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    I’m So Sleepy, Yeah (A Low-Energy Mom’s Guide Post)

    July 24, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s been a while since we’ve had an installment in The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it. (Maybe I didn’t have the energy to write it? Ha.)

    Today’s post is all about SLEEP. In honor of that, here’s a song:

    You’re welcome.

    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:

    Is your homeschool suffering because you are oh so tired? Here's some advice on making sleep a priority -- and tips on what to do when that's not enough.

    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)

    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.

    Facing Insomnia

    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.)
    • Herbs
    • Melatonin (Please note some believe it’s unsafe to take it forever as it can possibly cause your body to stop making it.)
    • Exercise
    • Sunshine
    • 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.

    Recommended Reading

    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 Michael Breus

    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.

    Return to the The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling series index.

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  • Reply Katrina September 19, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Sleep makes SUCH a difference! I have another book recommendation: Chronotherapy. It’s the book that made me realize I do have a circadian rhythm disorder, and also helped me heal it. I take a microdose time release melatonin at night and use a dawn simulator in the morning (WAY WAY better than an alarm clock and doesn’t stress my adrenals!) and it helps me keep my circadian rhythms in check. Good sleep hygiene is still important. I’m still working on putting DOWN the devices at a good time to let my body make its own melatonin. But it was revolutionary. I’m rereading this series because other health issues have cropped up for me, and homeschooling isn’t going the way it should right now. It’s been SO helpful- truly, everything you write is golden, Brandy- but what about the other three things on the wheel? They’re not in the main list, and I couldn’t find them in a search- is the series not done yet? 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 28, 2019 at 9:56 am

      The series isn’t done yet! Sorry. I really am still working on it ….

  • Reply Samantha August 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    This is an area that we have made a priority lately. I usually go to bed at 9 pm to get 8-9 hrs of sleep. I also try to exercise 30 min a day and we eat pretty well. With going to bed earlier for the last month I feel so much better.

  • Reply Amanda August 5, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Bwahaha! This post is awesome, but especially the Cat Stevens’ song. 🙂 I am really working at getting sleep. My brain just totally shuts down without it. And believe me, I am NOT staying up late to lesson plan…

  • Reply Lisa S. July 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve read your health posts before with interest, but this one really hit home. I’ve been dealing with the nightmare of insomnia for years now. We’ve figured out that it’s mostly due to my thyroid- low T3, but haven’t found anything to fix it. Now the sleep deprivation has done a number on my immune system and I’m also dealing with chronic epstein-barr virus. I’ve tried diet, all sorts of supplements, functional med dr, homeopathic dr, acupuncture. I’ve researched endlessly but feel like I don’t know where else to turn at this point. Sleep is a very serious need that I never fully appreciated while I was able to get it!

  • Reply Flannery July 25, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Thanks for this! I am struggling to get enough sleep because my 11-month-old twins have been getting up around 5:20… and my husband stays up later than anyone (and my other kids’ bedtimes are drifting a bit too, actually) and so I’ve been fighting my environment and schedule for a natural wind-down time… I think a cool bath and earplugs help, as well as a definite time to STOP EVERYTHING and start the sleep routine. Easier said than done because of the creeping “Oh, I can do that once the kids are in bed.” 🙂 Anyway, this might help both me and my husband (he has trouble waking up in the morning).

  • Reply Kelly July 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I just took the chronotype quiz and I’m a Bear. This is not really surprising, given that I wake slowly with the sun year-round, and hibernate every January. 😉 Now I’m off to watch the video.

    • Reply SarahD July 25, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Bear here too though I read a large percentage of people are bears.

  • Reply SarahD July 24, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Many great points here and I really need to get a handle on my sleep and certain things that I KNOW are disrupting it. Dr. Alan Christiansen’s Adrenal Reset Diet book talks a lot about sleep and how eating a certain way can help regulate your cortisol curve to favor a good night’s sleep (and feel better and more energetic during the day).

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      I almost mentioned the adrenal/cortisol/sleep connection in my post, but didn’t want to overwhelm people with technical details. I know that lots of time night wakers are having issues with cortisol, blood sugar, or both. I haven’t heard of that book, but I’m tempted to add it to my collection!

      • Reply SarahD July 25, 2017 at 8:43 am

        Yes it’s a lot of info to cover because there are so many angles to explore. I want to borrow it from the library again because it helped the week I tried it. I also enjoyed reading through The Power of When recently and discovered why I actually exercise best around 6 pm. I’m a wet noodle the rest of the day if I try to exercise in the morning but feel better generally in the evenings. ?

