Did you know that May was Better Sleep Awareness month? I certainly did not. I didn’t even know a specific time had been set aside to raise awareness of the importance of getting better sleep. Most people don’t consider if their sleep is good, bad, or something in between.
Life can move at the speed of light, and tired becomes your go-to response when asked, “How’re you feeling?” This is particularly true for women with school-age children.
My youngest daughter will be fifteen in June, and my eldest just turned twenty in October of last year. Suffice it to say, I no longer have children who require me to monitor their bedtimes or when they wake up in the morning. However, I remember when they were all in elementary and middle school…I didn’t know if I was coming and if they were going.
Between working as a high school English teacher, playing driver, nurse, assistant, wife, mother, chef, maid, and suburban socialite, I couldn’t tell you if anyone in my family was getting the quality of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. I never even thought about the quality of our sleep.
I was just happy when all my girls were down by eight-thirty every night. Accomplishing that gave me permission to give myself a pat on the back, a glass of my favorite red wine, and permission to sit with my e-reader for a little while.
It wasn’t until I was told I had narcolepsy with cataplexy, that the quality of sleep became more important than how many hours of sleep I got each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.” Most people don’t even realize they’re included in that number. How is it possible to have a sleeping disorder and be completely unaware of the problem?
Ten Statements Women Use to Discuss Personal Sleep Hygiene
- I wake up tired, stay tired all day, and I’m still tired when I go to bed.
- I have the hardest time falling asleep, even though I’m exhausted when I climb into bed.
- I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but find myself waking up a couple of hours later; unable to get back to sleep.
- I’m completely wiped out by two in the afternoon.
- I find it difficult to concentrate or pay attention because I’m so tired.
- I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep and woke up feeling refreshed and rested.
- When my children get older, I’ll get better sleep.
- I’m so stressed out, it’s no wonder I can’t get good sleep.
- I can’t seem to turn my mind off when it’s time for bed.
- When I’m trying to go to sleep sometimes, it feels like if I don’t move my legs around, they’re going to fly right off my body.
Mothers, we’re notorious for normalizing daytime sleepiness, fatigue, bedtime issues, waking up issues, feeling foggy issues…you name it, and we’ll blame it on being a busy, suburban mom. Or we’ll talk about the various social committees we’re on and how there’s always a bake sale, carwash, or fundraiser going on. How we’re still trying to find the work/life balance when both areas are so demanding.
I get it! I was the exact same way. We tend to accept being tired and worn out as a simple fact of being householders. But sleep deprivation is not normal, and more importantly, it can be detrimental to mental, physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual health.
Getting better sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
After being diagnosed with a severe form of narcolepsy with cataplexy, I became the warden for sleep hygiene in my home. And also, pretty much anybody else’s home who would listen. I researched everything I could about healthy sleeping habits and routines. and it’s a good thing I did because a few years later, my youngest daughter developed Kleine Levin Syndrome and Sighted Non-24, two of the rarest sleeping disorders in the world.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought.
Life is not meant to be difficult. The moment we give in to the natural currents flowing around us, stop fighting against the tide, we’ll find our own natural rhythm and timing. One of the easiest and kindest acts of self-care you can give yourself is creating and maintaining consistent sleep hygiene.