“You look tired.”
Duh, I am fully aware I look tired. I was made aware that I am tired by the difficulty I had dragging my big butt out of bed this morning after getting up 12 times last night. But thanks for noticing. I am the one who finally made it (late) to work and is crouching over the coffee pot smelling will-power steam up towards my face while silently appreciating that maybe this is the closest I have ever been to a spa treatment in years.
Perhaps, you too have been told you look tired. I am not always sure what the point of this comment is and am probably guilty of making it myself from time to time. Needless to say, I don’t file it under “winning” when this is the only conversation starter that comes to mind when people look at me.
Sleep is so important in all phases of life, but I think it takes on new importance when you become responsible for the life of another person. When I was in college, I remember complaining about having to “pull an all-nighter” because honestly, I was a horrible time manager. Seriously, if I could go back in time and shout some sense into that 21 year old who regularly chose to stay out late, pretending to be a creature of the night, and then would end up loudly sleeping through her Dynamics class, I would.
Over time your perspective changes, and the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation start to become apparent. I remember being told when I was pregnant with my first born that, “You should enjoy it now, You won’t sleep once he is born.” I guffawed. What was this lady talking about? I hadn’t slept well in months, constantly waking up to pee, so swollen and achy and unable to self-medicate with Ibuprofen or alcohol… ha! Well, yes, the sleeplessness starts far before the baby is born, but that is really just the tip of the motherhood sleepless nights iceberg.
Prolonged sleep deprivation is used as a tool of torture for a reason. The first signs of sleep deprivation, according to Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D, a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California are, “unpleasant feelings of fatigue, irritability, and difficulties concentrating. Then, problems with reading and speaking clearly, poor judgment, lower body temperature, and a considerable increase in appetite. If the deprivation continues, the worsening effects include disorientation, visual misperceptions, apathy, severe lethargy, and social withdrawal.” Or to those of us in the trenches of toddlerhood, the definition of a “tired mother.” Seriously, a considerable increase in appetite? I knew there was a reason I can’t stop stuffing my face.
There are countless studies to support the detrimental effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, but most parents don’t need a scientist to show them how a continued lack of sleep affects their judgement. They see it in themselves everyday. And so, I thought I would give you a few examples of these effects, as told by the mothers in my life in true Jeff Foxworthy fashion.
I give you, “You might be a tired mother…”
- If you have ever shown up to work wearing two different shoes… You might be a tired mother.
- If you ever opened the refrigerator and wondered why you are keeping your son’s football cold… You might be a tired mother.
- If you ever got to the register and wondered what crazy person has been sneaking items into your shopping cart, just to realize you are the crazy lady who commandeered someone else’s cart six aisles back…. You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever broke every known traffic law in your race across town to get to your kid before pick up, just to realize when you get there you don’t have enough car seats… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever spent 45 minutes searching for your keys just to realize you left them in the car, with the ignition running, two hours ago… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever called the police to report your car was broken into, but thought it odd nothing was stolen, just to realize it was you who left the driver’s side door wide open… You might be a tired mother.
- If you regularly deliver milk to your husband in a sippy cup… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever had your toddler wake you up to put her to bed… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever waved to your friends inside but failed to open the sliding glass door before walking in to meet them… You might be a tired mother.
- If you regularly lose your phone while you are talking on it and search for the glasses on your head… You might be a tired mother.
- If you can’t figure out why the clicker on your keys won’t unlock your office door… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever driven 45 minutes to your house, just to realize you moved out of that house 6 months ago… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever freaked out because your car window was broken, just to realize you had rolled it down… You might be a tired mother.
- If you refer to a doorway as a magical object because every time you walk through one the thought in your head as to why you are there disappears… You might be a tired mother.
- If it took your child sticking their head over your head rest and asking, “Hey, what cha doing?” for you to realize you forgot to actually buckle them in… You might be a tired mother.
- If your husband asks if something is up because after 3 years of marriage you started signing your old last name again… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever tried to report a car stolen when you came out of the store to find it missing and then realized you just forgot what you drove there… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever had your boss point out your clothes are inside out and backwards… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever forgot the fundamental operational procedures necessary to make a pot of coffee… You might be a tired mother.
- If you have ever struggled to buckle tired kids into the car seat after a long shopping trip and got home to discover you left all the groceries in the cart… You might be a tired mother. But at least you didn’t forget the baby!
All joking aside, even if you are getting sleep, but not sufficient sleep, the negative, long term health side effects are far-reaching. Insufficient sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, decreased immune function and hormone imbalance related to metabolism and stress response. Getting adequate sleep during this phase of your life will influence your life expectancy and health, decades from now. So, put the coffee down and try not to scoff when the nice old lady tells you to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” and go get some rest!