        I think even the presence of a smartphone in the room at night can keep us up or wake us early because we know it’s there and we can access media or info. Not good for sleep or mental health. Our minds just do t rest because we know it’s there. Weird but I think there’s something to this.

  • Reply Catherine @ A Spirited Mind July 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve had chronic insomnia all my life (my parents tell stories about how I would stay awake even as a baby and small child, this is something I can’t remember ever not dealing with) and as I’m getting older it’s getting harder to push through.

    To the books you mentioned, I’d add a recommendation for Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson–it’s much more in-depth than a simple “you should really sleep more” prescription, and I found it helpful although not the total cure I was hoping for.

    I hadn’t considered homeopathy for sleep issues before, but wonder how to go about finding someone who understands and has experience with serious sleep issues? Do you have tips for finding a good person to go to?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      So you are one of Those, hm, Catherine? 🙂

      I saw that book by Shawn Stevenson — I used to listen to him on iTunes quite a bit. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like I need to! Thank you for the recommendation. 🙂

      I have taken a number of homeopathy classes, so I self-treat. To find a homeopath, I usually recommend asking around in your area — you want to find people who have gotten real results. There are too many sloppy (or superstitious) people practicing! If you can find an MD who is also a homeopath, his homeopathy training is post-doc work, which usually means he’s reliable (in my experience).

  • Reply Miriam July 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

    This is good. I totally identify with the “I just want to be awake when no one needs me” part. But yes. Sleep. I often wake up exhausted and was diagnosed with Lyme 2 years ago. Before I started my herbal protocol I don’t think I realized how often I woke up in the night…or bolted awake…etc. I sleep better now but am not sure I’ve gotten to the bottom of all my sleep issues. So I’m excited to check out your book recommendations. Thanks!
    Any air quality recommendations? Do you use an air purifier?A friend has a salt lamp…I tried a filter thing once but I found the sound/air blowing thing irritating. :/

  • Reply April L. July 24, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Any tips on coping when your sleep issues are outside of your control? I have three children–all terrible sleepers until sometime between 2 and 3. They are currently almost 2, almost 4, and almost 6. I have not slept more than four hours at a time in 6 years. Most nights it’s between one and three hours at a time. I have tried everything and have come to accept that this is just something that has to be survived. The older two finally sleep well, and someday the youngest will as well. But until then, my cognitive function and my emotional health are a huge challenge which seems insurmountable some days. Even if I go to bed at 8 when they do, I’m still getting very broken sleep. And going to bed that early means I have no time to myself to mentally/emotionally recharge, no time to educate myself and do the reading and planning for school, and no time with my husband.

    Sorry…I didn’t mean to vent. It’s just frustrating (not your fault) to read about the importance of sleep and how I need to make it a priority when I’d love to but I can’t. More sleep just isn’t in the cards for me right now, so I need to figure out how to cope and function with my reality. But even that is kind of depressing, because I’d really love for my life to be more than just functioning. Any tips on finding joy when you’ve physically been in survival mode for years and need to make it at least another year or two? I’ve tried harder than I can tell you, but it’s really really hard to “better attitude” your way out of a major biological need not being met.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

      You sound like you are at the desperate point! I understand — I have been there and it really is difficult to keep a good attitude.

      One thought I had while reading your comment was whether you have tried to fix your child’s sleep? It sounds like you would be able to sleep, if children weren’t interrupting you? (What I mean is, it doesn’t sound like you have insomnia.)

      There can be different reasons why children have trouble sleeping at night. We had one little guy that was up during the night because of tummy aches — once he was diagnosed with food allergies and we eliminated those foods, he slept very well. Have you ever investigated the why?

      I have a friend who used melatonin drops (in a doctor-approved dosage) for two weeks to train her toddler to fall asleep. But of course, that is different from night waking. We had a couple children whose night waking was from hunger, so we started doing before-bed snacks and that solved the problem.

      There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but I wonder if you could figure it out?

      With that said, it’s not exactly on finding joy, but in the third installment of this series, I wrote a post called Far as the Curse is Found: Suffering and Holiness and I recommend it. People will try to say lack of sleep isn’t suffering, but really it IS.

      Hang in there. ♥

      • Reply Rebecca July 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

        You have probably already done this, but can you tag team with your husband on the night wakings? Or are you easily enough disturbed that doing so won’t work?

