The Importance of Sleep

Writing this sentence is flat out exhausting. Why? Because I am so tired. Christina went back to work a month ago, and I took on the duty of watching my son during the night. I am not a night owl or a morning person. I am probably one of the most high-maintenance sleepers on the planet – 10:00 pm to 8:00 am is my sweet spot. Nine to ten hours a night is my goal, and with a child, that goal is laughable at best. I don’t have problems falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. My problems come during the day – I cannot sleep in, I cannot nap, and I cannot go to bed early. As soon as 8:00 am comes around, my eyes are wide open until 10:00 pm – no matter how much sleep I had the night before. For example, while in college, I tried to party like all my other classmates. I stayed up till 3:00 am, drinking, laughing, and having a good old time. Guess what? At 8:00 am I was awake while all my other friends slept till lunchtime.  The same problem occurred as a child during sleepovers. The chatter of young men would go late into the night, and everyone would finally fall asleep by early morning. Not me. I would stay up as long as possible – usually, I was the first to crash – and guess when my eyeballs would pop open? 8:00 am! Being the first to wake up at a sleepover is the worst experience in the world. After staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, I would sneak away to the bathroom. After relieving myself, it was inevitable to run into my friend’s mom – an awkward conversation at the kitchen table ensued until one of my deadbeat friends’ woke up begging for pancakes. For these reasons, I did not have many sleepovers in my life nor parties at college.

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I thought as an adult I would never have to worry about my sleep schedule – no more peer pressure from drunk friends or adolescent sleepovers with too much sugar. But plans never work out, and I married a woman who has virtually no requirements for her sleep. Christina can function on five hours of sleep and amazes me with her energy. Her whole family is impervious to sleep – my in-laws regularly wash dishes at 2:00 in the morning. I bring all this up because I believe my son has inherited my wives sleep requirements. He is a baby, and I know babies have weird sleep patterns….but Teddy is one of a kind. Teddy sleeps sporadically during the night but rarely naps during the day – combining both his parents sleep patterns. The result is a nightmare for my sleep requirements and my ability to be productive during the day. For the past two weeks, I have simply sat on the couch and watched reruns of SportsCenter. My brain was in a fog, and my reading felt like the mental equivalent of treading through quicksand. Suffice it to say, my Aristotle book is on hold until I can get better sleep. Things are improving though, and within the past couple days, I have had enough energy to move from the couch to write this blog. Teddy is starting to nap more and sleep for more extended periods – he is now four months old, so I think the future looks bright. My point for this blog is to remind everyone that sleep is the most essential thing in our lives. If we don’t have sleep, we can’t be our best selves – physically mentally, and spiritually. When we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice our ability to philosophize, to be optimistic, to eat healthily, and to connect with God. If you have a baby, I feel your pain. If you don’t have a small child then I implore you to shut the electronics and get some shut-eye – nothing else matters. If you feel like a zombie, you will function like a zombie.

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Baby Mathematics

*Pictures Below*

Teddy is officially one month old! I would like to say that this month flew by because of sheer joy…but the truth is far more complicated. My son is a normal baby and hence requires a lot of attention, food, and diaper changes. Added to this “normal” baby workload is the fact that Teddy needs supplemental formula. During the first three weeks, we had to bird-feed him through a special syringe because we were told bottle feeding would confuse his tiny brain – apparently, the nipple on a bottle is different than my wife’s nipple. After several exhausting nights, we gave up on the arduous procedure of the syringe and went against the better judgment of the breastfeeding police. We gave him a bottle and it took him about 1 second to figure it out. The bottle along with breastfeeding helped Teddy gain 3 pounds within two weeks and helped us get some well-needed rest. I once took a class in “Animal Behavior” while getting my Biology degree – I think more than anything else, that class has gotten me through the past month. My son, for all intents and purposes, is like a little puppy right now. He doesn’t have any rational thought or reasoning – my  Chihuahua has a leg up on him at this point in time. It sounds harsh to say, but it is the truth – all babies start at the bottom of the IQ animal totem pole.

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There are three significant things babies want throughout the day: food, comfort, and security. The first two needs are pretty easy to figure out as a parent – feed the baby every couple of hours and change the diaper. The last need is what requires some knowledge of animal behavior. Teddy is very good at crying and grunting so that he will be held and feel secure. Unfortunately for Teddy, we both need sleep. When we lay him in the crib he grunts almost constantly, and after a month, I have deciphered the meaning of those grunts. A single grunt within a 10-minute timespan means he is dreaming of breasts. A double grunt within a 5-minute timespan means he is farting, pooping, or dreaming of a field of breasts. A triple grunt within a 2-minute timespan means he is about to wake up and cry for my wife’s breasts. Hence, instead of rushing to comfort him at every grunt, I now have a fickle system of baby mathematics.

