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.