Friday, March 18, 2011

Awake When I'm Awake, Asleep When I'm Asleep

Those of you who have known me for a while already know that sleep is huge to me. Talking with some friends from work about our pet peeves the other week, I asked them: "What annoying qualities do I have?" And one them said, "Well, you're kinda funny about sleep."

It's true. I'm obsessed with sleep. In some ways, I always have been. I never really liked road trips in college because they were hell on sleep. Nor have I ever thought sleepovers were very much fun. They should be called wake-overs, in my opinion. But back in those days, it wasn't too much of an issue. Catching up wasn't hard. Running, of course, is great for sleep, and sleep is great for running. Want to run a marathon? You need to get at least eight nightly hours and often more. Sign me up! was my thought.

Then I had my twins.

This is what the first couple of months with twins were like.

Not only were ten hours of sleep a night not happening, I was lucky to get three in the first couple of months. Even when the newborn stuff eased up, six straight hours was a coup. See, people warn you about newborns (though no description can capture the addled, torture-chamber sensation of too little sleep, sleep interrupted, no idea of when normal sleep will return). What they don't warn you about are the things that will keep interrupting your sleep for the next few years. In no particular order: illness--yours and your kids'--you'll get sick more because they do; sociability (sometimes babies and toddlers are just, well, AWAKE at the very wrongest time, and they want to play); leaky diapers; learning to walk and talk; potty training and bedwetting; nap strikes; nightmares and imaginary monsters....I could go on. Twins are two times all of that.

Now, after four years of ups and downs with sleep, we're in a great pattern. The kids sleep well most nights, to the tune of at least ten hours. And on the weekdays when I'm home with them (Thursdays and Fridays), I almost always get to nap. My daughter at four still requires an hour and a half or so of afternoon shut-eye. In fact, she asks for it. (I'm so proud.)

Her brother is the opposite. He doesn't really need a nap any more. But after a rough start, when he had to get used to playing by himself, he's become a champ at "quiet time" in his room. I can hear the click of Trios (a Lego-like building toy he loves) as I drift off to sleep. Usually it's still clicking away when I wake up an hour or so later. Sometimes I find he's emerged from his room and is playing in the living room by the time I awake, but that's OK with me, as long as he's unobtrusive.

With the kids settled down, I've had to correct a few bad habits of my own to start getting the kind of sleep runners need. The biggest thing has been to get myself in bed before 10 p.m. It's hard to go to bed early when the evenings are your only "adult" time. But it needs to happen if that other key activity--improving your running--is going to occur. A 9 p.m. bedtime would be better. That's what I'm going to shoot for the nights of this upcoming taper week.

The other habit I've had to break is caffeine. Caffeine, even as early in the day as 2 p.m., keeps me from falling asleep quickly. For a while I was drinking a skim latte in the morning and tons of iced black tea in the afternoon, especially when I was at work (which are days I won't get a nap). I've now mostly phased out the latte, and when I do drink it, it's decaf. As for the tea, I've switched to green, which has enough caffeine to make me feel perkier, but much less than black. I haven't felt that unpleasant buzz at night since making this switch.

Sleeping kids, early bedtime and minimal caffeine: These things are all a big part of why it's been so much easier for me this training cycle to get up at 5 a.m. and get my runs and spinning workouts done. For the first time since pregnancy, I feel like I'm getting not just the bare minimum of sleep to function, but sleep that--most nights anyway--is adequate. I feel awake when I'm supposed to be awake and sleep deeply when I'm supposed to be asleep.

Boulder Moment: Sighted at the playground today...Olympians Alan and Shayne Culpepper and their three sons. Our twins' first real outing was in February 2007, when we watched Alan win his third U.S. Cross Country title at Boulder's Flatirons Golf Course about a mile and a half from our house. Will and Ruth slept in the stroller the whole time. Dan and I felt like zombies among the vibrantly alive. Today, I did not ask the Culpeppers for an autograph. If their sons are anything like mine, they had their hands full.

Don't Forget: Enter my Justin's Nut Butter giveaway! Deadline is March 26!


  1. Ugh don't remind me of those sleep deprived early infant days....very tough for sure...cannot imagine twins!
    Mine were never great nappers. Cool celeb sighting!
    I'm doing a no caffeine experiment now to see if its playing a role in my exhaustion...gosh I hope not as I love coffee.

  2. Hey! I'll be at the Boulder Half too, running the last 11 miles with someone who I'm coaching (her first half)...maybe see ya there!

  3. Marcia, I know, I know (re: coffee), but decaf still tastes good, if it does turn out that's what it is....SUAR, I'd love to meet you! Hope your client has a blast. Fingers crossed for no wind....