I had a two hour drive yesterday morning, once I had packed Joshua off to school, to a meeting. I enjoy driving and having that thinking space in the car too, I have had many of my best ideas while driving! I start my journey enjoying the music of Radio 2 but then after 9, I swap to Radio 4 as I am ready for some words rather than music. I enjoy ‘Woman’s Hour’ and was looking forward to hearing the feature about the impact of sleeplessness. It was just starting as I arrived at my destination. The trailer suggested that it was going to give me some advice as the mother of ‘an older disabled child’ but in reality, it focussed primarily on mothers of new babies. A professional was in the studio recommending that new mums relax and sleep during the day, while their baby naps.
But this is not practical advice for me, a working mother of a 14 year old with disturbed sleep. Joshua is either ‘all or nothing’ with his sleep; I did not see his eyes open at all last night as I got in from work at 6.30 and he was already asleep in the armchair. I ‘sleep walked’ him into bed later and he is still there now 11 hours later. But just as easily it could be one of his nights when he stays awake all night or when he wakes up at 1.30am or 3am!
I left for work at 8.30 as soon as Joshua had set off in his taxi. After a bad night’s sleep, I aml usually fine with baggy,closing eyes but I tend to be more alert in the morning and it is around 3pm when I get unbelievably weary. In fact, even yesterday, when I had had 5 hours sleep, which is my norm, I had to stop off on my homeward drive for a short nap. The advice on the radio was to limit the nap to 20 minutes, to avoid getting into deep sleep, and that was all I needed to top me up and continue my journey back to the office for another 2 hours of work.
But sometimes, particularly if I have had no sleep at all, I need a couple of hours’ sleep to stop my legs from shaking and my head from banging. Those power naps allow me to be able to carry on. It has become part of my life and I guess with almost 15 years’ practice of disturbed nights, my body has adjusted well. The radio programme reassured the new mothers that their sleepless nights would gradually improve, so it was a short term crisis and one that they could develop coping strategies for. I found myself shouting at the radio as I sat in my client’s car park; The discussion did not explore my perspective at all and nor did it offer me any of the promised for advice.