Thrive Family – Sleep is for the Strong*

Thrive Family – Sleep is for the Strong* September 9, 2014

I was so glad to read J’s post yesterday, because her thoughts about family meal time fit in perfectly with striving for Well Being, the first pillar of Thrive.  With back to school time upon us, Autumn is a great time to think about habits that lead to Well Being and help set us up to Thrive on good days and bad.  Thrive includes lots of advice and evidence about our need for the right amount of sleep each day.  One thing that really helped me was the research that shows that we are more efficient when we are well rested, so staying up too late in order to get things done can be counter-productive.

We slept with the windows open for the first time last night, and I love that it is begin to get darker earlier and bedtime is a bit cozier.  With that said, I also admit that I am already finding it hard to make sure that there is enough time for sleep in our weekday routine.  My older children are up at 6 in order to be at the school bus at 6:45, and I am determined to be up with them and present to help them start the day off right.  Just one week in, I have learned that even a few days of bedtime past 9 for them, and past 10 for me, will lead to someone crying by the end of the day.  So, I am working on sleep.  This means that dinner needs to be planned and on time, that bedtime routines need to keep progressing, that homework needs to be started right after school, that kids need to help with dinner clean up while I put the baby to bed.  There are a lot of steps to sleep, truly, but it is crucial.  It also means NO COMPUTER IN THE EVENING for me.  Lastly, I have to go to bed whether my husband is home from work or not.

Just a few more thoughts about sleep — I’ve noticed that people who are growing (toddlers and young teens) are very vulnerable to mood issues when they don’t get enough sleep, and in both cases they seem to need more sleep than seems humanly possible.  The big difference between teens and toddlers, though, is that you have at least some chance of reasoning with your teens.  I am so glad that my school children have transitioned from searching out an unreasonable reason for a late night breakdown (my gym teacher hates me!) to just admitting that they are exhausted and need to go to bed.  Obviously, the best case scenario is to get to bed before the breakdown comes on, but it seems to be just a matter of minutes.

Speaking of people who are growing, I’ve also noticed that getting a lot of sleep is the best thing that I can do to help with morning sickness when I am pregnant.  First trimester requires an incredible amount of sleep.

Lastly, let’s dive into postpartum sleep a bit.  It is awful.  There is just no way around it.  Your baby needs to eat every 2.5 hours and you need to feed him, so sleep deprived is just going to be your middle name for a while.  However, there is a line between sleep deprived and psychotic which must not be crossed, and so the nursing mama, and everyone who loves her, must try to make sure that she is getting some sleep, somewhere, somehow, and watch for signs of depression.

I know that my sleep has a serious impact on my mood, on my ability to parent patiently with grace and to energetically meet the needs of my young family.  However, years of being pregnant and nursing through the night left me with fairly serious insomnia, at least some of which seems to be tied to hormones as well.  If I have one bad night of sleep, I can usually push through the next day, but on the second night I will take a half dose of an OTC sleep aid to make sure that I get sleep, while warning my husband that he is ‘on call’ for any night waking while I am knocked out.  This practice has helped me to make sure that one night of bad sleep, followed by one day of too much coffee does not spiral into weeks or even months of messed up sleep and bad moods.  Insomnia causes depression and depression causes insomnia, so it takes a lot of self awareness to stay on top of sleep issues.

With this in mind, I am off to bed, with the beautiful crickets chirping and the cool breeze floating through my windows.

*”Sleep is for the Weak” is the motto of a favorite Princeton coffee shop.  This may have been true in college, but these days I find that more than a day or two of little sleep and double lattes is a one way ticket to burn-out land!

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  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    This is a good reminder and i am still contemplating our Thrive post as well.

    My issue is that I have been unable to sleep this pregnancy (hormones, a pinched nerve…) I have tried everything imaginable, but have not slept more than 3 consecutive hours in the last 6 months and have 3 more to go, plus postpartum time and a move. Not sleeping for a year is no bueno. Can you “thrive” when you cannot sleep? For the first time I even tried pregnancy sleep aids (after trying every granola thing imaginable), but I still woke up and felt worse and groggy. Napping doesn’t work either b/c it takes me so long to fall asleep. Any ideas?

  • Mary Alice

    Here is a similar post that I wrote during pregnancy insomnia:

    I think that there is one really important thing – – you may not really be able to thrive, you may just have to survive, but you KNOW that you are TIRED. Therefore, do not make stupid decisions while you are in this state, like thinking that you need to move, get a job, quit a job, have your mother in law move in with you, never speak to your mother in law again, etc. I think that some of the very worst times in my marriage and parenting were fights that we had when I was not sleeping and in survival mode.

    Second, we may get in to some of the other thrive issues that may help you to at least take the edge off, even you are over tired all the time — a daily walk, hydration, and 10 minutes practicing deep breathing every day. Those may not help you sleep, but they may lower your stress level somewhat.

    Lastly, I would tell EVERYONE and seriously lower expectations. Your husband should be walking on eggshells and doing as much as he can for you on the weekends, etc. At one stage, I had hired help on Mondays and I just spent most of the day alone in my room, alternating between bath, shower and naps. It sounds weird, but that was what I had to do to catch up on a little bit of sleep.

    Hang in there!

  • I never figured out a way to get sleep during my last 2 pregnancies. Something gave out after carrying 4 babies to term, and #5, and #6 were just filled with nerve issues and pain and serious sleep deprivation — which made me really insane actually. I welcomed the postpartum time for the sleep it brought! Crazy, but true. We “managed” by just accepting we were in complete survival mode, hiring 20 plus hours a week of household help at one point, having Mr. Red take over most household tasks after work, and asking for family to assist us. I quit every volunteer job I had and so did Mr. Red. It was really rough, but necessary for survival mode. I think step 1 is just accepting that you cannot thrive in this state, and that survival means truly that — just survive. You are a real go getter in terms of what you expect to accomplish on your own in a given day, and I think you just need to seriously readjust expectations in that regard. So don’t worry about normal schedules, keeping all your kids up to task on their schoolwork, getting kids to every activity, or even doing the dishes or cooking food. Just do the very basics — feed, clothe, shelter, rest. And make sure you are on the same page about that with your spouse. And really, a year isn’t “that” long to cut back on everything possible. It certainly isn’t ideal to have to take such extreme steps, but your kids are young enough that they really won’t be any worse for the wear. Prayers!

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    Thanks for linking that. I hadn’t remembered that post. I love your advice about avoiding any major decisions, too!

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    Thanks, Red. I think what is making is worse is the stress of getting our house ready for market and knowing that it will have to be super clean every time we leave. I am outsourcing the painting, window/carpet cleaning, power washing, etc., this week. They plan to spend most days homeschooling at my in-laws so I don’t have to constantly be picking up everything. I just turned over some local board commitments, too, so hopefully we can make it though the next 4 months!!