Who needs a margarita? I’ve got sleep deprivation, thank you very much.
I can’t remember the last time I slept all night. It wasn’t this month. It wasn’t the month before, either. I honestly have no recollection of the last time I crawled in bed and remained there until the morning.
Researchers now say that a person with sleep deprivation suffers some of the same hazardous side effects as being under the influence of alcohol. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night, like drinking, can affect coordination, reaction time, and judgment. Six hours or less? That’s pretty common for me. What does all this mean?
I’m drunk, even without a drop of alcohol in me. Who needs a margarita? I’ve got sleep deprivation, thank you very much. My oldest will be seven in January, and I’ll classify the last few months of pregnancy as rotten sleep, so that makes seven years of drunkenness, no bar needed!
I’ve personally conducted extensive longitudinal trials on sleep deprivation over the years. While I conduct my personal research in flannel pajamas pants rather than a white lab coat and my time is free of charge, my findings are just the same.
After particularly rough nights, I often wake up with what feels like a hangover: exhaustion, bleary eyes, a pounding head. Unlike a big night out, though, I have no wild stories to show for my exhaustion. Although, sometimes my late nights do involve stories of people throwing up in strange places. But when the people are my kids and it’s my job to clean up the mess, there’s not much entertainment value in recounting the story to my friends after the fact.
Theoretically speaking, I probably should get to sleep through the night by now. Our baby is now 18 months old, but she still usually wakes up once a night. All sorts of people tell me their wonderful children started sleeping through the night at six weeks or something magical like that. Sometimes I just don’t really believe them, and sometimes I feel a little envious. Other times if I know them well enough, I put on my mock horrified look and jokingly exclaim, “Are you sure that’s normal?! Is the baby getting enough to eat??” I believe in equal opportunity, and even parents of perfect kids should have the chance to feel unsure of their parenting techniques, right?
Truthfully, though, it’s not just our sweet baby girl that is the culprit for my sleep-deprived state. She has three other young accomplices. The beauty of sleep-deprivation, though, is also loss of memory. When I wake up in the morning and I try to recall why I’m so knackered, often I can hardly remember. Usually the nights are a blur.
In the last week or two, though, I began to keep track of my late night escapades. Well, I sort of keep track, with no financial backing for my sleep deprivation study, I’m not exactly fastidious about documentation. Oh well. Below are some of my recent sleep interruptions:
1. God Was Bowling: The recent colossal thunderstorm that came through with lightning and thunder all night brought a wonderful amount of rain and a pitiful amount of sleep. My three-year-old wandered into our bedroom scared of the storm. I tucked him back in bed, explaining that the loud thunder was just the sound of God up in heaven bowling. When God does a really good job knocking down the pins, it’s very loud, and the angels use their cameras to take pictures. That, of course, is why we have lightning. I added in ridiculous sound effects and a cheering section to make my story more convincing (all the while not waking up his brother in the same room). My little boy went bowling twice in the last month, so he is quite an expert about all things bowling. The notion of God bowling was enough to keep him in his own bed for the rest of the night. Score for Mom! Back to sleep.
2. Puke in the Sink Makes me Happy: (Sorry folks–Just skip reading this if you have a weak stomach.) Last week my five-year-old coughed hard enough in the night to make himself nauseous. He wandered into my room saying his “throat felt funny.” I took him to the bathroom thinking a sip of water might get rid of the tickle in his throat, and as soon as we walked in, he promptly threw up in the sink. I cleaned him up and held him until the shakiness went away, and tucked him back in bed with a big bowl next to his pillow. Afterward, I scooped the mess out of the sink. A wave of gratitude came over me in addition to my own wave of nausea from the task at hand. At two in the morning, I felt so grateful to be cleaning a mess out of the sink. Had it happened a few seconds earlier, my bedroom carpet would have been the disaster site.
3. Running from the Bulls: A few nights ago my six-year-old came to my bed, telling me of her terrible bull dream. Part of me felt secretly a little pleased and nostalgic. I clearly remember scary bull dreams as a child. And in the 4 AM haze, I thought to myself, “how wonderful, my daughter is truly growing up in the country.” I don’t know what the standard scary dream is for an urban area, but I certainly do know that big scary bulls are pretty standard dream fare in rural places. I initially felt inclined to tell her, “Don’t worry, you’ll have many more scary dreams about bulls,” but even in my sleepy haze, better judgment won out. Perhaps I’m not completely “drunk” after all.
4. A Towel is Almost as Good as New Sheets: A few times a week, we have wet sheets from a kid or two. I help my kiddo change into dry pajamas, and then the sleepy mom in me just spreads a thick towel over the wet spot, making a dry place to sleep. Maybe it’s sleep deprived poor judgment to not change the sheets immediately, but I know I’ve still got pretty good reaction time. A towel gets us back to bed in just a few minutes and it does the job until the morning, when I change the sheets with daylight and slightly more coordination on my side.
5. Home and a Kiss: Last night I brought our crying baby into bed. Usually she just wants a quick pick-me-up of nursing and then I return her to her crib in about ten minutes. This time, though, I zonked out. A few hours later I woke up to a baby head hovering over me, with eyes wide open in the moonlight. She looked at me, leaned in and gave me the softest little kiss on the lips, and then snuggled back in next to me and went back to sleep. I fell back asleep, too. A little while later she woke me up when she quietly mumbled, “Home.” She understands what home is, she says it with excited relief when we pull in the driveway after being gone. And in the middle of the night with the security of finding herself wedged in between Mom and Dad, she knew she was home. That kind of sleep interruption makes my heart melt.
So after seven years of bad sleep, when my son vomits in the sink, I think “wow, that’s lucky,” when my daughter has a scary bull dream, it reminds me of my youth, and a wet bed? Well, that’s just a whole upgrade from a pile of barf, right? Researchers might call that “impaired judgment,” but I’ll just call that seeing the silver lining in life. And if a baby wakes me up in the middle of the night to kiss me, well, I certainly can’t complain about that. Someday, we’ll all sleep through the night. Someday.