Mom Musings: Sleep Matters

I’m now five months into my new life as a part-time teacher with two kids at home.  Going back to teaching this September was a transition for all of us after our year of familybut I’m so lucky to be able to work part-time .  Yet even with this sweet work arrangement, I’m still struggling to find time to do everything that needs to get done (like cook, bathe the children, grade papers, plan lessons, wash my hair, etc.) as well as all the things I want to do (blog, workout, occasionally have an adult conversation with the G-man).  So, where does one find the time in this annoying finite 24 hours in a day?  Well, we do seem to waste a lot of those hours on sleep . . .

As my to-do list grows  I find myself cutting into sleep time to try and catch up.  On Tuesday night I start responding to student work after my kids go to bed, and maybe go and look at Facebook, and next thing I know it is an hour past bedtime.  On a Wednesday I get up an hour early so that I can get a quick workout in and maybe do some planning for next week.  Friday rolls around and I stay up late watching Leverage with the G-man.  But the kids are still awake and ready to go at 6:30 on Saturday morning.

I know some people can get by on only a few hours sleep, or even none at all.  I know there are people out there who thrive on all-nighters.  I am not one of those people.  I need sleep.  The whole 8 hours of it.  Sure, I can fudge here and there.  I’ve survived on 5 hours of sleep once in a while.  But after two consecutive weeks of 6 hours of less of sleep a night recently, here is what happened:

– I couldn’t carry out a conversation.  Literally, I forgot what I was saying mid-sentence, and I did a lot of nodding at the other person without processing a word they said.  This was particularly a problem when I have several conferencing conversations with students every period of the day.  Interestingly, this was less of a problem with LP.  Apparently you can pretend to listen to a three-year-old for a while, or at least until the yell at you for putting the BLUE lego where the RED one is supposed to go.

– I ate a ton of junk.  Sugar seemed to be the only thing that made life worth living.  I consumed many chocolate chips straight from the bag.  In fact, if I could have injected chocolate directly into my veins, I would have done that.

– I was miserable.  I felt like my life was falling apart, even though it wasn’t.  I felt like I had nothing under control, even though my family, my home and my classes were really just fine.  I felt crummy and cranky and I couldn’t even pinpoint a good reason.

Then I slept.  For two nights I crashed early, didn’t have to go to work the next day, and I slept for 8 lovely hours.  Afterwards I felt like a new person.  I was happy, things were fine, and eating oatmeal without chocolate sauce and a pound of brown sugar seemed to make sense.  My life hadn’t changed drastically, but I had.  Sleep reset my brain back to “normal” (or at least as close as I can get).

“But Marie,” you might ask “You have two children.  Surely you were sleep deprived when they were newborns and woke up every 2-3 minutes hours?!”  Well, yes.  I was sleep deprived.  But I was so sleep deprived that I just moved through a fog.  I occasionally got dressed, took kids to the park, and came home.  I napped when I could.  I seriously considered if it was safe for me to drive before I got in a car.  Now?  Now my kids are 18 months and almost 4.  I feel like I should be able to get by on 6 hours of sleep.  But the truth is, I really can’t.  And I need to remember that when working past 8pm sounds like a good use of my time.  Or when I talk myself into getting up an hour ealier to finish grading “just one more class.”  Or when Facebook beckons at 9pm.

Bottom line?  Sleep matters, and it is worth the time it takes.

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