Scary stories from a lovely place
Everyone wants more sleep. Some crave it, medicate to get it. Those who who get plenty, want more. Too much is bad. Not enough is worse. None is horrible. Sleep is such a tortured, fractured thing.
Chaucer battled to find it – “Rest I ne wist, for there n’as erthly wight”. Keats wouldn’t shut up about it. He called it “fresher than berries of a mountain tree” and “More strange, more beautiful, more smooth, more regal, Than wings of swans, than doves, than dim-seen eagle”. But even Keats found it tricky, akin to “fearful claps of thunder”. And Virgil described sleep as the brother of death – perhaps because when one is chronically sleep deprived, death can look like a good option.
I’ve bemoaned before how sleep is a most-oft asked question about babies. Hearing “Do they sleep well?” or “does he sleep through the night” are more fearful to me than claps of thunder. Indeed I was at the supermarket the other day and a stranger asked me if my kids were ‘good’. I replied that, yes, they were pretty good, not really knowing what she meant. She then went on to tell me that her kids were good too, they slept through the night from 6 weeks old. So ‘good’ was the same as ‘sleeps for a long time’. I was going to change my answer, that actually my children are very, very bad. But it was none of her business.
Sleep is such a tortured state for little people. It seems as though kids desperately want to avoid sleep, and adults lust for more and more. This seems to me a flaw in the whole design of babies and parenting. Sleep is so valuable to little people’s brains, and yet it can be so hard to get them to go to bed! Kids should be allowed to stay up all night, and adults should get to have four day sleeps.
But the torture of sleep continues for adults. I was talking to a friend over the weekend who is desperately sleep deprived (even more so than me) due to babies and kids, but when it is finally his turn to go to bed he can’t sleep because he has struggled with insomnia for many years. Even when he is exhausted and hasn’t had solid blocks of sleep for days, it won’t come peacefully. Chronic insomnia must be such a horrible existence. It’s in experiences like this that I can see what Virgil meant, that sleep is the brother of death.
Someone in the know told me recently that it’s the first few hours of our sleep that are the deepest, and therefore the most valuable. Everything on top of that is more fitful, and so a bonus, or expendable. I guess that’s why I can push on with the activity of a day when I haven’t had more than 5 hours sleep in a row for nearly 2 years.
I’ve spent a good part of today thinking through our sleep issues and researching it on the internet (never a good idea). Sleep must be the most disagreed upon and most fought over part of parenting, but so vital to the kid’s well-being. The best stuff I’ve read on sleep are the Sears’ ‘The Baby Sleep Book’ and Robin Grille’s ‘Heart to Heart Parenting’. They are realistic, manageable and sensitive.
But they don’t give instant solutions. And maybe that’s because there aren’t any. People tell me it will get better, they will sleep through the night. I know that. I look forward to that. But I don’t know how I will make it. In the meantime, here’s to the madness of sleeplessness!