Tag Archives: Elaine Aron

Who Needs Sleep?

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


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

Who Are You Calling Sensitive?

Pop quiz, hotshot — are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Psychologist Elaine Aron has found that about one in five people have extra-sensitive nervous systems. She’s also found that around 70% of HSPs are introverts. Take her self-test and find out if you qualify, and read on to see how the Moms scored.


KathyWhen I took the Highly Sensitive Person quiz, I had the kind of “Ohhhh!” moment a lot of people seem to have when they read Quiet. Now I’m realizing it’s not just that I get drained after being with people (because I’m an introvert), but that too much stimulation of any kind (activity, noise, touch, taste, smell) can also do me in.

Now let’s see, what things in my life might have that combination?

Oh right, parenting.

I think it helps explain why the baby phase was so overwhelming for me, with the lack of sleep, hormone insanity, and sharp increase in physical contact all packed into such a short time. I think it solves the mystery of why I rarely wanted music on in the house for the first few years of Doodlebug’s life. I think it reinforces my policy of shopping on my own, without Doodlebug, as much as possible.

It helps me understand my family dynamic better, because when I asked iDad to take the quiz for himself, he only checked a few boxes. Now I get why he doesn’t need to hide in a dark room after a day at the kite festival or a trip to the pool.

And it helps me be a better parent to Doodlebug, because when I did the kids’ version of the quiz for her, she seemed to fall into many of the categories as well. Even before I’d heard the term HSP I’d learned to be highly sensitive to her sensitivity – I watch for signs that she’s getting overwhelmed, I build downtime into her day, and (when possible) I don’t push her to do more than she can.

In her book The Highly Sensitive Person, Aron repeatedly points out that being highly sensitive is a two-sided coin – we notice more, but it affects us more quickly. So fine, I won’t ever be the kind of parent who can take her kid on nonstop wild, crazy adventures and come back for more. But if I can help Doodlebug realize what situations are overwhelming for her and why, and help her think of strategies to handle them, then that sounds pretty important to me.

Plus I have a really good argument for why iDad should handle all future Chuck E. Cheese birthday party duties. HaHA!

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128Princess Slim and Señor Lunchbox are suddenly into the “Toy Story” franchise.  We recently watched “Toy Story 3”  and holy shit, y’all. This is probably the most disturbing kid’s movie I have seen in a long time. It seemed to me an unpleasant and frankly scary mashup of George Orwell’s book 1984 and the more sinister aspects of the 1963 film “The Great Escape.” Not to mention Big Baby reminded me of  Pinhead and that damn clapping monkey is straight out of a Stephen King’s short story published in 1985. Had I realized these images and themes were in the film we never would have watched it. The larger question, however, is why did this movie upset me so much? Particularly the part where the toys are sliding down towards the incinerator towards a potentially fiery doom. Seriously, Pixar. Not cool.

Upon further reflection I observed that for many years I have consciously avoided super-violent books, movies, and television shows. The associated imagery is simply too upsetting and difficult to process. OK, you say. So what?

When Kathy first told me about the “Highly Sensitive Person” quiz I was skeptical. I re-read the portions of Susan Cain’s book Quiet dealing with this area of research. Still, I didn’t completely buy it. Then I took the quiz.

Well, duh.

Suddenly my aversion to violent media made more sense. So does my sensitivity to caffeine, general jumpiness (don’t ever jump out of a closet at me.  EVER.), and a whole host of other personality traits. All combined I’m pretty much the textbook definition of a HSP. I took the children’s quiz also and so far Princess Slim possesses a few of the HSP traits; Señor Lunchbox demonstrates some as well, but honestly, his personality is still cooking and I swear he’s a different creature from one minute to the next.

Parenting and all its sights, smells, and sounds is therefore clearly a body slam to HSPs, particularly during the first few years.  Dr. Aron’s resources, however, have already helped me to recognize and, more importantly, to manage these traits in myself and the kids. Corny as it may sound, the quizzes have enabled me to get to know them a bit better, and even a basic awareness of these characteristics can shorten a tantrum or soothe a hurt. Further, this article reminds and helps HSP parents play to their strengths.

These little tidbits are also yet another reminder to pay attention to yourself. If you are overwhelmed, frazzled, or fried by someone else’s anxiety unfortunately for HSPs all this trickles down to your kids, who can see and sense it just like mini-clairvoyants. Stop, breathe, and find some quiet. Things will settle if you allow yourself time to recover.

And for me, recovery includes deleting “Toy Story 3” off the DVR.

— Tiffany