2020年11月4日 星期三

Reclaiming Your Rest

Sleep won’t fix what’s broken in the world, but it will prepare you for what lies ahead.

Reclaiming Your Rest

Loulou João

I’m writing this newsletter before Election Day, obviously with no certainty about how things will turn out. I don’t know whether I’ll wake up today relieved, devastated or in limbo. What I can tell you for sure is that I will be tired. My sleep has been absolute garbage for a few weeks now, and the political anxiety and rising coronavirus cases on top of an already destabilizing pandemic year — along with a 4-year-old we’re trying to get out of nighttime pull-ups — means I am exhausted and extremely frayed.

There is some evidence that the sleep quality of parents in the United States has gotten worse over the course of the pandemic. Leah Ruppanner, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, and the author of “Motherlands: How States Push Mothers Out of Employment,” and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,000 Americans in May, and then some (but not all) of the same people in September.

In May, 44 percent of American mothers surveyed said their sleep was restless all or almost all of the time, and in September, 50 percent said the same. For fathers, there was a more pronounced difference; 21 percent said their sleep was restless all or almost all of the time in May, and 33 percent felt the same in September. (They also surveyed Australians during that time period, for an international comparison; Australian parents experienced a decline in sleep quality as well, and an increase in anxiety.)

Though Ruppanner’s study did not break down respondents by race, past research has shown that sleep quality is worse for people of color, which public health experts suggest may be because of the added stress of racial discrimination and unequal access to health care. The most recent Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association, which polled more than 3,000 adults and 1,000 teens in August, showed that 33 percent of Americans cite discrimination as a source of stress in 2020, up from 25 percent in 2019, and that Black Americans are the most likely to say discrimination is a source of stress, at 48 percent.


This isn’t the first time I have written about burnout, stress and the mental toll of pandemic parenting. I believe there is meaning in just acknowledging the difficult reality for parents right now, but I also try to give actionable advice for ways that parents can find rest and relief. At the same time, I know in my heart that five minutes of yoga isn’t going to fix a lot of what’s broken right now. (Or, as one commenter put it: “A yoga video will not erase my witnessing the decline of the Earth’s future for my child.” These are facts!)

At a loss for what else to say that wouldn’t sound pointless or patronizing, I reached out to Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry, a social justice movement which “examines the liberating power of naps.” Hersey started The Nap Ministry in 2013, when she entered divinity school at Emory University in Atlanta. She said she was going through the trauma of witnessing Black people’s deaths from gun violence on television, while also raising her son, and working from 8 a.m. to midnight some days. She was exhausted and not sleeping.

“I really gave up in a lot of ways,” she said. But then she began to research Black liberation theology and sleep science, and was also thinking deeply about community activism. As part of that journey, “I started sleeping all over campus,” Hersey said — she knew she needed to rest her body to be able to do the work she wanted to do. It was “a personal experimentation of what rest can do for me,” as a Black mother in America, she said.

Slowly, she started to see changes in her body from these naps. While Hersey’s work centers on marginalized communities, she wants The Nap Ministry to send the message that burnout is not normal. “Being exhausted is not how we’re supposed to be navigating this world. It’s true trauma.”


Hersey wants people to reimagine rest, which involves: “Reimagining your time as your own. Resting is anything that connects us to our bodies and mind,” she said. That can include anything from taking a longer shower in the morning, to scheduling additional sleep, to simply daydreaming. She has an even more robust list on her Instagram.

I asked Pooja Lakshmin, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, for ways we can get through this week, if we are experiencing stress and sleeplessness from political turmoil. “I think what we all need right now is some comfort,” she said. “We need to be OK with comforting ourselves, and with some escapism.”


What that means practically is creating boundaries with media, so we’re not doomscrolling and then trying to go to sleep. You need a solid hour of internet-free time before you try to sleep at night, Dr. Lakshmin said. Adding in a restful routine or ritual during that hour also helps — whether that’s a short meditation, drinking tea, or taking a warm shower or bath. Dr. Lakshmin said she has been listening to fantasy books on Audible to give her brain a break from the current chaos. I listen to a lot of old stand-up comedy, which fills the same need.

The problems we’re facing right now aren’t ones that are going away any time soon, so working on our own best defenses is key. “This numbed-out, zombie state that we’re in when we’re sleep deprived, that’s a public health issue, a racial justice and a social justice issue,” Hersey said. We need to rest up for what lies ahead.

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Tiny Victories

Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.

My 4-year-old buried me in pillows on the couch and left me there for about 15 minutes. I fell asleep and it was glorious!— Emily Schmidt, Rostock, Germany

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