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Why I Trade Sleep for Alone Time.. Even When I Desperately Need Sleep

Posted: 01/09/2013 6:33 pm

As moms, it's just what we do - complain about not getting enough sleep. I don't know even one mother who isn't tired at least some of the time - either tired from months (or years) of sleep deprivation, tired from trying to keep up with her kids and their energy, or just plain tired of not having more than a few minutes to herself here and there.

It's that last one that fuels the rest of it.

The someecards collection is full of pithy quips for moms about how solo grocery shopping counts as "me" time and peace and quiet is only found in the bathroom (and often not even then). So we take those moments when we find them, even if we have to lock the door to keep our beloved children out to do it, and continue our pursuit of time to ourselves by sacrificing that most cherished of commodities: sleep.

I know some parents who can function on very little sleep and so can quite handily go to bed late and still be fine when their offspring disturb their slumber. I'm not one of them. I need sleep - the undisturbed, drool-on-the-pillow-and-wake-up-when-I'm-damn-well-ready kind. And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I haven't had enough of that in the last four-and-a-half years.

Unfortunately, this need for quality sleep is at odds with another one of my primary requirements for sanity, which is to have a decent amount of time to myself. And so, like so many other mothers, I sacrifice one for the other.

Even now, with a three-month-old baby I have to get up with at least two or three times a night, I often choose me time after bedtime. Before Ethan was born -- before I was pregnant with him, even -- I was the type who called it a day somewhere around 10 p.m. My routine usually included a good stretch of time reading in bed but, even so, if I saw the clock click over to 11 it was a rare thing indeed. Now, despite having both a preschooler who gets up early and the aforementioned night-waking infant, I have to force myself to go to bed at 11 or live with the regret in the morning.

And it's still not enough. It's not enough sleep and it's not enough time to do my own thing. But I'm not alone in my pursuit of the elusive balance.

Judging only by the number of pithy, sleep-related jokes I see shared on Facebook I would know I'm not the only mom making the choice to stay up past my bedtime. But I've also had this conversation with several friends, all of whom bemoan the fact that they need more sleep than they get while admitting they stay up too late just to have the time to themselves.

Sure, sleep begets sanity, but what good is sanity if you're not awake to appreciate it?

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  • You're Ravenous

    If you find yourself hungry all day (and not because you skipped breakfast or have recently amped up your gym routine) it might be because you've been skimping on sleep. Research presented at the 2010 meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior linked little shuteye with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/sleep-hunger-deprivation-_n_1659954.html">higher levels of the hormone ghrelin</a>, the same one that triggers hunger, HuffPost reported. This uptick in the hunger hormone seems to lead to not only increased snacking, but also a hankering for <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041206210355.htm">high-carb, high-calorie foods</a>, according to a 2004 study, which may help explain why people who don't get enough sleep are at a greater risk of obesity.

  • You're Weepy

    Ever find yourself tearing up over an embarrassing TV commercial? While women might be quick to blame PMS, it could be a lack of sleep sending your emotions into overdrive. A 2007 study found that sleep-deprived brains were <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-10-22-sleep-deprivation-brain_N.htm">60 percent more reactive</a> to negative and disturbing images, <em>USA Today</em> reported. "It's almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was <a href="http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2007/10/22_sleeploss.shtml">unable to put emotional experiences into context</a> and produce controlled, appropriate responses," Matthew Walker, senior author of the study, said in a statement.

  • You're Forgetful Or Unfocused

    You might be tempted to blame your trouble focusing on your age or stress or your overflowing email inbox, but a lack of sleep could be the true culprit. Too few hours in dreamland has been linked to a <a href="http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/emotions-cognitive">whole host of cognitive problems</a>, like difficulty focusing and paying attention, confusion, lower alertness and concentration, forgetfulness and trouble learning, WebMD reports. So next time you find yourself forgetting where you put your keys, consider how much sleep you got last night.

  • You Can't Shake That Cold

    If you keep coming down with the sniffles -- or can't seem to kick that never-ending case -- you might want to assess your sleep schedule. A 2009 study found that people who sleep fewer than seven hours each night have almost <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/17/science/sci-sleep17">three times the risk of catching a cold</a> than people who slept for at least eight hours, the <em>LA Times</em> reported.

  • You're Clumsier Than Usual

    First you knock the alarm clock off the dresser, then you spill the milk as you're pouring your cereal, then you stub your toe on the way out the door -- you've become a klutz overnight. Researchers don't know exactly why, but sleepy people seem to <a href="http://www.prevention.com/amisleepdeprived/list/5.shtml">"have slower and less precise motor skills,"</a> Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., director of Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research told <em>Prevention</em>. Reflexes are dulled, balance and depth perception can be a little wonky and since you may also have trouble focusing, reaction time can be slowed, meaning you can't quite catch the egg carton before it hits the floor.

  • You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling

    If you or your partner just can't get in the mood, and stress or an underlying health problem isn't to blame, you might want to spend some extra time between the sheets -- sleeping. Both men and women who don't get their 40 winks experience a <a href="http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-results-sleep-loss">decreased sex drive</a> and less interest in doing the deed, WebMD reports. A lack of sleep can also <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/erectile-dysfunction/causes-of-low-libido.aspx">elevate levels of cortisol</a>, the stress hormone, according to Everyday Health, which doesn't help in the bedroom either.

 

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