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?
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…
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!
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!