When COVID-19 hit in March, I had to assume caring for Mr. Pre-School and teaching Ms. First Grade. About two days in I thought to myself, “OK, I think I got the hang of this. Put in a solid day’s work. Maybe start dinner soon. But lemme just rest my weary bones, after all it’s … 1:24 p.m.!?!?!!”
I realized at that moment that I faced the very real possibility that if the virus didn’t kill me, being the sole parental/educational figure in each of their lives would.
To get through the day I had to find the fuel, and my personal options are limited. Coffee is a mirage for me – too many times I’ve been lured in by its pleasant aroma only to be burned by its rancid taste. Usually my morning caffeine intake consists of Diet Coke (because if I refuse to change some college habits because that means I’m still young) and tea (because I am a fancy man). Turns out, I had to hit myself with that one-two punch multiple times a day to make it through. At first the only side effect was peeing so much that even pregnant women were like “Damn, son, you’ve got a thimble for a bladder.” But at least I was getting in my steps going to and from the can.
Over time I noticed my sleep habits started to resemble that of a farmer. Where my night once had not been complete until I had caught a little late night TV, I was now eyeing the clock at 8:45, trying to calculate how much longer I had to hang in there before I could begin getting ready for my own beddy-bye. All in all, it’s pretty humiliating. I already have reading glasses, I don’t need this.
On the flip side, I found myself getting up earlier and earlier. These days I am clocking in well before the sun even considers rising. And know what? I LOVE IT!
There’s no yelling, whining or screaming. I don’t have to make sure any one is doing schoolwork. There’s no need to oversee what anyone is ingesting or excreting. Most of the time I just bask in the dark and silence of my personal sensory deprivation tank.
So, what gives?
An informal survey of random parents (i.e., people I know) reveals that there is a lot of this going around. The morning people among us have described their pre-dawn rising to a phenomenon scientifically known as “the only goddamn time I ever get to myself.” The night owls posit that staying up till two or three in the morning is “the only goddamn time I can get anything done.” For this latter group of moms and dads, it helps to have older kids who are (allegedly) self-sufficient enough to get themselves up and fed in the morning or a priceless spouse/partner who can handle the morning routine while you sleep in (hi, honey!). Everyone agrees that between kids and work, they are drained whenever it is they get to sleep.
Is this bad? Not necessarily. As someone with apnea, I have my very own sleep doctor (not to be confused with this sleep doctor) and the generally held belief is that the pandemic has knocked everyone’s schedules off kilter. If you are getting seven to nine hours a night of restful shuteye, you are ahead of the game. Once enough people get vaccinated in this country (within the next 15 years at this rate) your lifestyle will get back to what it was and so will your body’s internal clock.
But if you’re not …
Then it’s time to talk, to put down this blog and see a doctor. COVID-related sleep issues such as anxiety is a very real thing with very real consequences – up to and including your physical and emotional health. Insomnia, alcohol/substance abuse, and nightmares when you finally do manage to go down are just part of it. Let’s face it, if you’re on this site you have other people in your life who need you to be sharp. So talk to your physician, do some relaxation exercises, and get some rest.
Then you can tell me all about how you hadn’t noticed how much this stupid virus kept you sleep-deprived, and how great you feel now. Just not over a cup of coffee.