Chronic sleep deprivation is an insidious enemy. I average 4-6 hours of shut-eye a night; fifty percent of that time is interrupted. My (then) three year old son has some “issues” and awakens each night demanding to sleep in my bed.
"My bed is uncomfortable, Mommy. There are bugs biting me."
"Can I have a bowl of cereal?"
And, "Mommy, you are a princess so I need to sleep with you."
I know the last premise sounds like a heartbreaker, but not at 3 o’clock in the morning. At that hour I fantasize about throwing him out the window! As a mother, I have never welcomed a child into my bed to sleep. Cuddling on a weekend morning is fun, but tiny feet kicking me in the face while recharging dead batteries is seriously not a good thing.
The curtain closes on this song and dance around 4:45am. At that precise moment, I finally enter into my best, most relaxed sleep state. Ever. And a mere hour later, the Nazi-alarm orders me up.
The first three days out are exhilarating in a delusional-kind-of-way. I am a warrior on a survival mission in the Brazilian Amazon. I am convinced the need for sleep is “psychological.” I chug coffee like water and brag about being a crusader. The adrenaline and caffeine blend together beautifully to fuel my tank and keep me going all day and all night.
Then something happens. And changes.
Today is that day--- day four of this simulated warfare. Something snaps and I turn into my worst nightmare. Blindsided by my body's abrupt defiance, I am clumsy, uncoordinated and irresponsible---stumbling about like an incapacitated drunk. My judgment begins to fail. I left the house this morning with the patio sliding glass door wide open. The other day, while running a previous sleep deprivation marathon, I left the toaster on all day with two solid-ash bricks inside---what had become of two innocent slices of wheat bread.
My neck stiffens and cannot be turned in any direction. Migraines swallow me around 2am and will not dissipate until 8 hours and 6 ibuprofens later. The sore throat I had ten days ago shows no signs of abating as the R & R it required was never granted.
I feel short-wicked, mentally sluggish and am in a haze. No hangover ever felt this dreadful.
Despite this gradual deterioration of my body, mind and spirit, I wake up with instant (nervous) energy and fight hard not to drag myself about. I've got a lot of people to look after. There is no option. I cannot submit.
And just after lunch time, another transformation takes place. I morph into a sloth. My body in all its innate intelligence, begins shutting down.
Oh, how I long for a helping hand--- preferably one skilled in the art of Swedish massage or acupuncture. What I wouldn’t do for an hour alone in a jacuzzi, lay-down on the coach or an Asian pedicure.
And, now that this day is coming to a close and the kids are finally out of gas, in lieu of diving into bed only to be gobbled by pillows, I hit the computer and press on.
Am I screwed up or what?
How does slow-brewing chronic sleep deprivation affect you and your family?