Thursday, November 26, 2009

Past Deadline: It Only Bothers Me When I'm Awake

Have I talked about sleep deprivation lately? I honestly can’t remember because I’m too darned tired!

Sleep is really quite an amazing thing. It can take over your life if you get too much of it, and likewise if you don’t get enough. I don’t have a problem sleeping per se; it’s just that the short people in the house won’t let me stay asleep. What is UP with this?

I can’t help but think back to when I was pregnant. Before a baby is born and you’re lugging it around on the inside, it’s common to have trouble sleeping. It’s just darned hard to get comfortable and sleep well when a small human is resting – or jumping, as the case may be – on your innards. Then when the baby comes out, there’s that whole complication of feeding and diapering. At first these small creatures tend to demand these services every couple of hours, even through the night. As such, a lot of sleep goes missing. The sage advice “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” is an oft-repeated (albeit frequently ignored) mantra. Fortunately, though, your body has already been prepared for the insanity of night waking due to the discomfort of the end of pregnancy, so you roll with it. Sort of.

Okay, it’s exhausting, but you get kinda used to it.

Still, I remember the times when my babies would extend their sleep from, say, a two-hour stretch to a four-hour stretch or, miracle of miracles, the WHOLE night. The odd thing was I would always feel more tired when I’d had more sleep. I figure my body just wasn’t used to those extra sleep cycles such as, you know, REM, and so went deeper and deeper, making it harder to wake up. That is entirely unscientific. It’s just a guess based on personal observation.

We had some sort of honeymoon period for a while after babyhood when both kids pretty much always slept through the night. Sure there were occasional bad dreams or requests for water or other minor dilemmas, but it tended to be uncommon. Those were short-lived, heady days.

It has been a painfully long time since I have had consistently good sleep. I think my children might be secret agents for some nasty group out there because as soon as I’m allowed to fall asleep, someone wakes me up.

There’s neither rhyme nor reason to it. Some nights everyone does sleep through. Sometimes we get a few nights in a row of good sleeps. Then there will be a smattering of nights where Boychild will need comfort from a dream and then Girlchild is in an hour later asking for the same thing. We try not to indulge them. We escort them back to bed, snuggle for a minute or two, tuck them in, pat their wee heads and stumble back to bed. Some nights they’re each up a couple of times for their various reasons. Those nights are the best. (Insert sound of weeping.)

All this seesawing back and forth between good sleeps and bad sleeps means there really is no time for the body to adjust. So I’m weary. I crave naps. Flat surfaces – including dirty floors and concrete frost-covered benches – begin to look inviting.

When Girlchild started school this fall I was optimistic she would become a better sleeper. Indeed, her teacher is doing a grand job of wearing her out during the day and it has helped. That’s all fine and good until she catches a bug – and then we’re all up in the night. And there is some cleaning, too. Nice, restful cleaning. With a smattering of middle-of-the-night laundry. It’s a mother’s dream, truly.


I shouldn’t complain. It could be so much worse and this won’t last forever – although some other moms out there are scaring me with their “my 12-year-old still wakes up in the night” stories.

It’s a tricky thing, though. If you’re not allowed to have lima beans on a regular basis, you can probably move on with your day without thinking much about it. Not being allowed to sleep? It only bothers me when I’m awake, I suppose.

(Published in The Perth Courier on Nov. 24/09)


mamabear said...

Every time you write about sleep issues, I feel your pain.

Monnik said...

You're right. This will pass. You'll get through it and then you won't be able to sleep because your kids will be out on a date and you will want to stay up to make sure they get home ok. :)