Chronic sleep deprivation is a very insidious enemy. At least it is in my case. I would say that I average about 4-6 hours a night with fifty percent of the time it being abruptly interrupted several times. My three year old son has some “issues” and each night awakens various times demanding to sleep in my bed. He claims that his bed is uncomfortable, there are bugs biting him in his room, he wants a bowl of cereal, and that I am a princess and he wants to sleep with me. I know, that last one sounds so tender and loving, but not at 3 o’clock in the morning!
At that hour I fantasize about throwing him out the window! As a mother, I have never welcomed a child into my bed to sleep. Cuddling on a weekend morning is fun, but having tiny feet kick you in your face while snoozing is not. My five kids spin 360s every half hour and usually end up mistaking my head for a pillow.
This song and dance typically comes to a close around 4:45am and at that precise moment, I am finally entering into my best, most relaxed sleep ever. So wouldn’t it just be poetic justice that just before the alarm sounds and the entire trauma has subsided, I fall into my REM stage?
The first three days of this pattern are actually exhilarating and I feel like a warrior on a survival mission in the Brazilian Amazon. I convince myself that this chronic lack of shut eye is just “psychological.” I chug coffee like its water and brag about how much of a crusader I am. The adrenalin along with the caffeine fuels my tank and keeps me going all day and night.
Today is day four of this simulated warfare and something inside me of snaps as I turn into my worst nightmare. It comes upon me like a tsunami. I become clumsy, uncoordinated and utterly irresponsible. I stumble about like an incapacitated drunk. My judgment begins to fail. I left the house this morning with the sliding glass door wide open. The other day in a previous sleep deprivation marathon I left the toaster on all day with bread inside.
My body starts to rebel and becomes outright defiant. My neck stiffens and cannot be turned in any direction. Migraines creep up on me sometime around 2am and don’t disappear until about 8 hours and 6 ibuprofens later. The sore throat I had ten days ago shows no signs of healing as the rest it required was never granted. I am edgy, mentally sluggish and in a fog to the likes of a dreadful hangover.
Despite this gradual deterioration of my body, mind and spirit, I wake up with instant (nervous) energy and fight hard not to drag myself about. However, just after lunch time, a bizarre transformation takes place and I metamorphosize into a sloth.
Oh, how I long for a helping hand; preferably one skilled in the art of massage or acupuncture. What I wouldn’t do for an hour in a jacuzzi or an Asian pedicure.
Now, just when the kids are finally out of gas and down for the count, in lieu of diving into my bed, I hit the computer to work. Am I screwed up or what?
How do you handle prolonged exposure to such sleepless torture whether due to newborn nursing, staying up to complete work projects or dealing with sick children?