        I had a two year old and twin newborns and went through some necessary sleep deprivation due to nursing, but once the babies were weaned, I found that having my husband take a night here and there really helped my mental state. My oldest was my most challenging sleeper during her toddler years and her needs were more easily met by either mom or Dad.

        Sleep is so important for everyone and I pray you get some relief soon!

      • Reply April L. July 24, 2017 at 11:03 am

        Thank you. Yes, the problem is the child’s sleep, and we truly have tried almost everything. This being my third child in a row with these issues has forced me to accept that some babies just aren’t good sleepers, and that some things just can’t be fixed and have to be accepted, and that’s where I’m at. The more I keep searching for the magic bullet that will finally get her to sleep, the more frustrated I become. So while getting her to sleep through the night would be wonderful, believe me when I say that I did not arrive easily at acceptance. My husband is an amazing help, but tag teaming with him for night wakings is not a viable solution for a number of reasons, the most important one being he drives a lot for his job and I need him to get enough sleep to drive safely. She has weaned, so night nursing is not the problem. Anyway, I know sleep advice is well-intentioned, but that’s not something I’m looking to solve anymore. Just need to figure out how to deal with it better than I have been. 🙂

        • Reply MacKenzie July 24, 2017 at 11:49 am

          I hear you. I’m on my third baby and none of them have really slept through the night (and I mean not even more than 3 hrs at at time!) before 2ish. The youngest just started 2 weeks ago and it is still only 50% of the time but already I feel so much better. But as my oldest is 7, I can say that this week is probably the first I’ve had more than 2 full nights of sleep in a single week in the last 7 years! Which is ridiculous but what can you do. Like you, the best thing I could do was stop worrying about my kids sleep and stop trying to fix it. It just became an obsession that didn’t help (or work!). We do take a nice long (1 hr +) quiet time each day and the bigger kids listen to audiobooks so I can actually rest or nap. And I go to bed fairly early and let kids get up and play without me. Even the toddler knows that just because they get up at 6am, doesn’t mean I will! I am not normally able to get more actual sleep but even just resting my eyes and lying down for an extra hour helps. And remember that my older two now sleep nicely so it will happened eventually. I think we’re done with bio kids for now but hope to soon have a foster baby in our home and I am pretty curious to see if I create bad sleepers or its the biology of our kids. I know it will still be a small sample size but I can’t help myself 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:10 pm

            I’m voting for biology, MacKenzie, but I will be curious to hear what happens with your foster babies!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:03 pm

          It’s hard, isn’t it? Knowing when and if to accept something like this — and then swallowing it again and again as time goes on. I will pray for you! I think being chronically ill is a lot like being chronically sleepless — it can be a refining fire, but it’s still painful. ♥

    • Reply Mama Rachael July 24, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      This is somewhat random. My son, 6 yrs, isn’t a terrible sleeper, but he is up as soon as he wakes in the morning, even if it was the baby that woke him and its still dark outside. I’m making him a weighted blanket, as we found he slept better when he had the pillow mattress over him (its pillowcases sewed together with pillows in them… nothing fancy). We think a weighted blanket will be more comfortable. Hubby and I both loved the heavy “beizi” (cotton comforters) we had in China, and they are HEAVY, so we are thinking a weighted blanket for each could help all of us! They are pricy, and I do sew, so making them. Got plastic pellets on etsy for $56 for 24 lbs, which should do a blanket for Little Man and for Hubby. Its random, but an idea we are trying.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:09 pm

        That is fascinating! It drives my husband crazy that I “can’t” sleep without something weighty covering me, but it’s true!

  • Reply Toni July 24, 2017 at 6:36 am

    So timely! New animals to care for and a new job for my husband have meant a new schedule for me… Of getting up at 5:30 for chores and breakfast and lunch-packing, instead of my usual 7:00. It’s been impossible to get back to sleep after my husband leaves for the day, an afternoon nap isn’t an option because it’s the only time I can do school with my 7 yo while the littles nap, and try as I might, I cannot get to sleep before 10 pm! Super frustrating by Friday evening… make that Wednesday afternoon! I really need to sleep later in the morning and figure out some make-ahead breakfasts and lunches for my hubby and leave him to do some chores on his own and do the rest on my own schedule. Luckily, the chickens went to be butchered today, and the bull calves are close to weaning! Some of your book recommendations sound like they could be helpful, too. Thank you!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 24, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Animals! Yes! For years I milked goats at 5:30 in the morning … it really does pinch your sleep, doesn’t it?

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