Jul 142007

I have had an eating disorder for about 25 years of my life. I used to be a compulsive overeater. While I’m still compulsive now and then, and I’m still overeating from time to time, those days are gone. Poof. Well, not exactly poof, it took some years and some work, and then some more work, and then I had to bring out my inner parent and now I’m all better. (And if you’re interested in any of that you can look at changing habits.)

But I’ve found something new! Sleep deprivation. Makes you feel even worse than having eaten 1 1/2 bags of potato chips, a bag of gummy bears and lots of chocolate in one sitting. Just train yourself to go to bed at 11.30 when you have to get up at 6.45, when you need about 8 1/2 hours of sleep and voilà, there’s your new obsession.

First you don’t get out of bed on time because you haven’t slept enough yet. Then you stumble through your day, bleary-eyed and barely conscious. You promise yourself a midday nap only to find something really important to do, like for example reading blogs, and that’s it for the nap. You promise yourself to be good from now on, to go to bed on time. “Ah, tonight”, you think, “tonight I’ll snuggle in my cosy bed just when I’m getting tired and then close my eyes. Bliss!”. For the whole day you think of bed. In a wholly platonic way. Sleep. Sleep! SLEEP! Interestingly when evening comes around, you get awake again. There’s just this one thing more to do before going to bed. After all it isn’t that late. And it’s not good to go to bed too early of course. So you still have, let’s say, 30 minutes. So you can start to watch an episode of “Angel”. And of course you will be really good today and stop watching it right in the middle. Don’t you? Only this time it’s that interesting, never mind that you already know it. And if you stay up just a little longer you’ll be past some critical point in your knitting. Or you talk to your husband and just forget the time… Never mind the reason, the result is always the same: You go to bed at 11.30. Rinse and repeat.

After a while you are too tired to exercise. You are too tired to play with your son. You are impatient and cranky. You are too tired to make music. In fact, you are too tired for doing anything much, and everything you do takes twice the time it should take because you’re so slow. You get so tired that you shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car anymore.

So why do you continue going to bed too late? Even though you know that you never can sleep in? And you know that sleeping in isn’t good for you either. better to have a consistent routine, like, going to bed at 10.30 and getting up at 6.45. (We’re not talking about you pre-motherly goal of having nine hours of deep, relaxing, and uninterrupted sleep every night here. Just eight hours for a start.)

In a way, it’s perfect. You get to complain, which is always good, so that people don’t get jealous at you. You life has focus and you never have to shift it because nothing changes. When you’re tired it only shows how hard you work and what amazing things you do. Of course you can’t be expected to do anything for anybody before being rested. You don’t have to be creative because you’re much too tired for that. Better to dream about your projects than have them fall short in any way. You get to eat more because you’re always hungry. And since you’re so low on energy you just deserve a little chocolate to make you feel better. And then, of course, a beer in the evening to help you sleep better. Never mind that alcohol doesn’t help with sleep. At least it feels relaxing.

This of course is wholly fictional and doesn’t bear any resemblance to real, ahem, almost forty-ish singers any of us knows.

  14 Responses to “Sleep deprivation is the new binge eating”

  1. It looks to me like you have a good understanding of this! 🙂 Wouldn’t it be perfect to be able to simply follow our body’s demand, whatever it might be?

    (And, btw, I’m glad to read that you don’t shake hands, either. There’s something about that custom that feels really bizarre to me. 🙂



  2. I hate it when i get in that pattern. I can tell because my first thought in the morning is “how long until i can go back to bed.”

  3. it’s a vicious cycle. have you asked that lovely guitar man you live with to compose you sleep songs?

  4. sleep deprivation is so much a part of who I am that I don’t even think about it. When I realized that in my 3 years of residency (we won’t mention med school) I was on call and awake and stressed ALL NIGHT for every third night for 3 years–that means I missed an ENTIRE YEAR of sleep in 3 years–I just gave up on ever feeling rested.

  5. Oh, it is a terrible cycle. I see myself in your post. The 4pm shakes…needs espresso….6pm dinner with whiny kids….needs alcohol….ack. up. down. up. down…

  6. Tony gets less sleep than I do, (although he needs less sleep) and he’s giving me a hard time:

    Tony: WHY are you so tired. Is there something WRONG with you?

    Me: Ye gods, man, I need sleep, and my days with these kids (breaking up the fighting and fending off the whining) are draining what’s left of my energy, and worst of all, I’m on a diiiieeetttt.

    Damn, it’s after 11 pm. Must stop complaining and get to bed.

  7. I love staying up late and getting up early.. it is the middle of the day that I could do without..

    My children are both night owls so it looks like this is some kind of genetic coding…

    I think spending time with your husband is always worth missing a few hours of sleep.

  8. I think they should say in all parenting books – sleep deprivation is not just when the babies are little, it becomes a way of life. Once a deep sleeper, I now wake if a leaf is falling a little too loudly outside. I go to bed too early (jsut finishing off this bag etc etc etc) and get waken up far too early. Hence a diet of Pinot Grigio and chocolate and dreams of Banoffe Pie. Thus a waistline which bears no resemblence to the waistline i should have.

  9. should have said bed too late in last comment (see lack of sleep has made brain all mushy)

  10. Yup. I see myself doing very similar things. And who do I really have to blame? me.

  11. Why did I only get to sleep at 12 last night and woken up by F’s alarm at 5:30?

    Even though I need to be fast asleep by 10 and gently woken up at 6:30 maybe 7.

    Mumble, grumble. Because a certain loved one needs only 3 hours sleep.


  12. And here I am sitting 9 hours later.Am I cooking supper so that I can try get to bed early tonight??

    Noooo. I am rereading the blogs I already read this morning.

    Hmmm. Maybe its got to do with our parents sending us to bed before we felt it was time?

  13. I am all to familiar with compulsive behaviour.

    sleep dep is absolute torture, as is the knowledge that you just ate a million calories.

  14. Chani, that might be nice, only my son’s preschool starts at an ungodly early hour…

    Meno, that’s exactly what I mean.

    Jen, like my son I tend to get all excited about the music and then can’t sleep. Besides that lovely man needs his sleep too.

    Ellie, you really should try again. At frist it feels awkward but then it’s really good.

    Liv, yeah. And I tend to get whiny at dinner too.

    De, there really are people with different sleep needs. Really. It’s scientifically proven. I get the puzzled look all the time because people think that six hours must be enough. But not for me.

    Sofia, and then there’s that. That was what started this cycle this time. I wanted to spend more time with my husband.

    Joanna, now I look back on the sleep deprivation during the first year with a certain longing. At lest I had a reason.

    Maypole, I’d really like to have somebody else to blame. On the other hand I’d rather be able to change something on my own. So then that’s good. I suppose.

    Hel, that’s one of the hardest things, going to bed while my loved one is still in the midst of activities. But then if I don’t do it I end up feeling like I’m not especially active for the whole day.

    Crazymumma, the weird thing is that it is ourselves who torture us. And somehow have the feeling that we deserve nothing better. But slowly I’m learning to be nice to myself.

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