This will run in the July 26, 2007 issue of the Alameda Sun
To Sleep, Perchance to… not be Cranky in the Morning
According to a report published by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) a few months ago, 60 percent of the women in America don’t get enough sleep. Working mothers and single, working women are at the top of the heap for lack of REM, with 72 percent and 68 percent respectively, stating that they experience sleep problems.
Hel-lo! They think this is news? Where have they been for the past 13 years of my (and all the women I know) life?
Yes, NSF’s 2007 Sleep in America poll, which focused on the sleep habits of more than 1,000 women aged 18 to 64, stated the obvious: most of the women in America just can’t seem to get enough sleep. Based on the results of this study, regardless of demographics, if you are a woman, you will experience one or all of these afflictions at one point in your life: insomnia, sleep deprivation, drowsiness during the day, the need for either—or both—caffeine to keep you awake or sleeping aids for the opposite.
I am sure there are polls of men who say they don’t sleep either. But the NSF focused on women this year (last year it was teens), so I don’t know about the opposite sex. And, based on personal experience, I would venture to guess that women, due to the combination of age, hormones, stress and motherhood, and the fact that a majority of the moms, whether married or not, after they get their kids off to day care and school every morning, pull themselves through eight hours of a full-time job, only to come home and resume their second full-time job, are just plain exhausted. NSF calls this last demographic “Briefcases with Backpacks,” which means they are professional, working women with school-age children at home. Although I can relate, technically I don’t fall into this category because 1) these women are married and 2) I don’t carry a briefcase.
I never really slept that much. In my single days, I considered a five-hour night sufficient for being a functioning human being the next day. There was just so much fun to have in my waking hours! I never pulled all-nighters; I knew that I needed some rest, just not as much as the rest of the world. While my mother espoused an early-to-bed, early-to-rise mentality, my father was a night owl, and I seemed to have acquired his genetic makeup. I can still call him at any hour of the night to talk. Recently, I was horrified to realize that when left to my own devices when I don’t have my girls, I have his exact, very strange, sleeping patterns.
When my girls were babies and toddlers, I longed for sleep. “So much fun” had quickly shifted gears to “so much to do.” I suppose starting off with twins and then another two years later didn’t help, but I keep thinking that they will grow up and I will be able to sleep again, when I am past both the fun and the work and the worry of motherhood. When I am old. But when I look at my Dad’s (and now my own) sleeping patterns, I feel even more tired. And, according to the NSF poll, it will not get better for me. The report states that postmenopausal women suffer the highest incidence (50 percent) of a sleep disorder. It makes me think of that old adage: Sleep when you’re dead.
I try to promote my mother’s sleeping philosophy to my three school-age girls, because I know it would be healthier for all of us, but I am failing miserably. It seems they have inherited those Shalvoy sleeping genes, too. It doesn’t help that the three of them are headed into the unwieldy, vampire-ish world of teenagers, who love to stay up all night and sleep all day.
I’m hoping that our impending vacation will help me get some rest, but I doubt it. The girls and I head back east for a non-stop, action-packed, activity-filled couple of weeks. My sister has promised some much-needed downtime at her place in Vermont (there’s nothing to do there, she has assured me), but I can’t help thinking that sleep will continue to elude me. This time, though, I will be able to blame it on the “so much fun to have” attitude. I’ll sleep when we get back.
[The NSF study is a fascinating read.