It’s 5 a.m. and my son, Everest, should be asleep in his own room.
Instead, he’s next to my bed, looming over me like a three-foot menace, pulling my eyelids open with his grubby little fingers.
When my eyes finally snap into focus and lock on his face, he says, “Oh you awake, Mommy?”
No, Mommy not awake. Mommy very much not awake. Mommy opposite of awake.
And this is how I’ve been drifting through the past couple months. When I’m awake, my eyes feel like they need to be propped up with toothpicks, like a drowsy cartoon character. And when I’m asleep, I might as well be awake. Because no matter what my body is doing, my mind remains aware of the fact that I will soon have a tiny dictator poking my face, demanding cereal.
I had no idea it would be like this. When Everest was an infant who began sleeping through the night, I thought my own sleep woes were over. Ah, sleep! Reunited, and it felt so good.
Then Everest grew into a toddler, so now we just have new and different sleep woes. Irregular and inconsistent naps! Night terrors! Stretching out bedtime! And the one that’s really breaking me down, the toddler who waddles out of his room at random times and refuses to go back to sleep.
I was curious how my sleep habits compare with those of other people, so I tracked down the Sleep Census, conducted by Sealy, which analyzed the sleep of people in five areas (South Korea, South Africa, Australia, China, and the UK).
The research estimated the worldwide “sleep debt” – that is, the amount of sleep people need to function mentally and emotionally the next day, minus the actual sleep they receive each night.
For instance, in the UK, men lose an average of 28 minutes of sleep per night, which makes for a sleep debt of 5 days every year. Women, on the other hand, lost an average of 56 minutes each night, creating a sleep debt of 10 days per year. No wonder I’m so tired!
Most of those people -- 76 percent -- said their lives would benefit from additional sleep. (No idea what’s up with the remaining 24 percent, but clearly their ability to reason has been affected by a lack of rest.)
As for me, I know my life would benefit from consistent sleep, so I need to figure out how to get there. I’m going to try one of those light-up alarm clocks, which should let Everest know when it’s an appropriate time to get out of bed. And I’ll keep trying to return him to his own bed, though in the middle of the night, sometimes I’m too exhausted to even stand up. And if those tricks don’t work, I have no idea what I’ll do next. (He has to grow out of it, right?)
Because if I don't snooze, we all lose.
Creative Commons image by Donnie Ray Jones; infographic by Sealy.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.