Missing Out On Sleep By Choice?  You’re Not Alone

When a woman joins the ranks of motherhood, their life changes in a momentous way.

Never did you think you could love so deeply, and on a more lighthearted note, you finally understand that moms share another common bond – we are tired all the time.

Studies and research have been conducted; there’s advice galore, but there are some purely non-medical reasons why moms can’t sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a common talking-point between moms.  It is the subject of jokes and online memes, and likely our number one “complaint.”

Sure, we are physically exhausted when we’re pregnant, and when our babies are young and nursing.

But there are a multitude of other reasons that sleep is elusive for moms – at any age and at any stage of their child’s life.

And while there are lots of tips out there, like the “sleep when your child sleeps” expression, most of us don’t follow the advice.

We’re thinking… and doing… and mothering… all the time.

In fact, a phone survey once reported on by CBS News found that nearly 50 percent of women with children got far less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

In comparison, women without children achieved adequate, quality sleep almost 65 percent of the time.

And of 3,000 female respondents, mothers – no matter the age of their children – reported they were tired more often than not.  And each additional child increased the likelihood of feeling tired by 50 percent, as reported to CBS News.

But for the most part, we’re not tired due to a medical condition or other typical physical reason like not eating properly or getting enough exercise.

One of the first pieces of advice a mother is likely to ignore is that age-old “sleep when the baby sleeps.”

When our babies are new and we’re in a fog of learning and survival, we may sleep in short bursts – not able to keep our eyes open as we nurse our little ones or rock them in a chair.

But later, the only time to get things done is when the baby sleeps.  We’re busy moms, and there are too many things to get done in the course of a day.

Later comes additional responsibilities that come with having older kids.  

We have birthday cakes and bake sale cookies to make.  We offered to sew costumes or print out programs for the school play.

There’s laundry and dishes and piles of papers that we just cannot get to when the kids are awake.

Even if we are able to complete tasks while they’re playing, we then feel guilty if we are not taking part in every fleeting moment, so we put it off and stay up late instead.

We also need time to catch up with our husbands, our mothers, our best friends.  Every mom understands the difficulties of talking on the phone with kids in the house, so we stay up late again.

Much of this is wonderful, quality time, but it takes up time the “experts” say we should be devoting to sleep.

And then there’s one of the most important reasons of all.  

We are “on” all the time once we become mothers.  We spend every moment taking care of others, and at some point, we need to reconnect with our old selves.

This leads us to stay up late – or get up too early – so we can read, watch television, catch up on emails, or any number of mindless and quiet pastimes.

Moms need this time.  We need it more than we need sleep.  It may go against conventional wisdom, but it works for us.

And then there are the thoughts that start creeping in when we’ve finally started to unwind from the chaos of the day.

Did we spend enough time with the kids today?  Were we irritable or too reactive to their negative behaviors?  Did we do enough?  And how can we possibly deserve to be in charge of such perfect little beings?

All of this is normal – it’s part of the base instinct of being a mother.  But it is not always conducive to sleep.

But what the experts don’t understand is the power that motherhood brings women.

We find energy we never thought possible.  We rise to every challenge.  

No matter how exhausted we are, we show up.  There are no sick days or “too tired” days… no spur-of-the-moment naps.

But most of us have accepted being tired as something of a battle scar to be worn with pride.

This deep love we could have never imagined causes us to worry about living up to that kind of love.  We worry and we think too much.  

And we often do too much because there is so much we want to give our little ones before they grow up and leave the nest.  

The hours we stay up instead of sleeping may lead to a great memories for our kids.  Memories of perfectly-packed school lunches with little notes, or that mom’s cookies were the hit of the bake sale, or that mom was always, always at their bedside when they were sick.

And I think that if you ask any mom if she would trade the beauty of what these late hours accomplish for a few hours of sleep, she probably wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Do you find yourself skipping sleep to catch up on things you need – or want – to do?  Leave us your comments.

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