For matters other than grunting, we took Teddy in for professional pictures, and I am proud to post them below. The photo shoot was exhausting, and I commend the photographer for her patience – Teddy feigned sleep like a cocaine addict on the first of the month. He is scheduled for more pictures at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months…please keep us in your prayers.

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Pregnancy Update – The Final Countdown

Christina is now 9 months pregnant! Our house is filled with baby stuff, and I don’t know what to do with half of it. We have a panoply of beds for Teddy to sleep in: a crib in the main room, a portable crib in the living room, a baby rocker, a baby crawler, a play mat, and a bathtub sleeper. I’m jealous of my son’s sleep options and I wish I would have taken more advantage of my infancy. It is a cruel joke that we don’t remember the best years of our life; the years when all we had to do was eat, sleep, and poop. The last main obstacle before he comes is figuring out the cloth diapers. I am both a philosopher and a cheapskate. My budget requires reusable diapers and hence a firm relationship with poop. People give me a lot of advice in respects to cloth diapers.

  • “They’re great! I used those with my 10 babies. My sister wives love them also.”
  • “Do you not care about your son? You know I just saw on the news that studies found more poop residue in cloth diapers compared to disposable diapers!”
  • “Don’t listen to the naysayers. You’ll get used to spraying crap into the toilet.”

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Besides the obvious complexities of discarding the waste, cloth diapers have the added disadvantage of a thousand buttons. To factor in all baby sizes – from teacup chihuahua to Mississippi Bufford – the clothe diaper provides you with Transformer level adaptability. There is a row of buttons that looks like a dominatrix, and there is an endless number of insertable pads. Added to these problems is the fact that Teddy is a boy. I know from personal experience that the penis lives by its own rules. A second brain that is hard to control for a grown man is essentially a Cracken-like monster for a newborn baby. There is no doubt that Teddy’s one-eyed bandit will take advantage of my clothe diaper fumbling.

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Besides my pee anxiety, there is the anxiety of the snuggie. Human babies have the most high maintenance sleep requirements in the animal kingdom. Take a newly born crocodile. As soon as that crocodile leaves the egg, it slithers into the water and sleeps in the mud. Take a newly born ferret. As soon as that ferret comes out of its mother, it sleeps in some nasty pine needle foliage. Take my son Teddy. As soon as he is born, he requires a specialized snuggie which makes him look like a polygon from a high-school geometry textbook. The human baby cannot survive outside this modern covering, and if a blanket is put into the crib, Child Protective Services will be called. Along with the Snuggie comes the fear of overheating the baby. He must be wrapped up like a snug burrito but at the same time be cooler than a bowl of gazpacho. A cruel joke for sure and I believe a ploy by the pharmaceutical companies to increase sales of Xanax.

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Finally, I must update you on my beautiful wife. Christina glows like the sunshine, and her belly looks like a basketball. I’ve never before looked at a pregnant woman and thought – “Wow she still looks like she could go to work.” Christina tries to moan and groan, but I think she could probably carry that baby for another 9 months – the Jerome Bettis of pregnancy. Her hormones have been erratic the last week – when I told her that she was like Brett Farve, she got agitated. The final countdown is upon us, and I am genuinely ecstatic to be a father. I can’t wait to dodge little Teddy’s pee and master the cloth diaper instruction manual. I can’t wait to hold my son and place him in my wife’s arms. I can’t wait to teach Teddy about life and help him discover wisdom. Keep us in your prayers; Lord willing, the next pregnancy update will come with pictures of my son. Here’s to the final countdown!

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Pregnancy Update – Third Trimester

Christina is officially in the third trimester! The big 3. The final stretch. The big belly. Reality knocking at our door. Theodore is quite the active baby and kicks Christina repeatedly in one spot. I actually felt him kick one time and I pretended to love the experience – in truth, it felt like I was in a Ridley Scott production of Alien. Baby clothes are starting to accumulate, and we are covering the wall of the baby room with owls. Christina has weird food cravings and is quite the picky pregnant women – the only meat she cares for now is shrimp. She was actually worried about not gaining enough weight, but I quickly looked up Filipina growth charts and reassured her that she was average weight in a petite-Asian world. Several times we thought Max was smelling her belly because of the baby; we later found some food stains were in the vicinity.

