Moms and sleep deprivation are synonymous




How many hours of sleep does a human need?
Honestly, how many hours of sleep can a mom get by on?

After too many nights of  interrupted REM cycles, I’m walking around feeling like a zombie, like my eyes should be on pain killers or something. Because between getting home from work, shuffling the kids off to bed, then nursing an infant who keeps waking up through the night (God, she has been teething for months), then waking up to get my son ready for an early school bus … I need a sleep vacation, somewhere with a hammock and hopefully swaying palms and endless pineapple-coconut mojitos. I also love ice cream, tangy flavours.

Apart from students who have been pulling all nighters to study for exams or finish a project, mums are the other category of people who walk around permanently thinking, “I need to sleep. Where can I lay my head for 10 minutes?”

I;m quite an easy parent, which basically for me means that I do not sleep train my children, neither do I let them self comfort. My philosophy is that they are small only so long. And as long as they are small and need me, I’m gonna be there for them. Consequently, my children love waking up at night for cuddling and night time feeds. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost two.

Now how do you reconcile years of interrupted sleep and someone who loves her sleep? I have always been that person who tends to need more sleep than others. Well, I also sleep later than most people (My energy starts peaking at 6pm :-)) but getting out of bed in the morning has never been easy.
As a kid, I wanted to be grown up so I would never have to wake up early again to go to school. Oh, life’s irony! Someone forgot to tell me you grow up, get a job and live in the city- and now you have to wake up early to get to the office and to beat crazy Nairobi traffic.
My high school favoured me in that we had no morning preps (does God answer prayer?), and in college I gained quite the record of the chic who shows up for an 8 oclock at 9am.

I know there are insomniacs who cannot sleep for more than five hours, just by their wiring. Reason lends that there are others at the end of the spectrum who need more than the prescribed 7.5- 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. I think I fall squarely in that category.
Now writing that makes me feel guilty. Why do we look down on sleep so much as a culture? People can surely get an ample night’s sleep and still be billionaires, right?

To be honest, although I have always needed an alarm clock to get out of bed, I never really missed my sleep until I got kids. Now, I just stumble along with bloodshot eyes, fantasizing about Saturday mornings when I can sleep in — only for me to be woken up at 6am sharp by a pre-schooler who will only watch TV if mommy switches it on. I will sleep when they go to high school!

My friend told me the other day that she has been unwell, has this headachae that wont go away. She is a mother of a three-year-old and an 8-month-old.
My first question was: “Are you getting enough sleep?” To ask a mom that is  an oxymoron.

A research done in the UK by Mother and Baby magazine found out that most mothers are getting by on five hours of sleep a night and are so exhausted that they profess to not enjoying motherhood.
Up to 82% of working mothers admitted a lack of sleep affected their performance and output at work and 55% said tiredness made them irritated with their baby.

The survey found mums only got an average of four hours sleep a night during the first four months of their baby’s life.
Once their baby reached 18 months, they still only average five hours a night.
Those over 35 suffered most from devoting their energies to family life while holding down a career – 90% said their relationship had been badly affected, with 70% going off sex and 92% “feeling wrecked” at work.

Another recent study shows that four 10 to 15 minute sleep interruptions in the night are enough to leave people groggy and grumpy because a full night’s sleep that is interrupted can be as bad as getting only half a night. So if you slept eight hours but woke up four times to breastfeed, you are as good as the dude who slept at 3am; cruel.

Not that men always have it easy. There are days when the children are unwell and keep us awake through the night, sleeping at 4am; then precious dear has to be up at 5.30am, and get through the day on one and a half hours of sleep.

Lack of sleep does result in grumpiness, being less gracious, more impatient and more selfish and a poor worker.

Want to be a better spouse, worker, colleague? Get proper sleep.

But how, seriously, unless you can sleep train your infant to sleep through the night? And how do you make your child sleep through the night when really that is the only time you get to bond with the tot and catch up on breastfeeding now that the rest of the time you are either stuck in traffic or are at work?

I miss my sleep. But I wouldn’t give up being able to prepare my son for school for my pillows. Neither would I give up those late night feeds when my daughter’s mouth reaches out for my breast like a heat-seeking missile before she dozes off again, satiated and sweaty. I will sleep when she goes off to high school.

You know you are sleep deprived when:
1. You are looking for a dark corner during the day to catch some Zzzz just to stay awake.
2. You fall asleep in warm places like stuffy Nairobi buses, lecture halls, and churches.
3. You doze off while watching the TV or after hitting the couch.
4. You need an alarm to wake you up in the morning.
5. You hit the snooze button regularly.
6. Just getting out of bed is a chore.
7. You are out cold within five minutes of hitting your pillows.

Yep, that’s all me. How did I become “those people” who fall asleep in matatus?

I need a sleep vacation. Somewhere where the leafy palms swing. Oh, I forgot. I am a mom.


Your personality is not a fluke

I am an INFP. I am an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiver. You can google the Myer Briggs personality types to understand what that means but in summary, I am energized by being quiet and reflective; I process information in an abstract, imaginative way; I like freedom and spontaneity and I am an idealist who is concerned with meaning and authenticity.

A lot of times I feel as if my personality is a weakness I need to overcome. Now, why would such an awesome person as described above feel like this?

Society has roles and expectations for us and sometimes when those expectations collide with what we feel inside (especially when you are an INFP) that pressure can stifle your creativity and leave you feeling stressed, suffocated, inauthentic, out of touch with yourself and rebellious.

