The New Yorker just ran a three-part series on sleep. In part three, “The Walking Dead,” author Maria Konnikova writes:
If you sleep six hours a night for twelve days, [sleep medicine physician] Adusumilli says—and that’s about how much many Americans sleep all year round—your cognitive and physical performance becomes virtually indistinguishable from that of someone who has been awake for twenty-four hours straight. (The same effect is produced by six days of four-hour nights.) And the performance of someone who has been awake for twenty-four hours straight is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.1 per cent. In other words, “normal” amounts of sleep deprivation have us acting like we’re drunk.
I’ve very rarely had a six-hour stretch of sleep in the 8+ months since Cameron was born. And I’m not really whining…it’s pretty much par for the course when you have a baby. Right? In our culture at least, I think. But the article really reasonated with me because this week I hit a breaking point. I felt exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew that Cameron didn’t really need to nurse in the middle of the night any longer. It’d become a habit. For both of us. He’d cry sometime between 10pm and 5am, and I’d stumble down the hall and nurse him until he went back to sleep. But sometimes he’d be annoying about it. He’d wake up multiple times a night. He’d wake up at 4am, 5am, and 6am. Not. Cool. At all.
This past Wednesday morning he woke up at 4am and we did our usual thing. But after eating, he wouldn’t go back to sleep. He cried. Dan went in to soothe him. He cried more. I tried to soothe again. But he wouldn’t sleep. He didn’t go back to sleep until 6am.
That, I decided, was my out. We’d already “let” him cry for 2 hours, so we might as well build on the momentum? The next night, we had a detailed plan in place: when he woke up and cried, Dan would go in and soothe him after 5 minutes. Then 10. Then 15, 20, 30. It was go time.
But you know what? We haven’t yet implemented the plan. For the past two nights, he slept from 7 something until dawn (that’s early, since it’s summer, but still) without anyone going into his room. And not an ounce of milk. Maybe he just needed us to have a little faith in his skills? To let him do his thing? Maybe I just needed to tune him about a bit more? To get my sleep?
Who knows. But, I’m feeling optimistic. I need more sleep to be a better wife, parent, daughter, friend, teacher, human being. I don’t want to walk around acting drunk when I’m not. That’d just be silly.
Fingers crossed. Baby sleep is a beast.