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Who ever invented the admonition “Be sure to get your beauty sleep”, wasn’t the bent stepmother hocking a poison apple in Snow White after all.
And like her apple, there’s more to sleep than meets the open eyes.
Yet, I’m fascinated by how, over the years, the various talking heads on TV have tried to capture our fleeting, tenuous romance with sleep as if they actually knew something about it.
Lindsay Wagner (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Lindsay_Wagner) may have had her winning ways as Jaime Sommers, a typical 1970s TV poster girl debutant in The Bionic Woman (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Bionic_Woman), but I doubt even her biggest fans were sold on today’s bionic bed ads as a cure-all for sleep deprivation.
Besides, midlife mom’s “sleep number” has nothing whatsoever to do with a bed—it’s the number of nightly hours we spend dreaming about sleep as we wade through a sea of untended laundry to wash up the congealing snack plates in the kitchen, and start slinging sack lunches for next day’s school.
The closest we get to romance is watching Sleepless In Seattle (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B0000AOV4I?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0000AOV4I) and wondering what happened to the era of nocturnal ice cream sorties with calories that didn’t end up taped to our rear ends.
The truth is that sleep deprivation is well known to be de rigueur for parents of small children—recognizable by their unfailing tendency to complain of it rigorously at every opportunity to pin down an ear with a working drum.
However, the reality of sleep deprivation for midlife mothers is more gruesome still.
Until now, I never understood the dramatic appeal in a story about how a group of individuals crawl through a tiny door and into a hole in man’s brain to experience “being John Malkovich” (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WebkvBKdgUI) while retaining their own consciousness. It didn’t seem relevant. And I worried about people who thought it was.
But now I do. Yes, I do understand.
I woke up one morning last week—before the crack of dawn as usual—crawled through the tiny door of my bathroom, switched on the light, peered into the mirror, and screamed.
I had immediately launched into my own reality TV version of Malkovich:
Being Walther Matthau’s (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Walter_Matthau) Twin Sister.
On the heels of that, came panic. I raced to my computer oracle, Mr. Google, and began simultaneous multiple searches like a modern middle aged Alice who had just fallen through the looking glass into an aberrant dimension.
What potion had I drunk? (Me and Walther Matthau’s twin sister wanted to know.)
The truth, when I found it, became a bad dream. A really-bad-dream.
At worst, (and ultimately), prolonged and extreme lack of sleep is potentially fatal. You’d think it would get better after that, but it doesn’t.
Aging is associated with increased lack of sleep or insomnia. Conversely, lack of sleep (or insomnia) is associated with accelerated symptoms and signs of aging.
And that’s just the cake.
The icing gets laid on with the early child rearing years, which are commonly characterized by lack of sleep. And then the old cherry: middle age (especially for women) is when all of the wheels start falling off the wagon because there’s less estrogen to hold the old cart together.
But wait, we’re not getting off that easy. There’s a virtual dessert bar of sleep-deprivation ailments to feast upon.
A June 2009 study published in JAMA (http://www NULL.sciencedaily NULL.com/releases/2009/06/090608162428 NULL.htm), showed that middle-aged people who are deprived of sleep are more likely to develop hypertension and heart disease. And more recent research suggests that midlifers heed the scary portents of “sleep deprivation might lead to Alzheimers. (http://www NULL.mentalhelp NULL.net/poc/view_doc NULL.php?type=news&id=122351&cn=12)”
Sleep deprivation is now known to make us fat (http://www NULL.usatoday NULL.com/news/health/2004-12-06-sleep-weight-gain_x NULL.htm) because it stimulates our hunger hormones—people on less than 5 hours sleep are nearly 75% more likely to be obese than those who sleep longer.
And severe sleep deprivation is also known to cause metabolic and endocrine changes that “mimic the hallmarks of aging” (http://chronicle NULL.uchicago NULL.edu/991202/sleep NULL.shtml) as well as “hasten the onset…and increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes…and memory loss.”
Far from Washington state—we’re ‘sleepless in a cycle’: Lack of sleep also increases stress—likewise, stress enhances insomnia. They have a co-dependent relationship that makes for ugly morning wake-ups.
Plus, aging means that sleep starts getting as elusive as a wet dream.
In a nutshell, midlife motherhood means that getting enough sleep is going to be critical to our health, longevity, and ability to cope well. We can’t afford burn the candle at both ends and burn out.
Therefore, me (and Walther Matthau’s twin sister) have a message for our midlife mom sisters: When it comes to “vital” nocturnal housework like sewing a name label on little Caleb’s raincoat, just say NO!
And even if the mountain of smelly laundry shuffles over to you like the steaming “Horta” in the original Star Trek series (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=39roz9jQfzE), defending her subterranean hatchery, just set your phaser on stun. Leave the dishes in the sink, write a list of “To Do’s” for tomorrow and go make love to your bed. It’s lonely.
Need a little help from your friends on lowering the lids?
- Get the kids to bed early enough to allow yourself time to do some jobs, as well as wind down for the evening. (8.00pm is the rule at our establishment).
- Set a regular time to go to bed for yourself and stick to it—I experimented last night with getting a fully bloated six hours sleep and actually woke up without straw falling out of my ears.
- Exercise during the day.
- Drink chamomile tea, warm milk, proteins, or foods with tryptophan (eg. turkey) in the evening.
- If your brain is in overdrive, keep a notebook by your bed and journal your “to dos” or any concerns (which always loom larger at night).
- If you’re looking for the “hard stuff”, you can buy Melatonin (http://findarticles NULL.com/p/articles/mi_m0815/is_7_30/ai_n14839650/), a synthetic hormone, over the counter.
- Spray Rescue Remedy Sleep (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B000OY51GU?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000OY51GU) under your tongue before getting into bed.
- My tried and trusted natural sleep aid is Tension RX Nighttime (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B000QSMNB0?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000QSMNB0)
Please speak to your doctor or naturopath before taking herbal medicines.
With special thanks to Homeopath, Lorraine Stern, CCH, for her input on some Survival Tips. To contact Lorraine: Website (http://www NULL.centralcoasthomeopathy NULL.com/). Email. (sternlorraine null@null gmail NULL.com)
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