Some of us worry too much, have stressful business deadlines to meet or the constant demands of young children.  Some have a crazy party up-all-night lifestyle.  One thing we may all have in common at that time?  Lack of sleep.

“Sleep is a natural state of rest for members of the animal kingdom.  Although we are still not entirely sure of how sleep works, nor are we convinced that we understand all of the functions of sleep, scientists have become convinced that sleep is necessary to survival.”

I have had an emotional roller coaster of a few weeks.  Most of it made up of worry and concern for my friends.  Some of it worrying about the future.  My mind has tired me out. With trying to manage my family and have this worry load up my backpack I was starting to feel run down and for me, the signs of a sore throat are a sign of needing to rest.  So I did.  I took up napping again, even if only for 40 minutes (my longest was just over an hour!)

I am thankful that during this last week my 10 week old baby has started to sleep for longer during the cold dark hours.  It is amazing how a good night’s sleep is all you need to hit your reset button and recharge.  I notice my mother-friends Facebook Status Updates often have a sleep related comment…and it is rarely about getting enough!  In my mothers group last week the topic was sleep.  The Community Nurse talked through how our babies need to learn how to self-settle and get through the various cycles of sleep, instead of waking often and appearing to only catnap.

So the topic of sleep and rest was coming at me from all angles.  This led me to wanting to find out more about why we all need so much sleep.  Call me the scientist for a moment.

There is Rapid Eye Movement sleep and Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep.

NREM sleep has 3 stages:

  • the light jerky – jump out of bed like you just fell down a hole sleep stage
  • the sleep spindle stage next makes up 45-55% of adults sleep, digesting all the new information we have taken in and generally a tranquil stage of sleep
  • the last – slow wave sleep – is the deep sleep we have and can also be the heavy sleep that should not be interrupted – you feel groggy like jet lag.   I was woken by my baby during this sleep every night until recently.  I felt heavy and disorientated.  Hearing her cry but taking a while to stir and realise it was really her crying. Some people sleep walk here or have night terrors.

Then there is also REM sleep

  • The eye twitching – eyes to the sky – dream state – this accounts for 25% of sleep.  I was amazed to learn about some bodily paralysis – so you do not act out your dreams while sleeping….could be interesting with some of my dreams!

Sleep deprivation can also be known as sleep debt.  This tickles me as I refer to my bed as the Sleep Bank.  I make deposits as often as I can in order to make those urgh-awful withdrawals during the cold dark nights to feed Evie.  Not getting enough sleep reduces your ability to think logically.  Your cognitive functions slow and take a sabbatical leaving you feeling shattered and clumsy.  Perhaps impatient, tearful, ratty and generally a cranky old cow should feature too.

So how much do we need?  For adults it would seem that some can survive on 5 hours a night and others need 10 hours minimum.  For me I am an 8 hour kinda-girl.  Newborns?  18 hours a day.  My 2 year old – apparently 12-15 hours a day.  Did you know that the longest someone has stayed awake is 11days?  That is no sleep for 10 whole days!  Nut job.

So it does not matter whether you are losing sleep because of children, worry,  business deadlines or the party lifestyle. Investing in a nap is a good thing.  Getting to the stage 3 NREM sleep is necessary.  Do everything you can to rest.  Otherwise I guess you need to prepare to crash and burn and that is when your body forces you to rest by wrecking havoc with your immune system.

Question is – what do you do to survive? Here are a few of my recent experiences:

  • Nap – if it is at all possible
  • Coffee – Strong, large cap’ thanks.
  • Water – probably should go hand in hand with coffee!
  • Exercise – has that crazy way of making you feel awful in the run up to doing it but great after – if only for a while.
  • Sugar hit – sweet tea, biscuits, choc fix
  • Fresh Air – driving and sleep debt do not mix but sometimes you just got to get somewhere – so I open all the windows to blast me with oxygen
  • Sunshine – can just perk you up momentarily
  • Have a meltdown – insist husband comes home from work and retreat to in-laws for an uninterrupted child free sleep!

How do you do it?

I realise as I write this blog post that I packaged my 2 year old off to sleep early tonight as he only had a 1hour nap during the day today.  My husband, having had a boozy night last night and afternoon of golf today is snoozing in front of me, and my baby is out like a light in her room.  Everyone is sleeping except me!

Night night.




Wikipedia is a great resource and helped me write this post