As I begin typing this post it is 9:15 on Sunday night. And if I’m being really truthful, I’d rather be turning out the lights. Alas, I have made a commitment to post here and so I will stay up and blog. I make this choice in part because I don’t like flaking out on blogging, and in part because my ambivalence about writing right now is opportune because I’d rather be sleeping, and the topic I’ve chosen to explore is sleep.
Sleep has been on my mind a lot lately – largely because I’m not getting enough of it. By the time I went back to work after my first pregnancy IEP had dropped back to one overnight feeding. He was a quick eater and I was typically only out of bed for 15 or 20 minutes and the whole thing was quite manageable. SSP, on the other hand, is still waking up twice each night. Like his brother he makes quick work of it and goes back down easily. Nevertheless, there is something about getting up twice that feels more than doubly disruptive to my rest.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that last week was National Sleep Awareness Week and the interwebs were crawling with articles pounding my tired conscience about the importance of sleep. And on top of that, we sprang forward yesterday, robbing me even more of my rest. (Thank you, Huffington Post, for rubbing salt in the wound.)
So here I sit, wishing I were asleep, but yet with my eyes fixed on a glowing screen perched on my lap. And I’m not the only one plugged into something other than my pillow Computer – and countless other similar gadgets – are slapped with much of the blame for our overall reduction in sleep. In prior articles I’ve read about sleep I’ve learned that in pre-electricity eras only true insomniacs were sleep deprived. With electric lights to extend our waking hours, televisions to keep us company in the evening, and smartphones buzzing next to our heads all night long (for the record, my BlackBerry does not sleep on my nightstand) it really shouldn’t surprise any of us that sleep is seen as such a valuable (and hard to come by) commodity these days.
Here, though, is my beef with modern sleep deprivation: isn’t it largely within our control? Can we not choose to adhere to a bedtime (as Gretchen Rubin suggests)? Can we not opt to avoid rich and heavy meals late at night that keep our bodies from settling down? Can we not really walk away from Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest even 30 minutes earlier each night? I recognize that there are people for whom sleep deprivation is not just the byproduct of silly choices. For some people – for those who work multiple jobs, or work night shifts, or travel extensively, or have children with sleep problems – sleep deprivation is a harder problem to solve. But for most of us – myself included – a groggy morning is something we could have prevented with better decisions the night before. And this matters, because for many people there are more serious health consequences on the line than just a groggy morning.
It is now 9:40. I need to let the dogs out, move some laundry to the dryer, and get into my pajamas. If I want the lights out by 10:00 I know that this post needs to draw to a close quickly. Ten o’clock is later than I like to get to sleep, but per my own inadequacies it’s par for the course around here. I’d do well to take my own advice – particularly until SSP starts sleeping through the night.