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I recently went to a friend’s wedding where everyone was either pregnant or talking about their kids. I felt left out of the conversation like a younger brother whose older brother is going through puberty. The advice that expectant parents receive is always the same:

“You aren’t going to get any sleep.”

“Say goodbye to your free time.”

“Blame all his bad genes on your wife.”

I agree with most of this advice, but I think it falls in the same category as corny advice one receives at a wedding…“A happy wife is a happy life.” Although corny, I know it is partially true, and I am mentally preparing myself for the changes in the future. One of the biggest things I need to work on is constant worrying. I find this a pathological attribute of most parents, and I am by no means immune. I worry about Teddy now, and I know it will get worse when he comes into the world. That is why my single greatest preparatory step during these last three months is stopping myself from worrying. Is this even a possibility? I am not sure at this point, but I am committed to trying. I am trying to pray more to God and giving Him my anxious thoughts – easy to type but hard to do in practice.

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What is the key to not worrying? From what wisdom I have gleaned, it is to understand what is and is not in your control. I can not control every aspect of Teddy’s life. I can do my best to help him in life, but there is always a limit. I am attempting to step back and let Jesus take the wheel. If that sounds corny or reckless, just ask yourself the outcomes of your own anxiety? Have they come to fruition? Or more than likely just ruined many precious hours of your life? My request is not corny advice that is obvious, but rather advice on controlling anxiety – without prescriptions. What works best for you? I am always open to your wisdom.

What Is Your Sleep Animal?

I have always been a diva when it comes to sleep. As a boy, I never wanted to have sleepovers because I would want to go to bed early when everyone else wanted to hangout until dawn. One prime example was my 7th birthday, when I left my party early (which was in the basement) to go sleep in my bedroom, leaving my Mom to entertain 10 sugar-crazed boys. For the same reasons, I didn’t like going to overnight camps or camping in a tent where I knew adequate sleep would escape me. In my young mind, the boys who could sleep anywhere were the boys who grew up to be the cool guys. They were the guys who could close out a party, watch a movie marathon, and go for a midnight swim. I was always in bed before my parents (even in the weekends) and I still usually go to bed before everyone in my family. When I do sleep I need a solid 9 hours to function and ideally 10 would be perfect. This somewhat pathological need for sleep has shaped my life and my daily activities. Do you want to wake up early and workout? No. Do you want to go see the midnight premiere? No. Do you want to go get drinks after dinner? No. Do you want to join a morning book club? No. My window of ideal sleep is between 10:00 pm to 8:00 am. If I deviate too much from that window I will be a zombie for the next day and possibly the whole week. I know I am a high maintenance sleeper and my obsession with sleep led me to read The Power of When by Michael Breus, PhD.

There are four types of sleepers: Bears, Lions, Wolfs, and Dolphins. Bears make up 50% of the population and wake up naturally with the rhythms of the sun – not going to bed too late and not waking up too early. Lions, naturally morning hunters, make up 20% of the population and are the people who rise very early and accomplish a ton of things before Bears even begin to hit the snooze button. Wolves, naturally nocturnal hunters, are the late-night prowlers who probably best fit my description of the “Cool Guy.” Dolphins, which sleep with only half their brain at a time, make up 10% of the population. Dolphins are the people who would normally be described as insomniacs; they have difficulty falling asleep, they are easily awoken, and they struggle to get more than 6 hours of sleep a night. What sleep animal are you? To take an accurate quiz on the author’s site, click the link here. I am a Bear but I think a better description would be a Koala Bear – they sleep a crap ton. Most of the people I know are Bears but I do know a Wolf (shout out to Megan) and a Lioness (shout out to Ashley). I still have yet to meet a Dolphin but I think my wife is some weird combination of a Panda Bear riding on top of a leaping Porpoise. I think the biggest take away from this book is to put sleep on the top of your priority list. If you struggle to get enough sleep because you like to stay up late, try turning off all electronics one hour before bedtime. You really need 5 complete sleep cycles to get a healthy nights rest; each sleep cycle is an average 90 minutes long so that equals about 7.5 hours a night. People may have longer cycles or shorter cycles but most people know their sweet spot when it comes to a great nights rest.

Peruse the website and check out the specific recommendations for each sleep type. Just remember, without sleep, your brain and body are at a significant health handicap – limiting your full animal potential.