Is Sleep the New Beauty Pill?

Beauty  / 

[Editor’s note: Listen up, mamas, we’re launching a new blog! Regular Bergen Mama contributor Allison Ellis kicks off our new series with some snooze-worthy insights.]

As I type this, I am lying under the covers, propped up by two pills (oops, that’s a typo – I meant to write “pillows”) attempting to come up with some witty quip that will wake you—I mean, me—up.

Nothing. My brain feels like mush and my thoughts are dim. At this point, I’m useless. Even my husband knows the flames just aren’t there. He just poked his head in our bedroom, took one look at me hunkered down, sporting my glasses, greasy hair and furrowed brow, inhaled a whiff of my negativity, and walked right out. Did he really think that sex would be possible on a night like tonight? No sir! There’s too much work to be done. And yet I am barely awake. Barely awake and trying to work in bed.

How did we get like this? I say “we” because the hours between 9pm and 1am are often the most productive for my fellow working mothers. This is time when I receive the most calendar invites, new assignments, and engage in strategic point-by-point online conversations about the latest parent-run project up at the kids’ school. “I know it’s late but here are just a few thoughts on that latest draft…” the email will begin, and then it’ll be three or four scrolls before I reach the end of the message and then I just have to respond. Not responding or waiting until morning when I can better triage my priorities is never an option.

Much has been written about the link between sleep and electronics, i.e., the two don’t go so well together. They keep us awake and they keep us engaged. It’s a vicious cycle. We got those laptops, smart phones, e-readers and iPads, afterall, for their go-anywhere convenience (look, Mom, I can now work/read/stockpile recipes on Pinterest for hours on end, in bed!) and then we curse our e-devices at 3am when insomnia sets in.

Solutions? The National Sleep Association details why it’s necessary to turn off before you tuck in.  WebMD has some useful tips on how to power down for good sleepArianna Huffington urges us to sleep our way to better productivity and increased happiness. Psychology Today even suggests that “electronic insomnia” may cause the eventual downfall of human civilization (hmmm) pointing us towards a host of reasons (obesity, mood disorders, heart disease, moral degeneration, looking like crap in the morning to name just a few…) as a call to action to return to human nature. “Rest is regeneration,” says author and sleep researcher Mathew Edlund, MD.

Recently, our family spent a long weekend at a cottage in the woods. Initially so overcome and distracted by the charming and picturesque setting, it took me a few hours to realize that there was no Wi-Fi to speak of. I freaked out for a few minutes, circled the property in search of a signal, and wondered how on earth I would survive three nights without my light-emitting screen to get me through.

I survived. Yawn. I know, the solution is so boring and so simple. Of course I can survive without Wi-Fi. Yes, we can all turn off the damn electronics and go to bed already and wake up feeling energized and refreshed. Just unplug. Duh! How about we all do our best work during the day, and save our evenings for family time, relaxation and sleep? A friend, boss or colleague who emails you at 9pm and needs a detailed answer by “eod” may not be the friend or boss you want to keep. Which sounds easy in theory, but in reality, there is always an exception. Maybe you don’t want to walk away from that job, or the friend in crisis, or that online sale that ends tomorrow… 

Ten years ago, when I was a new mother and getting enough rest was as scarce as a newborn sleeping through the night, I would put myself to bed at 9pm. No amount of laundry, dirty dishes or phone calls that needed returning would stop me. My health was way more important, and the enforced early bedtime enabled me to survive. My new daughter’s life literally depended on it.

Boundaries. All I’m saying is that maybe we should have some. I get cranky when I work late or am constantly checking my phone, and my parenting and spouse skills definitely suffer. So I’ll go first. Hi, my name is Allison and I’m sleep deprived and addicted to my e-devices. I know, I know, our culture has evolved to the point where going cold turkey isn’t an option, but I do think some new house rules are in order: 10pm bedtime, read for an hour, and then lights out at 11. No exceptions. Let’s try it for a week. Who’s with me? Anyone… anyone?

P.S. It’s true that I started writing this post last night in bed, but since I only put down one or two crappy sentences before I got distracted and started checking Facebook and email and Pinterest again… I got some sleep first and finished it up in the morning.

Allison Ellis is a freelance writer and mother of two.


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