Monday, February 15, 2010

The Trouble with Sleep

It's the middle of the afternoon. Westley is in his room, peacefully napping in his crib under soft blankets, with the humidifier purring. I'm in the living room, feeling physically drained and stupidly caffeinated. I should be napping, too, but I'm too wired.

My on-again, off-again relationship with caffeine is most definitely on-again. My insomnia is also back, and regular coffee breaks seem to clear up some of my morning all-day fog. Not sleeping at night immediately translates to coffee in the morning. Yes, caffeine is terrible for my PMS and makes my chronic back pain worse, and--all right, you got me there--it's probably part of the reason I have sleep issues in the first place. But I seem to be incapable of placing the same kind of import on my own sleep that I do on Westley's.

Part of the problem is that I'm a terrible napper. I'll hear moms say things like, "I need to get my nap in when the kids nap," and I do not understand it. First of all, Westley's nap time is one of the only times I feel like I have to poke into other areas of my life: log on to the computer, for instance, or organize a grocery list in peace. But more importantly, I suck at napping. Unless I'm sick, a nap never leaves me feeling refreshed and rested. I wake up from a nap confused and grouchy, and spend the rest of the day feeling like I have jet-lag. Where are we? What's going on? Is it really dinnertime already? I'd just as soon skip the nap and go to bed early. Except that, naturally, I can't do that either!

Everything that I can't do easily (or at all) while Westley is awake--clean with smelly chemicals, work out, review the budget, paint my nails, have sex with my husband, watch a documentary, have a political debate with my husband--all gets crammed into the narrow window between the time when Westley goes to sleep and the time when I (supposedly) go to sleep. It doesn't help that about 85% of my Westley-incompatible activities are more likely to wake me up than they are to relax me.

As I look back on the first two years of my son's life, and then forward into a future filled with thoughts of more children, it occurs to me that my sleep-issues were a real contributor to my postpartum depression. Because I didn't feel like I could nap, and I couldn't sleep at night, I essentially gave up on sleep. Which meant giving up on feeling even somewhat okay.

The trouble with sleeping is that, in my mind, being asleep means missing out on time to myself. But, of course, not sleeping means never really feeling like myself.

Clearly, this is something I need to work on. I truly risk running myself into the ground if I don't. And I believe in the importance of sleep, I really do! I rock Westley to sleep for his nap, every day. He's 26 months old; many baby books suggest that parents stop rocking their children to sleep at 4 months. So I'm a baby-school drop-out, but my son is (usually) a crazy-good napper. And I watch him throughout the day for signs of tiredness, and give him a little chill-out cuddle-time when he needs it. I put his sleep--both for naps and at night--above everything else. I still skip events and get-togethers (even with close family members) if they're going to interfere with Westley's sleep.

But I never take my own sleep into account, until it's the morning after a sleepless night.