Every time I see my family doctor she asks if I’ve been getting enough sleep and I always dodge the question. She tells me, “You must practice good sleep hygiene! Are you practising good sleep hygiene? How many hours of sleep did you get last night?” There is always an excuse for why my answer is not enough, the preschooler wet her bed, the baby woke up, my husband’s on afternoons…. But in my heart I know I have a serious sleep problem.
Ok, so let’s define sleep deprivation. On average I get four to five hours sleep a night. Some nights less. Then there’s the nights when one of my kids wakes up an hour or two early, or wakes me in the middle of the night. Often knocking my total sleep time down to somewhere between one and three hours. Maybe about once every seven to ten days I reach break point and I crash and I might get six to eight hours in a row. I have been doing this for almost five years straight.
Yes, that’s right I haven’t had regular decent sleep in almost five years. When you’re a mother with a new born sleep deprivation becomes the norm. It’s easy to get into an unhealthy rut where you feel like lack of sleep is just part of your new life as a mom. I had trouble sleeping during the later part of my pregnancy, and then I had a baby, and then I had a toddler, and then I was pregnant again, and then there was another baby, and all the spots in between where I would stretch myself thin to try and stay up with my late night loving, shift-working, husband. Then when the second babe was six months old I started blogging. Just adding one more reason to stay up late.
So, yes, I’ve gotten into a rut. I’ve made it past the time when my baby needs me to be up at strange hours for her. Now instead I stay up until all hours blogging, or doing the laundry Because it’s quiet, and there are no interruptions, and it’s the only time I can have to myself. And there is always just one more thing that needs to be done. And the less sleep I get the less focused I am, the more I waste my time. Nominally “working”, but jumping from one thing to the next, unfocused, and not utilizing my time wisely. Sometimes so tired I just can’t think. Sometimes so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of doing something. I am sleep walking through my days in a cranky zombified state, which is unfair to my kids.
Many days I am half-asleep and so tired that I would do anything for a nap but then once the kids are asleep and I can finally head to bed… well by that point I’m past it. I’m good to go. More often I don’t really feel “tired” per say. It’s more of a sort of run down feeling. I’m able to semi-function all day long, and while I often joke about my love of coffee the truth is I’m not really a “regular” coffee drinker. I only drink a cup or three maybe every second or third day, so that’s not what’s keeping me going.
I’ve spent the last half a year trying to come up with a diagnosis for what’s wrong with my bod, but not really considering the fact that it might simply be lack of sleep. And in the meantime, while it certainly wasn’t a topic I was searching for, I just kept happening to run into these articles on the long term effects of sleep deprivation. The term “sleep debt” keep cropping up everywhere. I read a few of these articles and I started to wonder….
Particularly when I read this:
Lack of sleep can produce striking changes in glucose tolerance and
endocrine function––changes that resemble the effects of advanced age or
the early stages of diabetes––after less than one week. (1)
This could explain so much! I’ve been having issues that seemed to be blood sugar related, yet I passed my glucose screening test, so I’m not diabetic. Many of my symptoms seem to mimic thyroid problems, yet the blood screening ruled out hypothyroidism.
[There’s] statistical associations between chronically reduced sleep
duration and increased risk of hypertension (particularly in women); diabetes; and weight gain (2)
I’ve been on a low sugar, low cholesterol diet since November, yet I haven’t lost any weight. On the contrary, I’ve continued to gain weight. Could this all be because of my ongoing lack of sleep?
show that such short-term sleep deprivation leads to a foggy brain,
worsened vision, impaired driving, and trouble remembering. Long-term
effects include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease. (3)
I muddle by on surprisingly few hours of sleep. It’s on the days when I’ve had a “normal” night’s sleep of 8 or so hours, that’s when I feel the most tired and zombie like.
As the number of nights of sleep restriction increases, an individual’s
perception or subjective assessment of his or her sleepiness starts to
level off after a few days. Thus, individuals may develop some tolerance
to feelings of sleepiness over a few days, and this may make it more
likely that sleep restricted people will be unaware of their continuing
deterioration in alertness and performance (2)
Or to put it more succinctly “the more tired we get, the less tired we feel.”(3)
Of course the suggestions for fixing your sleeping patterns aren’t really practical for a mom with young kids. Such as “Go to bed when you are tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clock allowed).(3)” Ha.. Oh that’s funny. I don’t have an alarm clock, I have a two year old.
I have been attempting to get more sleep. It’s a hard balance between staying up late to “get things done” and getting up ridiculously early because I have little ones.
The good news is, I am definitely finding that I feel better when I do get sleep.
“When you put away sleep debt, you become superhuman,” says Stanford’s
Dement, talking about the improved mental and physical capabilities that
come with being well rested.(4)
So, how much sleep do you get? Leaning towards the deprivation side of things? Particularly you fellow moms out there, I’d love to know — how do you balance kids, chores, and sleep?
Here’s a few of the articles I referenced. Well worth a read:
1. The University of Chicago Chronicle – Lack of sleep alters hormones, metabolism
2. National Sleep Foundation – How Much Sleep Do Adults Need?
3. Scientific America – Fact or Fiction: Can You Catch Up on Sleep?
4. Life Evolver – How to Pay Back Your Sleep Debt, the Smart Way
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