My Life With Super High Sleep Need

Looking back over the years, I cannot remember a time that I felt ready to face the day, any day, with less than 8 hours of sleep under my belt. And to be at my best, 9 (or more) is where it’s at.

What a good night’s sleep looks like for me. (Early morning get ups courtesy of Ben).

I have high sleep need.

And in case you haven’t noticed, our society doesn’t exactly laud great sleepers. In fact, in an era when self-care is the topic du jour and we, especially women, and even more so mothers are aware of how important it is to fuel ourselves to avoid burnout, sleep is rarely a part of the conversation.

When you require significantly more sleep than average in a world where 60 hour work weeks and productivity rule, well, you can feel like a loser (at least I do).

It has taken awhile for me to reconcile the fact that I’m never going to be one of those people who can be productive late into the evening and then get up early the next morning and hit it hard again. There was never any all night cramming for exams because I knew my rest was much more crucial than a few hours of additional review. And at this point in life, when many parents have no problem staying up until midnight or later waiting for their teens to return for the night, I am long since in bed before my daughter rolls in at night.

I have learned, when vacationing or doing fun things, that if I let my FOMO (fear of missing out) trump my sleep it ends in disaster. More often than not it’s a real bummer to choose between dedicating well over a third of each day to slumber or spend the time you didn’t spend in bed feeling like dog meat.

I have long envied people who thrive on 6, 7 or even 8 full hours of sleep, and wondered if there was some kind of secret element I was missing that prevented me from doing more with less in the rest department. I played with essential oils and supplements, both for rest and for daytime wakefulness and wasted hundreds of dollar. I used caffeine to offset the effects of my less than adequate time in bed and wound up jittery but still groggy. I have experimented with pillows and mattresses, trying to find the Holy Grail of comfort that would somehow make my sleep more efficient so that less would feel like more.

Nothing, absolutely nothing is a sufficient substitute for 8, 9 (or even more) solid hours in bed.

At the ripe old age of 44, after living this way for as long as I can remember, it stands to reason that it won’t change any time soon.

At the end of the day, high sleep need is a part of me. In order to care for myself, I need to honor that, and as an ongoing effort at self-compassion, acknowledging this as who I am and letting go of the notion that needing sleep is something I can or should fix has been a bit of a paradigm shift toward self-acceptance. One that is (as with most things in my life) long overdue.

My path toward self-compassion has meant recognizing the many ways that I am not a round peg in a world where pegs don’t work unless they are round. It means accepting where I don’t fit typical expectations, and refusing to frame that as any type of failure or inadequacy. It means that rather than finding ways around the ways that I am different or quirky, that I will respect who I am and how I am made, and accommodate my needs rather than suppress or ignore them. In other words, I’m finally doing for myself what I have naturally done for my children for years.

This is what it takes for me to thrive, and doggone it, I deserve to thrive.

This is what it takes for me to thrive.




parenting · special needs parenting

I Just Remembered How to Manage Childhood Insomnia 

Last night I had a couple of hours of insomnia. As an adult with a toolbox full of coping mechanisms and a million thoughts to distract me, I stayed in bed and tried not to wake Mike, while allowing my mind to wander. 

As it wandered I thought of Ben.  Ben has almost 11 years of insomnia under his belt. No matter what we do, he doesn’t sleep well, and believe me, we’ve tried everything under the sun. But what I was thinking about was not his insomnia, per se, but the idea of expecting a child to cope with chronic insomnia by staying in bed. 

It would be impressive for a neurotypical child to have the skills to cope with chronic insomnia without summoning parents, but for a child with neurological differences, how could I ever think he would be able to stay in bed. 

I know my child, he has traumatic stress, anxiety (primarily separation anxiety), little impulse control, and doesn’t understand negative reinforcement, rather, he thrives on positive reinforcement. 

Putting that all together, I believe it’s completely impossible for him to stay in bed when he can’t sleep. 

So now what?  

I go back to the lovely, late Dr Karyn Purvis for an answer I saw long ago, though I often need reminded. 

This video, and really all that I have ever seen of her makes me long to crawl up into Dr Purvis’ lap for comfort and warmth. Likewise, I desire to be that person for Ben, knowing how desperately he needs that comfort and warmth. 

And I resolve, again, to approach his insomnia from a place of acceptance. 

cancer · parenting · special needs parenting

High Need Parenting and The Hierarchy of Needs


My thought train runs wild from time to time, and today I puzzled over the hierarchy of needs, developed by Maslow, which I learned about in high school psychology.  My thoughts were more like pop ups, the biggest conundrum being about how people like me, who care for children whose needs often trump our own, can pursue personal development and self-care, and the obstacles we must overcome in so doing.  Yet, many of the parents whose children have complex developmental and/or medical needs are some of the most self-actualized people I have the privilege of knowing.

How is this so?

According to the diagram, we should be stuck in the lower levels, with concerns about such things as sleep, safety and health being all we have energy to pursue.  Often, we become isolated, missing out on a sense of love and belonging, but yet, despite the obvious deficits in the lower levels, many of us are diligent about exercise, healthy diet, self-care, and are actively engaged in self-esteem and self-actualization levels.

