Today’s post is all about SLEEP. In honor of that, here’s a song:
When I was in high school, my Lyme doctor would opine on the importance of sleep. I got what he was saying, but I was a teenager, which means I tuned out a lot of what he said.
Fast forward to when E-Age-Fifteen was a little one-year-old guy. We were living with my parents temporarily while we had a house built. I perused my parents’ shelves and discovered a book on sleep. I don’t remember what it was called, but I do remember that it was written by the doctor who discovered (or helped discover) REM sleep. A lot of the content I’ve forgotten, but I definitely walked away with the idea that sleep is Important — especially for developing children. To this day I try to make sleep a priority, even for my teenager.
I also came away understanding that there are nuances to sleep — that things could go wrong, that there were shifts in circadian rhythms with puberty, and so on.
When I was 34 (ish — might have been 33?) I suddenly had trouble sleeping. It was weird because sleep had been easy for me before then. I remember going on vacation and being up all night for the three nights that we were gone. This was new, but I attributed it to the new environment, the mattress, the temperature. We came home and I was shocked to find I still couldn’t sleep. For the next two or three years, I truly became a low-energy homeschool mom. I was unable to sleep well two nights in a row, and I often went days without uninterrupted sleep.
Needless to say, I was tired.
I started on a journey to try and fix my sleep problems. Today, I sleep well most of the time. I still have a night or two a month where I have problems, but I cannot tell you how much better I am compared to those years when it was sometimes only one or two nights a month that I did sleep well. It’s a complete reversal, and I’m reaping the benefits.
Remember what I said before about getting back on the health merry-go-round? There are a whole bunch of ways of seeking to better your health, and sleep is one of them:
All of these things — nutrition, fresh air, sunshine, and so on — work together. But here’s the thing about sleep: the other things don’t work without it. What I mean is, you could eat the Best Diet in the World, but you won’t get well if you’re not sleeping. Sleep matters that much.
So what happens when you sleep?
Well, from what I’ve read, your body heals. Your brain cleans itself up. I could go on, but I assume you know how to use Google. The point is that sleep is really, really important.
Let’s face it: your homeschool will be better if you can get your sleep issues under control.
Sleepless By Choice
The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy, so do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day.
–Charlotte Mason (quoted in The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Chomondeley)
Let’s be honest: we mothers often choose to short change ourselves on sleep. After my third child was born, I felt like I didn’t sit down (other than to nurse) for six months. If I relaxed for even a moment, I would drop one of the many balls I was juggling, and who had time to go pick it back up if that happened?
In the evenings, when I should have gone to sleep and gotten a couple extra hours, I just wanted to be alone. I said, “I just want to be awake when no one needs me.”
Don’t do as I did. I thought I was choosing relief, but it turns out I was seriously harming my health.
Sleep needs to be a priority. People who do not sleep well can end up with serious health issues. Sometimes, we can’t control that (insomnia). But lots of times, we can control it. We just choose not to.
The mother who is tired because she’s choosing to not get enough sleep needs the same intervention as the mom who is tired because she’s living off of Dr. Pepper and candy bars. These are roads to problems later on — problems when our children are older and they need us.
Word to the wise: don’t shortchange your sleep over the long haul.
I’m not saying we don’t all need a night or two. Once per month, I meet my Charlotte Mason book club at Panera and we shut the place down. I’m tired the next day, but it’s totally worth it.
This is different from leading a lifestyle of sleeplessness.
I am not a doctor, and there is no guarantee that what worked for me in regard to my insomnia will work for you. There is a difference, for example, between those of us who have trouble falling asleep, and those of us who wake up at 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 am (I was a 2:00 am waker) and can’t fall back asleep for hours. And there is also a big difference between those of us who know we’re not sleeping, and those of us who aren’t sleeping but don’t know it (here’s looking at you, Sleep Apnea).
If you don’t know where to turn or what to do, and you’re not sleeping (or think you have sleep apnea), then I recommend enlisting outside help. Get a doctor, a chiropractor, a naturopath — whatever you’re comfortable with — and try some things. Personally, I believe in selecting a doctor or other helper who is going to recommend treatments you’d actually use. For example, if you’re not comfortable using sleeping pills (I’m not), then don’t choose a doctor who is going to recommend them.
Here’s a list of things to think about in regard to fixing your insomnia:
- Homeopathy has remedies that are specific to the type of insomnia (waking times, etc.). (You’d need a homeopath if you aren’t familiar with this type of medicine.)
- Melatonin (Please note that it’s unsafe to take it forever as it can cause your body to stop making it.)
- Eliminate foods to which you are allergic
- Adjust your bedroom temperature and lighting and sound (adding white noise if sounds are bothering you)
- Change the time you eat dinner or experiment with an evening snack (have one, don’t have one, see if it makes a difference)
- Eliminate blue-light (screens, for example) after 5:00 pm
- Take a hot shower before bed
- Pray while falling asleep
- Acupressure or acupuncture
- Deal with infections disrupting your sleep (Lyme disease, for example)
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it can get you started.
If you are like me and prefer DIY-ing your health, I have some books for you to check out.
1. The Sleep Revolution by Ariana Huffington
If you’re not convinced you need to make sleep a priority, this book is for you. If you want to know what happens while you’re sleeping, Huffington has included a lot of the recent research findings on sleep. If you want some basic tips — maybe your sleep isn’t horrible, but it could be better — she’s got a lot of science-based recommendations to help you.
More than anything, I think this book can provided needed motivation because it shows how important sleep is.
2. Say Good Night to Insomnia by Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs
This book was published in 2009, so it’s a bit older. It’s not the approach I took, so I can’t personally vouch for it. But I’ve heard good things and it sounds great — a drug-free approach to building a lifestyle that combats insomnia.
This approach was developed at Harvard Medical School, so presumably it’s got research to back it up.
I think that those of us with a more serious struggle who want a pre-developed plan would do well to consider this one. Following it strictly for the full six weeks would tell us whether the approach will be helpful or not.
3. The Power of When by
This one’s a little more out there. Instead of trying to fix your body’s clock, this book focuses on working with it. If your sleep has always seemed off compared to other people, this book just might be what you’re looking for. Breus doesn’t think all people need to be the same when it comes to body clocks.
It’s more of a self-help book than a science book, but I’ve found some of the advice to be incredibly helpful. For example, moving my exercise time from mornings to afternoons was revolutionary!
Here is the quiz that goes with this book. My guess is that people who find themselves fitting neatly into a type will appreciate this book a lot more than people who don’t feel like any of the descriptions are a good match.
Enlisting Outside Help
Besides finding a doctor or practitioner, besides taking herbs or buying a book, enlisting outside help might mean you need to get your husband (or a babysitter) to protect you while you take a nap. This is especially true if you’ve got a newborn or sick children and your sleep is being interrupted in ways you can’t control.
Years ago, my husband and I started tackling my health issues together. One of the first things he wanted to do was make sleep more of a priority. My regular bedtime back then was 11:00 pm. My husband made a plan to get us to the point where we went to bed at 10:00 pm. It was, quite honestly, one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Because we made it together, we could also help each other. For any of these things, making a plan with your husband is always ideal.
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