I have been feeling like that, a lot. But by reading up on my personality I understood why I view the world the way I do, why simple things bring me so much joy, why my values are different from many peoples’, why I am driven by the things that drive me.

INFPs pride themselves for authenticity, creativity and spontaneity. Having understood that I realise that God did not set me up for failure by making me crave quiet personal space, meaningful relationships, flexibility and purpose.

But, is there ever a reason to overcome that which is inherently you to survive economically, socially and politically or do you trust that there’s a reason you are the way you are and that there is a task that, only you with with your unique wiring can perform perfectly and excel at? Do I need to be outgoing to be successful? Do I need to think and work like others or can I run through life dictating my terms?

Research points out that extroverts are among the highest earners in any industry and often rise to the helm of their organisations because they love leading, love attention and can marshal troops. So what happens to those who do not care to lead or be led? What happens to those who would give their craft for free and be happy than work for profit-minded organisations that are ruining the world.

I wanted to teach myself to be “extroverted” but really, at the end of the day I just want to go home and sink into my little world and be happy with my husband and kids. I can be rational, but inherently, I feel first. I weigh with my heart. I hate routines. I hate schedules. Crowds and strangers drain my energy. I thrive where there is no structure to my day, to pursue whatever tickles my fancy at that moment.

I care deeply about stuff. I hold strong values and ideals. I don’t cross some lines, ever, and if I do I will retrace my steps back. My family comes first; I never really appreciated how having a husband and kids would change me, my priorities and values.

I like to work on things I believe in. My work needs to reflect my values and be able help other people. My career is more than a job, it’s an extension of me. It’s almost a mission. It needs to flow with the rest of my life seamlessly, and needs to count in the bigger picture of: What on earth I’m I here for? I guess it’s true INFPs often feel like they are on a crusade.

I am optimistic, purpose-centred, service-oriented and a solution seeker. I trust God in all things and I expect to see Him move.

I have a rich inner world that may not be obvious beneath my cool exterior. I feel strongly, and this gets me scared. I notice small details that most people will miss out. I will pick up vibes and emotions that many are ignorant to. I discern needs quickly and I’m a quick judge of character.

I love personal growth, so I read a lot, or watch TV programmes that teach me new things, skills, ideas. I thrive on theories, ideas and possibilities, just. May be some day I can be able to use all that information meaningfully. Most times it helps in my writing, making me less ignorant.
I also like spurring others to grow and to be themselves, unique as they are. I am a firm believer in being true to yourself. Why be a cheap knock-off of someone else? No wonder I love Steve Job’s quote:

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I used to day dream a lot when I was younger. May be those fantasies can make a novel or short story. Now I got my head out of the clouds, but I still think about beautiful places and gorgeous photography, and rolling on the grass downhill with my kids.

I dream about planting a flower and herb garden and watering it; watching it grow. (Oh, I have one on my balcony). I dream about sleeping outside on a warm night, watching the stars with Mr M (as long as there are no crawly or slimy things. I hate slugs).

But that “P” in my personality is what I have been struggling with most professionally. As a perceiver, nothing is cast in stone. Not even rules. I go with the flow. I desperately desire flexibility and autonomy. I don’t mind a little chaos; but who pays freewheelers? How do you run a business when you get bored by mundane tasks, hold non-breakable ideals and are uncomfortable discussing money?

In the midst of this season, God has been teaching me something. My interests are not a fluke. My personality — he created it to reflect his glory. He knew me. He made every part of me; not a single thing is hidden from his sight. No detail in my life is by chance. Not even the troubles I have gone through. He planned it all for his purpose. Nothing in life is arbitrary.

The world does need people like us, who think about ideas and information (Introversion), deal with possibilities and potential (iNtuition), make decisions using subjective values (Feeling) and use a flexible workstyle, that goes with the flow (Perception),

There is a task out there that only I can perform because of the unique experiences I have gone through, my unique desires, interests, hopes, ambitions, dreams and passion. My spiritual gifts, skills and personality equip me for a task that I will love, will be great at and that will give me the freedom (financial and otherwise) and fulfillment I need.
God made me this way. He means to use me this way. I will be fruitful and effective at my mission (and I use that term rather loosely here) because that’s why I am the way I am.

That’s not to say I am settling for mediocrity or making excuses for not trying harder. But I discovered we can be too hard on ourselves, always pushing ourselves towards more without pausing to actually live in the moment, serve where we are.

So suppose you are a control freak? You can work on relenting control but there are situations in life that need people like you. Suppose you are perfectly comfortable following orders and not asking questions? The military could use people like you. Impatient people make things move. Zero-tolerant people are the ones we need leading major organs in government. They may get to everyone’s nerves (I’m thinking Nancy Baraza), but they deliver structures for governance.

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all.”

God’s the only one who is not deterred by our weaknesses; He uses them for for his glory. When we are weak, His strength is perfected in us. Where we fail, His grace abounds. If we were strong enough, good enough, then we would never need a saviour.

Yes, I have major challenges keeping time. I do not like taking orders or giving them. I procrastinate a lot. I don’t care for superficial relationships. I can be aloof and stubborn. I get bored easily. I have many brilliant ideas and hardly much follow through.

Many times I am nearly giving up on myself. But God doesn’t give up on me. So why should I?

Can I be happy? Will I find what which I am great (or can be great) at? Do I know what drives my passion? I seek, I listen, I obey. I know God makes all things beautiful in his time.

Here are links to free personality test or  this: Free personality test

Share with me what you learn.