It doesn’t make sense.

When you lack sleep, fear for the well-being of a family member, and struggle with employment and socialization because of your life situation, how do you focus on confidence, acheivement, morality, creativity, and inner potential?

Yet people are doing it.  Many of us.

Are we an exception to the rule, or does a certain amount of moderate, ongoing crisis lend itself to a resilience and persistence that promotes self-development?

I believe the latter.

This is all based on subjective observation, anecdotal evidence, if you will, which is essentially bunk in the scientific world.  Yet, I’m inclined to believe that we’ve entered a new evolutionary stage.  We have, in just the last hundred or so years, advanced to the point where we can keep children born with significant medical diagnoses alive for longer than we ever have before.  We are a new breed of parents in the grand scheme of things, parents that history and psychology has not had significant time to study and understand.

And I wonder if there is something about complex medical or developmental parenting that brings out the best in people.

If you met me friends who parent these children, I am certain you would agree.




Restless Leg Syndrome

My Relentless Quest For Rest

I love to sleep, and I do mean love. I fantasize about sleeping. Getting into bed at night is right up there with my favorite things ever. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who function perfectly on five hours of sleep a night; I couldn’t even imagine how much farting around I’d accomplish if I had that many waking hours in a day (Lord knows I wouldn’t use my extra time productively).  But alas, I’m terribly sloth like in my need for a good, solid 8 hours, and I’ll gladly take more when I can get it.  Double digits are my favorite!

This is why it seems particularly cruel that, in addition to a child who tortures himself and me with his own insomnia, I have been cursed with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), as have many of the women in my family.   My maternal grandmother suffered with an increasingly severe case until her passing in her 80’s. She’s the reason that I’m on this quest. I cannot abide another 40+ years of this. Cannot. The very thought of it, after a mere 15 years of living with RLS, brings me to the brink of hysteria. Come hell or high water, I will find a solution. 

RLS means that just as I doze into that twilight sleep, my legs get frisky. A kick here, a wiggle there, next thing you know I’m dancing a solo cha chat between the sheets for hours every night. Not only that, but sometimes I’m blessed with surges that feel like I’m getting frisky with Uncle Ron’s electric cow fence. When I really get going I get repetitive nightmares as well. This can go on for hours, night after night, worsening every year. 

Thus far in my quest for rest, I have tried medicine, to which I quickly develop a tolerance and increase my dose, as well as any number of supplements, essential oils, and medical workups.  So far I’m batting zero. 

I checked in with a surgeon that I see to manage my breasts which are not only lumpier than great aunt Edna’s mashed potatoes, but also rival a non-rotating black hole for density.   She also manages venous insufficiency and varicose veins (she’s a women’s surgical specialist and she’s fabulous), and she started spouting data about venous insufficiency and RLS. She ordered me some compression stockings as a preliminary measure, and scheduled a venous ultrasound. 

Low and behold, I have significant venous insufficiency. As such, I qualify for vein ablation surgery after a trial of compression hose.  I briefly considered just rolling with the stockings long term, but I quickly realized that she don’t care for the sensation of both my legs being digested by python-esque peristalsis all day. And I’m vain. I like my legs, thankyouverymuch, and heavy gauge hose is anything but flattering. 

I’ve read the data about vein ablation, and it looks promising, though it’s fairly understudied. But frankly, it’s a low risk procedure, and the possibility of even reducing my RLS symptoms is a siren call that I’m powerless to resist. 

This is the first in a blog series about my adventures with RLS, vein ablation and whatever else comes along. I hope that others can learn from my experience 

parenting · special needs parenting

Falling Back into the Buttcrack of Dawn

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. I savor the colors, the smells, the brisk chill after a hot summer. I adore every part of the fall season. 

Except one. 

Falling back is amongst my least favorite things in the world.  

We aren’t a family that sleeps in on weekends(or any other day). Oh no, we’re up and at ’em at o’dark thirty seven days a week. I’ve tried adjusting bed times, I’ve tried melatonin. I’ve used essential oils in every possible calming combination. I’ve even tried nightly sleep dances and earnest prayer. All to no avail. 

I put them to bed 15 minutes later, they awaken at the same time. I put them to bed an hour later, they awaken at the same time. I do it for a week, no change. I do it for months, no change. 

My kids bodies don’t seem capable of adjusting to time changes. At all. In fact, I would consider them constitutionally incapable of external adjustment of their internal clocks. (Thus, we will never travel internationally with our kids. Ever!

For us, falling back means that we will all be getting up an hour earlier until March 12, 2017. 

The dread is palpable. 

These ridiculous time change laws of this great land of ours sentence me to 4 months of torture. I have no recourse. 

I’m drinking an extra XL cup of coffee this morning with tears of grief over my lost hour of sleep. And will be mumbling under my breath about it for days. If you hear me, it might be best not to question what my muttering are. I might just start bawling.