Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever noticed that each milestone in life can be marked by the amount of sleep one can achieve? As a child, sleep was an accepted thing. I didn't really think about the whys and hows of too much or too little sleep - it was simply a part of life. As a teenager, sleep was like a drug that I couldn't get enough of. I stocked up on the weekends and tried to sneak it in during classes when you thought the teacher wasn't looking. I can even recall a yearbook photo displaying my entire English class asleep at our desks while the teacher read us Shakespeare. In university, sleep came in short bursts in odd locations - the library, the park, the common room of the dorm - just enough to get by, but never enough to feel truly rested. As a single adult in my own place, I felt like I had finally achieved the ability to sleep when and how I saw fit. With a steady job and only myself and my cat to care for, I received the regularity of sleep that modern medicine would be proud of. Sleeping with my spouse was much the same way, only with the added benefit of extra warmth and the white noise of his snoring. I imagine I am one of the few women on this planet who actually enjoys her husband's snoring. As a mother, being tired seems to take on a life of its own. When I pregnant with my first girl, for nearly the entire nine months I slept in sets of 2 hours at a time - as if mother nature were preparing me for the next nine months once she was born. After I gave birth, I felt like a narcoleptic - falling asleep anywhere and everywhere, thanks to the oxytocin my body produced everytime I nursed my daughter. When Abigail was 11 months old, I finally resorted to "sleep-training" her so that I could catch some shut-eye. When the sleep-training took root, Abigail was sleeping 12 hours through the night with 2 daytime naps and I was in sleep heaven. Alas, it was too good to be true. In only a short time, I was pregnant again, and the regulated bathroom trips were back. Shiloh was born premature and for 3 weeks I slept in the hospital, my sleep schedule being dictated by how long I could endure the pain of too much milk before I dragged myself out of bed to hug the hospital-grade pump. The one blessing I got out of that experience was that Shiloh came home sleeping 4 hours at a time instead of Abigail's two hour cycle. The downside is that the hospital's "Land of Perpetual Day" flipped Shiloh's nights and days, which meant that my husband and I now have to sleep in alternating shifts. I operate most days in a haze of sleep deprivation punctuated by the occasional burst of caffeine to create the illusion of normalcy. I can't remember who told me this, but I'm hanging onto the hope that it's not completely true - that I can sleep when the children move out, but not until then.


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