Ever since my adolescent years, I have been a huge fan and advocate of sleep. In high school, I would look forward to an afternoon nap and sleeping in on weekends. In college, my love of sleep and napping grew stronger. When my roommate and I would have the expected late nights, we would make sure we caught up on our sleep the next day. We even crafted our own creative “do not disturb” signs for our siestas on the white board that hung from our dorm room door. Post-college working life and motherhood did not change my feelings towards sleep. I now just have to be a little more creative with when I find time to get it.
My sleep habits have often left me to be the butt of jokes amongst my friends. When I was working and would have a day off, a common welcome back question would sarcastically be, “Did you have a nice nap yesterday?” I am often tagged in sleep memes and jokes on Facebook, such as, “I like big naps, and I cannot lie” and “The 30-day napping challenge: Are you up for it?”. My relationship with sleep has never been a secret.
The connotation of someone who enjoys and indulges in sleep is that they are lazy. I have often felt ashamed to fess up to nap-taking, especially now as a stay-at-home mom. Since I am no longer “working” (don’t even get me started!), I feel guilty to admit to my husband and my working friends that I was able to nap on a given day. Everyone knows moms of young children struggle to get enough sleep. Infant feeding schedules, chasing toddlers and completing household chores can leave little time to catch some shut-eye. It is almost expected that moms be sleep-deprived. It is commonplace to find moms of young children comparing how little sleep they got the night before. In fact, it is seen as a badge of honor of sorts – less sleep equals harder working.
As someone who loves and desperately needs sleep to function, I have to disagree with this way of thinking. Early on I realized running on little to no sleep would not work for me, so I found a way to supplement the lack of nighttime rest. However cliché, if I am tired, I do sleep when my children are sleeping. I know this is easier said than done. There is always laundry to do, toys to be put away and rooms to be vacuumed. To me, those things can wait because I prioritize my sleep.
Sleep is a natural function that is necessary for a healthy, productive and happy life. Sleep replenishes physical strength, spiritual energy and emotional immunity to face the day ahead. I have always believed that everything seems and feels worse without sleep. Emotions are more raw and decisions are more difficult to make. I have found that sleep allows my mind and body to “regenerate” to its full potential.
If I do not have enough sleep, I am not the mom or person I want to be. I am irritable and have less patience. I do not accomplish things that I need to do. I do not feel well physically, and I am generally unhappy.
On the contrary, when I am well-rested I feel good and have a more positive outlook on life. I have more patience to handle the expected challenges of motherhood. Daily tasks seem more manageable and I have the motivation and productivity level to get the important things done. For me, sleep is an integral part of self-care.
We’ve heard a lot in the media recently about different ways society chooses to shame people. It is often talked about that we are shamed for the size and shape of our body or certain choices we make in life. No one talks about sleep-shaming, but it definitely exists, however subtle it may be. Let’s stop mocking and instead start to value and encourage better sleep habits.
Sure, my house is not the cleanest on the block. I am never caught up with the laundry. My windows cannot star in a Windex commercial. Yes, my “to-do” list will always have things on it, but I make an effort to get the sleep I need to be my best self. If everyone was well-rested (children, mommies and politicians alike) I am sure the world, and our homes, would be better and happier places.
[This post has also been published on The Huffington Post, Sammiches & Psych Meds and The TODAY Parenting Team.]