Isn’t this the favorite topic of all moms? Or least favorite. Or perhaps the word “favorite” shouldn’t be in there anywhere, but it is the topic many moms are most obsessed with. And it is certainly the theme of everyone’s favorite question to ask new parents: “Is s/he sleeping through the night yet.”
I think nearly every mommy blogger in the world has written on this topic, and I don’t have anything spectacularly new to add. I think our (read: our son’s) sleep story is a pretty common one. It is (as with most things in my life) somewhere in the middle of most: could be better; could be worse. Levi didn’t “sleep through the night” (I’m not sure how people are defining this when they ask. I’m assuming they mean does he sleep in a manner that doesn’t require the parent to get up and out of bed to nurse or sooth. In the strictest sense of “sleep through the night,” though, he is like all humans: most nights he sleeps straight through; some nights — like us — he wakes briefly, perhaps fusses a little, rolls around, grabs his bunny and puts himself back to sleep; on the rare night, generally when he’s not feeling well, he wakes to the point of wailing and needs to be comforted back to sleep) until he was close to 18 months old. He still won’t nap or fall asleep at night without a warm body to fall asleep on. He went through many stages before getting to his current “sleep through the night” phase (and yes, I use the word “phase” purposefully). For example, even once he started staying asleep for most of the night, he was still getting up at 4am to nurse. Eventually that changed to 5am. About a month before we stopped nursing he was getting up as late as 6am at times, and now it’s rare that he gets up before 6.
So that’s the lowdown on Levi’s sleep. As for my sleep, I am on a new (that is, three nights old) get more sleep kick inspired by Arianna Huffington’s, Sleep Revolution. I haven’t actually read the book, but I listened to her interview on the Beautiful Writers Podcast. Nearly two decades ago, I read an interview with (then) President Bill Clinton where he said he slept for five hours each night. That was the amount he said he needed. Ever since then, I have told myself, well, if Bill Clinton can/could run the country on five hours of sleep a night, I should be able to get by on that amount for my simple life. Huffington helped me see the serious errors in this way of thinking. So, since, I cannot give up my early mornings, the only end on which to get more sleep is bed time.
Three nights ago, I informed Dawn that we were on a new sleep schedule whereby my book had to be put down and her TV needed to be turned off at 10pm sharp (I typically put my book down anywhere from 10:30-11pm. I wanted to start getting a full seven hours of sleep, which would require being asleep by 10:15 for my 5:15 alarm). This means being physically in bed by 9pm in order to have enough time to write in my gratitude journal and read. For two nights we stuck mightily to the lights out at 10 rule. I even gave up on baking an apple cake for my faculty reading group in order to get to bed on time (this might not seem like a big deal, but it was HUGE for me. To give up on something that I had planned into my day, something that makes me feel like I am successfully “doing it all” — and conversely something that makes me feel like a failure for not being able to pull it off — is a really big deal. Silly as it sounds, it made me so grouchy and bothered me tremendously into the next day). So for two nights in a row, promptly at 10pm, I put my book down and Dawn turned off the TV. I laid there. I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I rolled this way and that. And then, I started talking. The first night we fought about where the olive oil goes in the kitchen. The night after that I started turning over the logistics of getting the dog to the vet. Both nights were a total sleep revolution fail. I simply could not fall asleep at 10pm.
Last night was worse (maybe?). I was physically in bed by 9, after frantically deleting my Facebook account on account of extreme workplace toxicity. I laid there with a tight chest and body pains trying to will my body to calm down. I couldn’t. It wouldn’t. Finally, at around 10pm, I picked up my book. Though I had difficulty concentrating, I felt sleepy by 10:30, put the book down and drifted peacefully to sleep. Dawn probably got more sleep too because I wasn’t gabbing her ear off.
Where to go from here…? Perhaps I should read Huffington’s book for some ideas, but I feel like I don’t really need an entire book just to tell me to go to sleep earlier, turn off screens, develop an evening routine, etc. I know all of this. I also know that starting a wind-down process earlier than 9pm is a little unrealistic in this house. Perhaps I am just supposed to sleep from 11-5:15 — maybe that is just the right amount for me. Maybe I should set the alarm for 15 minutes later on the morning end. Maybe I should just consider myself lucky that I get more sleep than I did for the first 18 months of Levi’s life or lucky that I get more sleep than a lot of moms that I know. Still, I do worry about the long-term health effects (and short-term ones too — after all, a couple of days ago, I was looking in the refrigerator at work for the worksheets that I had printed!) caused by lack of sleep. So maybe I’ll keep putting in the effort to have my head hit the pillow a bit earlier, but I’m not putting it there while I’m still wide awake. That benefits no one.