In a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more Americans are getting less sleep. In fact, 20 percent of Americans say that they are sleeping less than six hours a night. When I read the results, I couldn’t help but wonder how many moms were included in the poll because God only knows that us moms get little sleep every night.
As the evening approaches, I ponder if maybe tonight might be the night that I will have uninterrupted sleep. The answer is usually no, and of course, every night is full of surprises. Baby Ava wakes up and wants to nurse at midnight, the 4 year old Elissa wants to snuggle at 2:00 am, the 6 year old Caterina had a bad dream and wants to sleep in our bed at 4:00 am. I feel like I’m sleepwalking from one room to the other until I eventually stumble into my own bed to fall into a deep sleep and suddenly awaken by my oldest daughter Viana at 7:00 am to start the day.
Don’t you remember those days in high school, especially during summer break or on the weekends when you would go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 10 am or noon. What a luxury! Then one day, you fall in love, get married and have a beautiful newborn (or two) and realize that you will not sleep the same ever again – at least not consistently. You are waking up every two to three hours; dark circles appear under your eyes; you don’t remember when was the last time you took a shower. While the experienced mother tells you, “don’t worry, it gets better.” You think to yourself, “it’s got to get better cause I’m not sure how much longer someone can go without sleeping.” If you are lucky, the baby starts sleeping through the night. That’s great news except that once the lovely baby grows and sleeps longer, you still have to tackle the kitchen, the family room and the laundry and attend to the other children. You might catch the news, check email (and the blog) and oh, pay attention to your husband. You’re exhausted. You look at your watch – it’s 10:30 pm. Jump to bed, pray and go to sleep in two minutes (unless your mind is still racing).
So, how do we survive sleep deprivation and not just become one more statistic? Turn it all off. Schedule 15 minutes a day where you lie on the couch or in bed, close your eyes and empty your mind or pray. The same way that our babies and toddlers need to nap, we need a nap so that we can get through the rest of the day. My precious 15 uninterrupted minutes usually starts after lunch when my 4 year old Elissa is quietly coloring or watching Baby Einstein and baby Ava is taking her nap. It’s quiet in the house, and I don’t check email or pick up the mess. I just lie down and rest. For working moms, this could be challenging, but the weekends are a great time to recharge and take your 15 minutes (or more) on Saturday and Sunday. My advice is to guard your schedule!
The Bible makes it clear that we need to take time to rest as a way to restore and recharge our bodies and souls. In Matthew 11: 28, Jesus said “come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” As mothers, we carry a heavy load with all the joy and struggles that come with it. Listen to our Lord’s words because He wants to help us with our workload and make sure we take the time to rest.
Mercy Viana Schlapp is a mother of four daughters, political commentator and co-founder of Cove Strategies, a governmental and public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.