The Epic Battle with Sleep

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When I’m helping our newborn get to sleep, the routine is pretty much the same each time. After pooping, eating, and bobbling her head around for a bit while people talk and sing words to her that she doesn’t understand, she gets quite sleepy. But she doesn’t want to admit she’s sleepy.

The first stage along her routine for sleeping is denial. She tries to keep her eyes open wide, even though they are obviously looking heavier.

Then comes the stage of “Mommy I am HUNGRY! You will feed me again!” FEED ME!

This stage only results in her sucking on a breast or a bottle for a few moments and then spitting it out to bobble her head about a bit more, looking around as if she has been re-charged with her secret super-fuel.


But this super-fuel only lasts for a little while and then begins to wear off…

The next part of her sleep routine involves crying and moving her legs around a lot as if to say, “Mommy, I am in pain! It’s GAS! My diaper is uncomfortable! Bugs are crawling all over my skin! I’m being attacked by the cat and she has eaten one of my feet!”

But none of these things are usually ever happening. So, mommy straps baby into the baby-carrier in hopes of gently coaxing her to sleep with movement and “shhhh”ing. Baby seems to fully believe that being strapped into this contraption will help her stay awake.

It isn’t until she gets inside of it that she realizes that mommy’s seemingly evil “stay awake” device is actually a comfortable “fall asleep” device. Ah, mommy is sneaky, isn’t she little one?


It is at this stage in the fall-asleep routine that baby goes through all of the other stages in rapid succession, trying anything she can to make mommy believe that she is NOT sleepy and that some other issue is happening. She cries intensely, kicking her feet and screaming as if she is in pain of at least an 8 on the hospital pain scale. Then, her pain vanishes – and suddenly, she makes signs like she is ravishingly hungry, regardless of how much she has eaten- or spit up.  This stage is a lot like watching the movie “Underworld” during the points in the film where the humans turn into Werewolves.  It looks disturbingly uncomfortable and freakishly scary.

I’m just glad we’ve never had to go through this sleep routine in public. People would think I am starving the poor child.

She holds her head up, trying to keep her eyes open while mommy rocks her. Oh, evil, wicked mommy! Ignoring the cries of her little one! After about 5-10 minutes of baby giving every last effort to stay awake, she falls asleep. Of course, if mommy removes baby from the carrier, she will wake up…so in some way, baby still wins.

For some reason, people that are under a certain age do not like to sleep. When we were children, we would beg our parents to let us stay up later, even if we were exhausted. I remember the glorious day when my parents changed my bedtime from 9 to 10. It was like heaven opened up and showered me with an extra hour in the day. That’s right. Taking an hour of sleep-time and changing it to awake-time makes it seem like the day has more time! Brilliant! If we could only figure out a way to eliminate sleep altogether, we could have 24 full hours of productivity! Or watching TV, which is what I spent that extra hour from 9-10 doing during my entire childhood.

Occasionally, I would get permission to stay up much later than 10 because it was a holiday or a weekend. I remember mustering every bit of strength to stay awake as late as possible to relish in my small victory. But no matter how I tried, sleep always found me. I would try to keep my eyes open while watching the late night shows, but they would eventually become so heavy that I could no longer hold them.

This phenomenon seems to continue into our teenage years, where we want to stay out late and PARTY! Partying to me consisted of going to Wal-mart with my best friend and shopping for sexy underwear, roller skates, twinkies, and other dangerous things that our mothers didn’t want us to have. After all, Wal-mart is open 24 hours, and we needed a place that could stay awake as long as us. And we intended to be awake for a VERY long time. The description of a great night out was dragging ourselves to school the next morning and proudly declaring that we hadn’t slept at all.

We had cars, part time jobs, and the willpower needed to stay up forever. Our parents had to find us in order to make us go to sleep! Yay! Unfortunately, we soon learned that our super-fuel of cheeseburgers and Doritos would only keep us awake for so long. And though we would fight sleep with our late night runs to Wal-mart, K-mart, and any other 24-hour “mart” that wouldn’t throw us out, we always found ourselves in our beds sleeping occasionally. It was a tragedy. Sleep had won, even then, in the prime of our power against it.

It’s possible that college was created in order to make us want to sleep. It’s a huge underground conspiracy between parents. Why do you think parents want their children to go to college so badly? BUT, they make it look like they are helping us in the quest to stay awake.  They remove the obstacle of sleep-enforcing parents. They colonize us with other people that just turned 21 so that we can go out to all of the places that are open really late and are likely to keep us more awake than the flickering fluorescent lights of Wal-mart. They give us LOTS of homework, so that even if we thought about sleeping, we would stay awake to finish all of this WORK. Yay! Finally we win, right? We can stay awake forever!

Unfortunately, this whole situation is only a trick. At first, having a few adult beverages with friends seemed like a power-food that would help us to dance better, have more fun, be more confident, and stay awake all night. But after this initial burst of energy wore off, we soon discovered that we had ingested something similar to Superman’s Kryptonite.

Some students feel so sleepy that they can’t even stay awake long enough to get themselves back home. That’s why so many college students wake up in strange places after having a night out.

The idea that being around people your age all day will keep you awake is only a façade. Because in front of the rows and rows of fun people that might help you in your quest for ultimate sleeplessness is an old person. An old person that wants to teach you things. An old person that wants to teach you boring things.

They stagger these old, boring people with slightly less old, less boring people occasionally so that students don’t catch on to the underlying conspiracy to make them sleep.

example: “No, school isn’t boring! I have this awesome foreign language teacher.”

OK, so there is one teacher that doesn’t bore you to tears….

But most of the teachers are quite boring for a person who hasn’t slept. We were able to stay up for 48+ hours to party, finish our homework in the wee hours before class in the morning, gossip with a friend about another friend, and now, in less than an hour, this teacher is sending us into a state of grogginess that cannot be fought? It seems so unfair! The odd part of all of this is that in class, we are NOT ALLOWED to sleep.

The college classroom…It is the sleepiest place on earth. The opposite of Disneyland, which is the happiest place on earth – I suppose because there is plenty of bright, whirring, spinning stuff to keep us awake. But the college classroom, with it’s plain beige paint and boringly droning professor, is a place where you are NOT allowed to sleep. We try to stay awake by rapidly opening and closing our eyes. We excuse ourselves to go to the bathroom where we can splash water on our faces. Must stay awake! We make interesting doodles all over the sides of our notebooks in an effort to entertain ourselves into wakefulness again.

But in the end, we find ourselves thinking the worst and darkest thoughts…

After all those years of wanting to stay awake, we finally reach a point where we would rather sleep than endure the torture of academic boring-ness. We find ourselves thinking of our crappy little college dorm room cots, and how comfortable they look. I would compare this to how someone must feel when being tortured and death begins to look like a viable means to an end. It is then, in the torturous caverns of the college classroom, where we start making plans to sleep. But most of this sleeping happens during the day.

In our little pre-adulthood brains, we believe that if we are awake at night we will get more accomplished. If we sleep during the day, we won’t sleep for as long, but will be equally refreshed. (We think.) So, we live the life of vampires for a bit, taking naps during the brightest times of the day and going out at night to feast our little fangs on 24 hour drive thru foods.

After 4 years of torture from the academic system, this odd theory of “day-sleeping doesn’t count”, and the growing desire to sleep, we gradually begin to shift over to sleeping at night, and by the time we graduate from college, we are seemingly normal adults who recognize the need for nighttime sleep.

But until my baby has surpassed her own 25-year epic battle with sleep, she will be sleeping in the carrier…strapped to my body.

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