When I was growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of sleep. I can remember being seven years old, and being in bed at seven o’clock. Granted, that was a bit early–it was still light outside and I could hear other kids outside playing–but now that I’m a parent, I understand why. They needed a break, and they also needed to be able to get me up in the morning.
As I got older, our entire family always kept a strict sleep schedule. My parents were in bed, lights out, by 10 p.m. every night. I was allowed to read for as long as I wanted, as long as I was in bed. To this day, I still read every night before I go to sleep. It calms me down. It’s part of my routine.
In university, I would often opt for a full nights sleep over studying. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter. I knew that if I didn’t know it the night before the exam, I wasn’t going to the next day. Without fail, that full night of sleep allowed me to perform better than most of my classmates on every single test. I’ve never failed an exam, and to be honest, I really didn’t study all that hard for most of them. Hell, I didn’t even go to most of my classes.
Okay, maybe I’m like super smart (I’m not). I was rested. I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed when (if) I went to class every morning. Now, granted, I’m older than dirt and when I was at university, we didn’t have iPhones, or backlit Kindles, or any of those new fangled gadgets that pour out blue light that the kids today are using. I was also young. I could get away with more than I can now. When I say I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, that only pertains to studying. I have stayed up many a night drinking and partying. But usually not on a school night–and certainly not when I had an exam the next day.
As soon as I got pregnant, my sleep quality changed. It’s so friggin’ ironic that everyone was giving me advice to “sleep before the babies come!” when I was so damn uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep at all. When the kids were born, I was up every two hours to feed them. Naps during the day weren’t an option. When the kids got bigger, and started sleeping through the night, I found that I couldn’t anymore. I constantly woke up. It had become my new routine.
There was always something happening at some point in the night: a screaming child with a nosebleed, another who wet the bed, a bad dream, you name it. I was so busy during the day that I was going to sleep much later than I was used to, just so that my husband and I could have an hour or two to ourselves after the kids went down. To watch a grown-up TV show. Even if I was exhausted (always the case), I ignored it. That was our only alone time.
My children’s sleep schedule was fan-freakin-tastic. In bed, asleep, every night by 7 o’clock. The problem is, they also got up super early, and that meant I had to get up too. Going to bed late, being woken up during the night, and getting up at the ass crack of dawn to screams/mayhem really started to take its toll.
Sleep was one of the things I reclaimed first. I knew how important it was, and how it affected every aspect of my life. I took my Vitamin D first thing in the morning, as that improved my sleep. I minimized blue light exposure at night and made sure to get sunshine during the day. Things were okay for a while. However, after the treadmill incident, newfound stress and anxiety set in, and my sleep quality diminished again. I would lie awake in bed for hours, something that had never happened to me before. Not a single night in my life had I experienced insomnia before I started suffering from PTSD. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. If I was given the opportunity to sleep in, I usually wouldn’t, even though I was exhausted. I didn’t want to, but I dragged myself downstairs to make coffee anyway. Because if I got to sleep in, that meant that my husband didn’t. And that made me feel guilty.
Staying at my parents house for several weeks before I started this trip has made a world of difference. I have full-time support with the kids, something that I’ve never had before. My mom gets up with them every single morning, but I’m finding that I’m also happy and rested enough to get up too. Knowing that the kids aren’t sneaking around downstairs emptying out bottles of medication into their tiny mouths (something that has happened three times) and that I could sleep all day if I wanted to has made all the difference in my mood when I do wake up. I didn’t need to feel guilty, because my mom’s an early riser and is up when the kids get up anyway. It took about a week for the morning panic attacks to subside, but with each night of sleep I got, I felt better.
So why do I need sleep on this journey? To be honest, at the time I wrote that original post and included it, I wasn’t expecting it to be this easy. I knew I needed to reclaim my precious sleep again, and thought I would need to spend days out in the woods to reset my circadian rhythm. I’m still going to do that, but it turns out that having loving support has been the key. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about that support, or as I call it: Attention.
[box]Please support me on my journey by purchasing a copy of my Magical Multipurpose Paleo Dough Recipe. It’s well worth the four bucks and your donations will help greatly as I strive to find balance, relief from anxiety, and a way back home.