What is Your Body Telling YOU?

As I ran into a mommy friend of mine recently and asked how she was doing, she remarked that she was dragging and exhausted.  I replied back that I could relate. In fact I felt the same she did way last week, the week before, the week before that and beyond!  Why don’t I feel like a walking zombie this week?

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Whether you work outside the house, work at home, or stay at home to care for the kids, there is just never enough time to get it all done and fit it all in.  My mother always told me that if I am not healthy, well rested and taken care of, no one else will be in my family, and she was right.  Moms, we know we are the cement holding it all together and if our structure is week, it WILL crumble.  We know it’s important to eat healthy and get plenty of sleep but we push the envelope to fit in that last load of laundry at night, pick at the kid friendly and parent unfriendly leftovers as we clean up the high chair, stay up to read the trashy magazine we bought at the market, check our e-mails and social media accounts just one more time before we shut our eyes, and hold our eyelids open to sneak in an episode of our favorite reality TV show.  First it becomes an extra 1o minutes, then 30, and eventually turns into an hour (if not more) beyond when our bedtime should be.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was closing my eyes at 12:30AM and waking up at 6:15AM, which is definitely not enough sleep.  Add in three little kids, a business, a traveling husband, activities, carpools, mounds of laundry and meals to cook and clean, and it’s a recipe for disaster.   I first noticed my eyes felt like suitcases and probably looked that way too.  Then I noticed my eye site was a bit blurry and I was really clumsy.  I could barely think and felt like I was a walking zombie all the time.  This was my body telling me to slow down, take a rest and take better care of myself.  I ignored my body and kept on going full speed ahead.  The other day, when my son was napping and the older boys were in school, I was so exhausted that I actually felt no other option than to lay down, which was odd for me.  I have never been able to be a “nap while the baby naps” kind of person, and am a horrible napper to in general.  Before I knew it, I had passed out.  In seven years of raising children, I don’t think I have EVER taken a nap when my kids were asleep.  My body was begging me to re-evaluate my schedule and basically took over and shut me down.  When I woke up, I was confused at first and then thought I had slept through the time I was supposed to pick up my kids.  Luckily I only slept 45 minutes but my body was thanking me and I already felt like a new woman.  Studies show that sleeping less than 7-8 hours daily impairs alertness and is associated with increased obesity, morbidity and mortality. Despite this fact, up to 40 percent of Americans sleep for less than the recommended time per night.•

tired 1Before this awakening (literally), during the day I would promise myself I would close my eyes at 11:00PM at night but it never happened.  It was always, 10 more minutes, which turned into an hour and then some.  When that clock hit 11:00PM, I would get anxious and realize I should be going to sleep, but my mind was telling me to stay up.   I created a sleep anxiety which I didn’t even know existed.  Here is the definition: “Many people have at some point or another suffered an acute condition of sleep anxiety. Sleep anxiety is when you find yourself so anxious that you will not be able to sleep that you enable a self-fulfilling prophecy. You lay awake watching the clock, watching the minutes and hours of sleep you wished you were getting tick quickly by. The more you worry about not getting enough sleep the more anxious you become. The more anxiety you have in your system the least likely you are to be able to fall asleep.”**  Yes, this was exactly what I was going through and it made me feel better I wasn’t alone.  I think part of it was the fact that my house was quiet at night, everyone was safe and sleeping, and no one needed me for anything.  What mom wouldn’t want that to end?  As mentioned, I have never been a great sleeper to begin with and I am definitely not one of those people who lays down in bed and passes out.  In fact, I am jealous of them (my hubby being one….I swear he could fall asleep standing up), as I have spent many nights staring at a wall, even as exhausted as I was.  Since I was holding down the fort while my husband traveled and had to be alert if there were any nighttime emergencies, I could not take sleeping pills.  I had to find another way.

I was faced with a dilemma though.  I knew there had to be a shift in my sleeping patterns, but how?  The first thing that I knew I had to reason with was my television.  According to research presented at Sleep 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, television watching may be an important determinant of bedtime, and may contribute to chronic sleep debt.*  There are numerous studies about how television can affect sleep and they are not positive.  I finally decided to dust off the book I purchased six months ago and dive in.  I also began reading more magazines and newspapers at night, which I found helped me relax and actually made me tired.  I had to promise myself I would follow a new schedule and stick with it.  I would turn off the television at 10:30 and read until 11:00PM.  I also purchased a sleep sound machine which mimics the sound of waves, which I love.  So far, I have lived up to my end of the bargain and I have noticed a huge difference in myself.  I am able to think more clearly, function better, be more patient, and actually be more productive.

My body was definitely telling me to make a change and when I listened, it was a happy body.  Not only have I changed my sleeping patterns but have taken off some of the pressures I have put on myself as a mom.  Do I have to be doing something useful every minute my son is napping during the day? No!  Do I deserve a break to relax, eat my lunch and read a magazine? YES!  Can that e-mail wait until later that night?  YES!  Does my bed need to be made every day?  NO!  Can I leave the playroom a mess?  Yes!  Does my house need to resemble a museum every night after the kids go to sleep?  No!  Is the world going to explode if I don’t check my Facebook account for a few hours? No!  Do I have to try to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife and the perfect woman every single day?  No! No! No!  Is my body and my mind going to shut down if I don’t pay attention to what they tell me? YES! YES! YES!

What is your body telling YOU?