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My mom says I was a terrible sleeper even as a baby. Naps? Who needs 'em! 8 hours of snoozing per day? But there're so many interesting things to do! All through high school, college, MBA, my professional life and after the birth of my first child, I had a simple secret for more time: Cut back on sleep!
Sixteen years into my career as a ladder-climbing Marketing Director at a Fortune 100 company, I figured my trusty sleep less strategy would continue to work just fine as our family prepared to welcome Baby Girl. I was already down to about 5 hours of sleep per night but still juggling everything. I took 4 months of maternity leave and was glad I did because my daughter needed lots of mommy time (especially in the middle of the night!)
When I went back to work, I stubbornly kept to my path. My new normal was 4 hours of interrupted sleep per night. For the next year, I managed to keep up my with my demanding job, parent my threenager and soothe my teething baby, but I felt… Exhausted. Trapped. A Failure at Everything!I put my smile on with my business casual and pretended everything was fine, too worried that I might stall my career or be seen as "playing the mom card" to admit how awful I felt, even to my husband. When I finally let my guard down with other professional moms, I discovered that many of them shared my sleep-deprived overwhelm (and the fear of being seen as less at work because of it.) We whispered our support to each other but continued our struggles alone.
One Friday as I was driving the kids home, I suddenly realized I was about to fall asleep at the wheel and 70mph. My hands went cold as I glanced back at the smiling face of my son. Tears prickled my eyes as I heard my daughter's coos. The metallic taste of blood hit my tongue as I bit my lip and faced reality: My sleep deprivation could be deadly.
I canceled all the plans we had that weekend and slept for 16 hours. I canceled the next three days of meetings at work and completely shuffled my commitments, delegating or saying no to several projects. Hardest of all, I took off my Supermom mask and asked for help from my husband, friends and co-workers. They embraced me with understanding, love and support.
This changed everything.
Over the course of the next 10 weeks, I went from less than 4 hours of sleep per night to 6 hours per night (my sweet spot for zzzs). Finding those 2 hours per day wasn't easy. It took all of the prioritization and productivity tools I'd learned over 16 years as a leader in the corporate world. It took the mindfulness developed over my decade-long yoga practice to accept all of the difficult decisions I had to make. It took a new level of vulnerability with the people in my life to find a new path.
Now I know sleep is essential.
Work got better. My focus came back. I was more relaxed and present with everyone in my life. I even managed to enjoy more "me" time! Getting more sleep has been so important to me that I wanted to help other professional moms like you!
You're not less. You're not alone. You're just 10 weeks away from your own sleep transformation!