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.
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!