Monday, December 9, 2013

Sleep debt

The sweet embrace of sleep could not hold him...

I read the Iliad in college and what I remember most about one of the world's truly great epics is sleep.  Throughout the poem the characters seem to have sleep thrust upon them (or are tricked into it) rather than choosing to go to sleep.  Sleep is a god, a brother of Death, who can use his power at will, 'Sweet Sleep rushed to the Achaean ships, to inform Poseidon, the Encircler and Shaker of the Earth.  Coming up to him, Sleep spoke—his words had wings...' Perhaps sleep is portrayed this way because the Iliad describes a warrior culture where needing to sleep is considered weak.

Sleep is in very short supply when you have young children.  When they are babies they sleep in short stretches that eventually lengthen.  The midwives always tell new mums to get your rest and sleep when the baby sleeps.  That never worked for me because I could never predict how long Big One would sleep and just before she slumbered I would have consumed three cups of coffee to stop the near constant grogginess.  Luckily both Big One and Little One slept through the night right away so the stage of late night/early morning feedings and snatched naps was short. 

Now they go to bed willingly enough around 7 pm.  However, they have taken to waking up around 6 am - even on weekends.  Highly uncivilized.  My attempts to convince them that it is still night-time have not worked.

What I miss most about the pre-children era is the Sunday lie-in. I can no longer spend Sunday morning reading the Times (Yes, I know it's part of the diabolical Murdoch empire but I like their Culture section) in my pyjamas.  Once when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas, I described such a morning to him.  It was a great gift, as it wouldn't cost him anything and it was what I really wanted.  A look of pure terror crossed his face.  'Why don't I get you some jewellery instead?'  Hmmmm Koh-i-Noor diamond or a Sunday lie-in complete with fry-up?  The choice is obvious.  I’d like my eggs scrambled, please.

Lots of people think sleep is overrated.  Margaret Thatcher bragged that she only needed 4 hours of sleep a night and such brilliant thinkers as varied as Thomas Edison and Bon Jovi have pointed out that you can sleep when you're dead.  I can understand the idea of life being too short to waste but I don’t want to spend those waking hours feeling like I’m covered in molasses.

Parents with older children assure me that when Little One and Big One become teenagers that it will be impossible to wake them up in the morning.  So at least one aspect of the stroppy teenage years to look forward to... 

No comments:

Post a Comment