven years ago

  2. Insomnia (grrr)

  3. Downtime

One of these things is entirely under my control. I could be asleep every night at 10:00. I know this, and every so often I will vow to be better. I will avoid the Internet rabbit hole and not even turn my laptop on at night. I will not read one more chapter. I won’t start that second episode of Friday Night Lights because by the time it’s over it will be too late and I’ll be exhausted and okay, but this is the last one, I promise! It never lasts. 11:30 is my set point.

Doodlebug goes to bed at 8:30, and by then I’ve survived school pick-up (often with playground mom-chatting), the trip home (often chasing after her on her scooter), homework, making dinner, cleaning up, bathtime, reading time (ahh), and the bedtime routine. Yes, I work at home, and yes, I spend a lot of time by myself during the day, but that evening stretch is brutal. At that point I definitely deserve a prize, and that prize is time to myself.

I find it very, very hard to cut this time short. I’ve thought about it a lot – is time awake really more restorative for me than sleep? Physically, it’s obviously not, and I’m not a happy person (or a very pleasant person) when I’m sleep-deprived. But I am a happy person when I get three hours to myself to do whatever I want.

Is there a better way? Probably. I’ve had success with an “Offline after 11” policy, which means I don’t stay up till the wee hours reading blogs anymore. I could bump that forward, at least on some nights. Or I could alternate early and late nights, but whenever I try to set a strict schedule like that I get derailed. So my main strategy is just hanging on till Doodlebug starts sleeping in until ten.

Or nine. I’d take nine at this point. Eight? Zzzzzzz.

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128I stood in the pediatrician’s parking lot, leaning into Dreamy and sobbing my head off. Not petite ladylike sobs, mind you, but guttural, heaving, movie-worthy sobs. It was February 2011 and seven-month old Señor Lunchbox had just been diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). He’d been coughing incessantly for three or four days and his doctor blithely delivered the news with a “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.  It usually only lasts a week or so.”

Thus began one of the darkest, most terrifying parts of my life. What the pediatrician failed to grasp was that no one had slept – neither Dreamy, nor Lunchbox, nor I – for those three or four days. Lunchbox was so sick he was only able to sleep for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time before another fit of vicious hacking woke him and, by default, us, because when your child sounds like he’s strangling that kind of happens.

I was obviously deeply worried about Lunchbox, but at that moment, the idea of enduring for another seven or even more days without at least a few consecutive hours of rest pushed me over the edge. “I am so tired” was all I could manage to squeak out between sobs.

This tired was different than my usual tired. I have always been a crappy sleeper (apparently this is another trait of Highly Sensitive People) and although I love to sleep, I rarely feel rested even after nine or even ten hours in bed. I had survived two newborns and Lunchbox had acid reflux-related sleep issues from birth, thus feeling worn out and being sleep deprived weren’t exactly new experiences. This Super Sick Kid tired, however, was cruel and deep and unrelenting and further compounded by loops of endless mental what-if-ing.

The virus lasted for about ten days. My ability to function during this time was so impaired that I did a number of incredibly stupid things, such as drive a car and call my Very Important Boss insisting that a colleague had intentionally sabotaged a project. (Note to bosses everywhere: please don’t ever reprimand an employee for doing something like this when you know a sick child is involved. And when you’ve been kept in the loop about the situation the entire time.) I narrowly avoided crashing the car but succeeded at shooting myself in the foot at work.

Some introverts, including my personal hero Susan Cain, tentatively assert that we can get by on less sleep. Jonathan Rauch thinks that “For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”  Neither of these seem quite right. Lunchbox’s illness taught me that I am ok with getting by on less, but at some point large blocks of sleep will be required to chip away at whatever sleep deficit has been created.

And while I have no data to support this claim, I am going to go ahead and say that introverts across the board require more sleep than extroverts. Sleep is the ultimate recharge; so if introverts require more recharging than extroverts, introverts without sleep are probably going to fry faster than an egg on a Foreman Grill.

— Tiffany

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.