Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sleep is vastly underrated: March 20, 2005

If you don't sleep well, then you know how much sleep matters. I sleep like a dead person, and I need a lot of sleep to function. Anything under six hours a night, and I am incoherent and hallucinating. When they were babies, I could not make my sons understand this. They did not care at all. 

I cannot wait until they are teenagers and I can exact my revenge....

Please don’t honk at the napping mom
    Hi! This is the first column I’ve written since I had a baby in January! I never sleep! I’m really tired! If I use a lot of exclamation points maybe it will help wake me up! Let’s see!

    No! It’s not working! Not at all!

    I forgot a whole lot of stuff between May 2000, when I had my son Jack, and January 2005, when little Ben came squalling into the world.

    I forgot the big things. (Newborn babies are appallingly small and helpless, and 20 percent of any kind of overnight hospital stay takes at least two years to pay off.)     

    I forgot the little things. (For some reason, my babies take spells where they’ll only stop crying when I stick my little finger into their mouths, rendering me immobile for hours on end. Also, "newborn" clothes are too big for the average newborn.)     

    But what I mostly forgot was the crippling, awesome power of sleep deprivation. There is just nothing like it for turning an otherwise relatively sane adult into the walking, babbling dead.

    You know how every other driver on the road but you is an idiot? How they are always doing things that range from careless (no turn signal as they cross three lanes) to stupid (no turn signal as they cross three lanes in the Ridge Cut)?     

    There is a good chance a lot of those idiots are the mothers of very small babies. Stay far away from our cars. We are dangerous. And if you honk you might wake us up.

    I recently folded some laundry and then stood in front of the open refrigerator with a pile of clothes in my left hand, groggily contemplating where I was going to find room to put this stuff.

    If the refrigerator hadn’t been crammed with groceries my mom treated us to as a baby present, my husband would still be wondering where his shirts got to as they chilled away in the veggie drawer. (We never open that thing.)     

    I’ve read a whole pile of books about helping babies establish predictable patterns of eating and sleeping. I’ve tried several approaches, from Baby Wise to Harvey Karp. I think the problem is that baby Ben hasn’t read these books, so Ben doesn’t know he is supposed to be comforted by swaddling, or that feeding him every three hours with a nap in between is supposed to help him sleep through the night.

    As soon as Ben can read, I feel sure this will all be straightened out.

    The goofy thing about little babies and sleep deprivation is that newborns sleep 18 to 20 hours a day. You’d think I’d be sleeping plenty. But little babies sleep in little spurts. An hour here, two hours there. And the sleeping always occurs when I need to be picking up big brother from school or making dinner, so I’m in no position to catch a nap.

    Also, Ben loves 3 a.m. That’s his favorite hour, and he never, ever misses it. His next favorite hour is 4 a.m., followed by 5 a.m. He catches most of those, too.

    I have seen every 3 a.m. for two months. I kind of hate 3 a.m.

    I told my husband recently that I need to have a tiny T-shirt made for the baby that reads ‘This is temporary.’ It would help remind me that Ben’s big brother Jack crawls into bed every night at 7:30 and sleeps 11 or 12 hours. Those days are not far off, if I can just survive the next few months.

    Meanwhile, if you see me dozing in my idling station wagon at a green light, please just go around me.



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