My Sleep “Diet”

Let me see if I can find an appropriate adjective or term to perfectly describe my mood the last, oh shall we say, two and a half months?

Beastly?
Bitchy?
Grumpy?
Irritable?
Blech?
Rageful?

All of these words totally work, and yet they don’t seem fully accurate. There must be a better term to describe someone who wakes up grouchy (after being pounced on numerous times by the kids), grouses through the entire morning routine, hardly smiles, barely laughs, and always yawns. Oh wait, wait, I got it…

SLEEP DEPRIVED!

Yes, that is just the term to describe me this entire year of 2014 thus far. Massively, utterly, sleep deprived. For the last few months, every night I crawled into bed tired and yet unable to fall asleep. I stared, and stared, and stared at the blinds hoping that my mind would stop racing and that it would catch up to my beyond exhausted body and shut down for the night.  But it didn’t. So instead, as my husband snored away next to me, blissfully asleep I just lay there and watched the clock get closer and closer to 11:00 and then 11:30 and then midnight. This would be “manageable” if my boys didn’t wake before the birds; if they didn’t get up to pee at 5:30 every morning and then play loudly in their rooms until 6:00. Five and a half hours a sleep with four energetic boys to parent is just not a good combination, except of course if you are creating a recipe for disaster!

As more and more weeks passed under these circumstances, I found my mood increasingly worsening and right a long with it, my desire to yell increasing. I of course just assumed that my increasing desire to yell had to do with other things that had nothing to do with sleeping. (Why I assumed this I have no idea since I discovered early in my challenge that I need sleep to be civil!) Yep, I assumed it was because of the extra snow days, the extra pounds from said snow days and my inability to exercise from my injury, and the extra stress from other areas of life.

Until one morning.

I came down with the boys and started to prepare breakfast. Before I knew it, a raging feeling roared inside of me, screaming to get out, pushing me to yell bloody awful things at my kids. To be fully honest, the intensity of the emotion scared me – not because I feared I would go ape shit, but because I felt in that moment that I had no control over my body. I had no reason to be angry with my boys; they were being quite peaceful and well behaved actually and yet I wanted to bite their heads off. I felt like my body was on fire, totally off balance and unable to chill the f… out! I felt totally hormonal…wait, I felt just like I did after every single one of my boys was born and I was getting exactly zero sleep!

sleep like baby

A light bulb went off and I realized that all my crappy, I-just-want-to-yell-because-I-have-no-patience-or-tolerance-at-all-right-now feelings were being driven a lot by massive sleep deprivation. I realized that I was working overtime to “Yell Less and Love More” wasn’t because I didn’t know how to not yell, it was because I didn’t have the energy or the mental capacity to keep myself as cool, calm, and collected as I need to be in order to “easily” yell less.

I realized that my sleep deprivation had to be solved, ASAP.

I was miserable, my kids were miserable, shoot, I am fairly certain everyone in my life was miserable with my sleep-deprived state. Sleep deprivation blows – I know I don’t have to tell you that. So instead, I will tell you what I am doing to kick it to the curb because as you also probably know, it is a huge trigger for yelling! So, here you go!

A few days after my lack of sleep epiphany, I went to my doctor.

“Doctor, I can’t fall asleep at all! I have bags under my eyes, I am constantly grouchy, I don’t like who I am right now, I need to change, now! Please, help!”

She offered this…

“You have insomnia, again. We need to battle that directly. What do you do half an hour before bed?” she asked.

“Honestly? I am on Facebook, aimlessly reading and reading and reading the same stuff over again. Or I am on People.com looking at all the ‘beautiful’ pictures. Or I am on Weather.com praying that it doesn’t say ‘Winter Storm Warning’ again. Or I am watching television or emailing.” I answered.

What did she think I was doing?! Once the kids hit the bed, it is my time! I need to catch up on things, you know like who wore what to the Oscars (okay, I needed to avoid doing things I need to do because I don’t want to) but also I legitimately had emails that I needed to get to.

“Okay, that needs to stop. No electronics thirty minutes before bed. Period. Electronics just get the mind all wired. You need to use those thirty minutes to unwind; to get your mind to settle down. Just like you do a bedtime routine for your kids, you need one for yourself. ” she stated matter-of-factly.

“So, what can I do then? I have read that hot showers just get the body temperature up and don’t help one sleep. I don’t like warm milk and I don’t like tea.” I stated just as matter-of-factly, but also with a bitter tone, for certain.

“How about reading? That helps a lot of people relax.” She replied.

“Can I read parenting books?” I asked innocently…and hopefully!

“Not if they stress you out about how to be a better parent.” She replied.

Well, shit. Of course they stress me out – I feel like a super inadequate parent now (daily?!) and am reading parenting books to find out how to be better and apparently, there is a lot I can be doing “better.” And double shit, the only time I have to read them IS at night and I like reading IN bed. Feeling totally screwed and out of options, I sarcastically, yet totally seriously asked,

“Okay, so what do normal people do to relax? I don’t know to relax. Seriously.”

She laughed at me (politely-ish) and suggested I try puzzles or folding laundry or tidying up the house. She also suggested that I write down everything that is on my mind so it doesn’t hang out in my mind while I try to sleep AND she suggested I write down all that I DID accomplish that day so that I don’t worry at night about all I have to do. She added the session with some “wise” words,

“The bed is for sex and sleep only. End of story. Do not get in the bed except for those reasons. If you don’t think you’ll be able to fall asleep, get up and get something done. Do not get into bed without winding down – you will not sleep well.”

