The way I have been craving sleep lately you’d think I had a 6-month-old in the house or were insomniac. But it is neither. I can’t say for sure, but it might well be that every single journal entry for the last, um, four years has started with “I am so tired.” (Paper journal, not online thingy, blog.) Maybe this has replaced my obsession with food and feeling fat, who knows. Maybe, and this really is the first time I’m thinking this, this problem I have with sleep stems from the same source as my former eating disorder.
So. Sleep. Just to think of it. Becoming oblivious to the world, resting, dreaming, nesting under warm duvet covers. Bliss. So why do I never sleep enough? I could blame my son; that would be easy. And for years he has been the source of my lack of sleep. But since he turned two years old he has slept beautifully, only disturbed when sick. And, for some reason unknown to us, he keeps on waking up an hour earlier than usual on Saturdays. But since I have heard of children waking up at 5.30 or something, I won’t say anything against him.
I really have no problem with the sleep itself. When I have the feeling of having tossed and turned for ages before getting to sleep, my husband (the official tosser and turner in our family) informs me that it took me all of five minutes to start snoring. (And yes, I really often snore, I am allergic to mold and thus have a year-round snotty nose.) No, when I go to bed, everything is fine. I’m that kind of sleeper who after a nighttime thunderstorm gets up in the morning all rested and when asked, “Wasn’t that a terrible thunderstorm?” says, “What thunderstorm?” I come from a long line of sound sleepers, my parents are famous for their never-disturbed sleep. I lay my head on my pillow and that’s it until morning. When I have a particular restless night, I might wake up and look at the clock, or maybe go to the bathroom. Then I go back and sleep again. This is a very useful talent to have. Especially when faced with a sick child. Wake up, tend to child, go back to bed, fall asleep. Rinse and repeat. (Hey, I should have posted that as my hidden talent in the meme I answered two days ago. Ability to sleep under all circumstances.) I used to be able to sleep in rooms full of people, light and noise, but that’s where I feel my age, that’s no longer possible.
The time when sleep was most precious was, of course, when my son was a tiny baby. When he was born I thought to myself how amazingly easy it was to cope with the lack of sleep. I need a lot of sleep and was very much afraid that I’d be constantly overtired when having him. Well, the real sleep deprivation kicked in a little later. When I was working three days a week, still nursing him around the clock, and then, when he was eight months old, the teething started and he woke me every hour to use me as a human pacifier. Fun was had. At that point I was so tired that I dozed off when my husband told me something and paused for about one second.
But this is long past, we treated this with daddy on night duty for two weeks, teabottle at the ready; mama sleeping in the spare bedroom (soundproofed annex! hurray!) being off duty until 5 am. So after that I could have slept enough. Alas, I didn’t. What I do is this:
I go through my day tired, uttering frequently, “I’m so tired, I’m so tired! But today I will take a nap for sure.” Until it is time for the nap, then I’ll find something really important, like reading blogs, do that until my free time is over, then go through the rest of the day with glazed eyes announcing, “But today I will go to bed on time for sure!” every thirty minutes or so. After bringing my son to bed very slowly, because I’m so tired, I go off to my room, play a little piano or guitar, watch an episode of “Buffy” or two, talk to my husband, say, “Of course I will be going to bed on time today.” sincerely, then switch channels, watch some silly documentary about playboy bunnies or some such, get off the couch at 11, go to bed half an hour later, sleep until my alarm goes off at 6.45. Repeat.
You might say, what is she whining about, if I understand her correctly she gets a whole 7 1/2 hours of sleep. And nowadays everyone and her grandmother seem to think that six hours is enough and seven is plenty. I, on the other hand, do need at least 8 1/2 of sleep, better 9 to feel good and have a functioning brain. And from what I’m hearing and reading I’m not alone. A friend of mine recently told me, “I don’t know, why I am so tired, I am sleeping a full six hours every night.” Duh! I have a book (a good book) “Outsmarting Female Fatigue: Eight Energizing Strategies for Lifelong Vitality” (Debra Waterhouse) which say that most women need an average 8 1/2 hours of sleep. And that everything between 4 and 11 hours is considered normal. That doesn’t mean that it’s normal to sleep only 4 hours, it means that it might be normal for you. But if you’re tired, cranky, constantly hungry, forgetting things, and doze off in front of your TV every night, maybe you need to get more sleep. And maybe you’re somebody who needs 11 hours a night. Ever thought of that? Very inconvenient, but there is no fighting it. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re tired.
That’s what I’ve been trying to teach my son. When you’re tired, you can eat all you want, it doesn’t help. Only sleeping does. Since having him, I know why people overeat when they’re tired by the way. Tired babies nurse to sleep. So eating provides everything good at once: company, cuddle contact, food, and help to get to sleep. When he was about a year old, he sometimes would literally eat himself to sleep. Fall asleep chewing. Stuffing tremendous amounts of food in his little mouth. That’s when I learned why I am constantly eating when I’m tired. And I like to eat more sugar in times like that, because with the sugar high I get a little boost too.
I’m a little older than a year, so I should know better. I do know better, I only don’t do better. So I’ve been giving myself stickers for going to bed before 11. For three years. Three years! I feel a little pathetic. Um, not just a little. I’ve invented a couple of little tricks. I clean my face and put on moisturizer when I have put my son to bed. I put on my pajama before sitting down to watch my show. I programmed my PDA to beep on bedtime. I have asked my husband to please remind me that it’s time. And for every evening that I have found my way triumphantly to bed before eleven there are two when I just stayed a little longer and went half an hour later. Or two hours later.
I fear I have to get my priorities right. Sleep. Is. Very. Important.
Or like I tell my son constantly: When you’re tired playing is no fun.
Go, have a nap on me.
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