For most of my life, sleep could be sacrificed for any and every reason. Sleep was the optional item on my to-do list.
In high school, I finished homework and then stayed on AOL/instant messenger until late, but still managed to soldier on to school the next morning and through extra-curriculars into the afternoon and evening.
At Princeton, the candle burned at both ends of the night, with all-night editing shifts at the student newspaper, cramming for exams and meeting last minute paper-writing deadlines, debating Big Questions with dear friends (and a future husband), then waking up early to run, to antagonize aggressive liberals on campus, and generally to make the most of a fabulous college experience.
Then, when I played supermom for a few years, I could stay up until 1am doing my part-time work and keeping house, and still be up and at ’em by 6am to get myself ready for another record-breakingly awesome day of executing all the right methods for parenting a 1, 2, and 3 year old.
And then I turned 30.
I can now say at age 32 that sleep has had, once and for all, the last laugh.
These days, after one night of inadequate sleep, I’m weepy and short-tempered. After a couple nights of bad sleep, it’s the desperation of the “arsenic hour” (it’s either them or me) all day. Everything feels like a failure. I think that some pretty severe post-partum depression over the last couple of years was exacerbated, if not triggered in the first place, by sleep deprivation.
So, in service of King Sleep, I aim to be in bed for 8 hours every night. I take 1/4 dose of a Tylenol PM or Benadryl a half hour before bedtime. Insomnia has always been a struggle for me, and a very mild sleep aid solves it. It also allows me to return to sleep more easily after waking to nurse or deal with other nighttime kid issues. I’ll worry about achieving sleep without meds when the lives of five small people no longer depend on me staying sane.
Also, we have daytime help most days, so that I can exercise and do my work, at the very least. That allows me to accomplish two mandatory activities without cutting into sleep.
So, supermom has fallen. Into bed. But seriously, acknowledging my limitations and seeking a healthier balance in the life of our family is paying dividends for all of us. And I happen to think that 32-year-old me is a much cooler mom than that high-strung, juiced-up lady from 6 years ago.