Knowing how miserable I have been in my sleep deprived state, knowing how much I have been frustrated by how hard I have had to work to not yell, and knowing how much I preach “take care of you so you can yell less more easily,” I took all her words to heart and left her office promising myself that I would take care of me.

The results are clear.

The nights I unwind per her advice, I sleep phenomenally and wake up rested and able to tackle the day and have much more positive, fun-filled, loving days.

The nights I don’t, eh hem, like last night, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and start the day hundreds of steps behind my kids and the entire day is an uphill battle.

So on that note, it is 9:23. In seven minutes I need to stop all electronics and fold laundry and write out my accomplishments/to-dos. This by the way has worked – and felt – wonderful!

Sleep deprivation blows. Often time it is unavoidable. But I know I want to avoid yelling at my boys so I am going to keep on trying to get as much sleep as I can…both for me, and my boys.

Sleep tight everyone!

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12 thoughts on “My Sleep “Diet”

  1. So true for me too! Just an aside, your website set me on the path to being a happier parent. Two other things I love that you probably already do/read: meditation and Becky Bailey’s parenting books.

  2. I have been keeping a journal and have realized my lack of sleep is my number one trigger! This post helped me so much and I’m going to follow your doctor’s advice =) I’ve been doing the orange rhino challenge since 4/11/13. I’ve made it as high as 30 days with no yelling but have had a lot of “zero” days or restart days as well. I need to get back to reading your blog and keeping up with my not yelling plan.

  3. I agree 125% that sleep deprivation is kicking my ass. But I’m nit slept deprived because of insomnia – it’s because of my children. My five-year-old son wakes up screaming cause he’s scared, doesn’t want to be alone, who knows why.y 18-month-old also wakes up, teething or stomach / feeding issues.

    So I’m tired. Exhausted. And feeling sorry for myself.

  4. You know what? I also had the sleep epiphany. I realized that pretty much 100% of what I wanted to change in my life could be traced back to sleep.
    -yelling at my kids
    -gaining weight
    -not having time or energy to work out
    -unable to plan ahead for healthy and interesting meals and shop for ingredients
    -get the kids to school on time rather than barely in time.
    -find time to meditate and/or do yoga in the morning
    -read more
    -journal more
    -look better, feel healthier
    -pretty much everything.
    Your post about starting the day grumpy SO resonated with me. One thing I’ve also found helpful is a morning mantra I wrote about the importance of my role as a mom — my kids do as I do and say as I say, so starting my morning with the INTENTION of being patient and kind is key.

  5. Half an hour before I saw this post I had cried and cried and did eft etc on myself wondering what the hell is so wrong with me that I cant cope at times…I cant believe I read this as thats exactly whats wrong with men today and yesterday. I too was up late on computer last night. Thankfully I conked out but I went to bed too late……Its incredible how the lack of sleep can consume us. Thankyou for this post. I hadnt thought that it could simply be about being exhausted…….your an angel

  6. You are too funny…love your sense of humor & your willingness to be honest & real. It’s nice to be able to think that I’m not the only one who struggles with this job of “mom”. It’s the hardest job to feel bad about when I know the stakes are so high. Thank you for your blog. You are a breath of fresh air and a wonderful inspiration.

  7. As I start my Orange Rhino Challenge today, I am certain that this is probably one of the biggest factors that contribute to my yelling at my kiddos. I love all the advice/tips in this article. I will use this post to better prepare myself for the challenge ahead. Thanks Orange Rhino!!

  8. Ok, I feel like you are me and I am you. Or….You are privately stalking me!!! HA! I am not sure how so many mom’s can feel the EXACT same at the EXACT same moments?! My 9 year old daughter told me at our “snuggle” time, which hasn’t been “snuggle” time because i have been a raging b**ch lately, that she was getting ready to turn 10 and she really didn’t need snuggle time anymore. This hit me harder than any moment in my life thus far!! WHAT?? You don’t need our beloved snuggle time anymore??? But I DO!!! I asked her this morning if that was really what she meant, said yes w/out a pause….She is slipping away from me and I am stuck in this horrible, evil, exhausting mood all of the time. I have to get out of it!!! Sleep deprived, marriage is non-existent anymore, who the hell am I (and you would think at 39 you would know who the frick you are)….all of these emotions are taking over. But, with all of these crappy feelings, it is still good to know that i am not alone, and i am the only one who can change things. So thanks, I appreciate the back up!!!

    • Angie I know exactly how you are feeling…you could have taken the words right out of my mouth…you are not alone. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thank you for making me feel normal. I’m totally going thru this right now and I hate myself when I have that bubbling rage inside of me for no reason and take it out on my husband and kids. I have really enjoyed this blog to find ways to help me be a better mom. I pray that I don’t screw my kids up so they need therapy when they’re older. I’m so guilty about reading for an hour or hour and a half before bed. So I will have to change that and learn to wind down. Thanks!

  10. You know, “they” (whoever “they” are…) have always said that people should have a cozy chair of some kind in their room to keep them from sitting on the bed to do things. Personally, this has never been a possibility for me, but maybe I can make it one in the near future. After reading your post, I realize that I need to leave my bed of sleeping only! No more crafting, homework, or job searches while in bed…NO WONDER I’m not sleeping well…

    Thanks for sharing this post! It was great! And very helpful!

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