Did you sleep well last night? It’s been a bit hot so I’m guessing perhaps not. How does that make you feel the next day? Do you cope well on less than eight hours quality sleep or does everyone around you have to give you a wide berth if you’ve had a rough night.
We are very privileged to own a motorhome. It was a big splash out investment pre pandemic which sadly hasn’t been used ‘on the road,’ as much as we would have liked due to the travel restrictions of the past year. It has however proved a great asset as a place of escape for my husband to study or to get some sleep during the day when working night shifts.
Getting undisturbed sleep feels like a real luxury in our house. We have a three year old and a two year old and although Isaac has fairly consistently slept through since about 16 months his younger brother Toby often still needs resettling at least once a night and sometimes more if he’s having what I assume are nightmares.
During half term we took our motorhome away for a week in the Cotswolds. The boys have bunk beds at the back and Mike and I have a bed that lowers from the ceiling. We try and stick to bedtime routines as much as possible because staying up late on holiday just doesn’t work for us. It doesn’t work for us because no matter how late the boys go to bed they still wake up early and if they don’t get enough sleep we have grumpy kids and that results in grumpy parents too.
When I say the kids wake early – I mean really early. A 6am start is fairly normal for us but in the motorhome it can easily be 5am. Toby stirs and probably at home would cry out and go back to sleep but in a different place calls out for mummy or daddy. As quickly as I leap out of my bed and get to him he’s already woken himself up completely and his brother and so that’s that – the day has begun!
There are advantages to being up so early – often you can witness a beautiful sunrise and listen to the wonderful bird song without the other noises of the day intruding. You can also get in the campsite showers before it gets busy or get your washing done and hung out before you go out for the day.
But it’s also just a tad exhausting especially if we’ve been up in the night too. Motorhome holidays although great fun are not restful. Even back home I crave a good nights sleep and even more a decent lie in. I woke up at 6.10am yesterday morning and neither child stirred until 6.50am. And that felt like a luxury!!
I’ve always been someone who needs my sleep and my lymph glands soon flare up and ache if I’ve got too overtired. Grumpy mummy (and teary wife) is also more likely to make an appearance when I’ve had a run of bad nights. However I’ve also discovered once again that I’m more resilient than I sometimes give myself credit for.
Cancer treatment was incredibly sleep disrupting with high doses of steroids each cycle. Pregnancy caused nightmares in my first and second trimester and huge discomfort in my third – they try to tell you it’s just preparing you for lack of sleep when the baby comes but I think it’s a design flaw – surely being well rested would be much better preparation. Then two little ones born fifteen months apart mean that even when they do both sleep through, I don’t, because there’s a part of me on alert waiting to respond to their cry.
Often when I’m awake in the night I talk to God – I pray. Sometimes I’m sure I talk absolute nonsense to Him because I really am only half awake. Other times though, it’s a precious moment to ask God to come close to and give sleep to others that I know might also be awake in the night; looking after babies, facing illness, or knowing the pain of bereavement. Sometimes I’m thanking God for the day just gone and sometimes asking Him to be with me when the sun comes up, giving me the energy and patience I’ll need in the face of tiredness. Sometimes I’m thanking him for the beautiful child I’m settling back to sleep and sometimes I’m pleading with Him to get my child to sleep for me as I’m so desperate to get back to bed.
And my God who never ever needs to sleep hears my every word, comprehensible or not, and cherishes the fact that in my sleeplessness I’ve chatted with Him.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”Psalms 121:1-8 NIV
It feels like a very long time since I slept really well. And yet I’m doing okay! Yes I might have some days when I’m far from the happy smiley person I’d like to be because I am so very tired but I still get my boys up, dressed and fed and do the same for myself. We still go out for an ‘adventure’ each day or I get them to nursery and myself to work. The food shop gets done, meals get served to the dinner table and we have clean clothes to wear. Although I sometimes feel vulnerable I haven’t had a mental health crash or had to take medication for my mental health for nine years.
I’ll always need to accept that I need a decent amount of sleep to function well. And frustrating as it is to me, I suspect my mental well-being will always be more vulnerable if I don’t care for myself and get too overtired. But having said that I am definitely capable of far more than I would have ever thought possible in the past.
I’m still going to keep reminding God though of one of His promises.
“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for foodr to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”Psalms 127:2 NIV