About me

My photo
I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Sunday, August 19, 2012


I have a true story to tell you.

I once worked with a politician who was nice but a bit odd. 

At one point this person came to me with a private member's bill they wanted introduce that would have legislated sleep. 

The background argument, well documented by a huge amount of academic literature, was that lack of sleep was a huge drag on the economy and public safety.

Needless to say that idea was left with me, until now, and didn't go anywhere.

This bill idea was not my mother's although it could have been BTW.

Our entire lives our mother has been asking us about six times an hour if we were tired. (If she is reading this, and she sometimes does, she will verify this).

This will drive a person crazy. And tired. If you ask her why she does this she will tell you it was because, as our mother, she herself was always tired.

The issue of women, sleep and fatigue is an interesting one. In fact I even have a book downstairs written by a famous Canadian women's doctor in the '50s called "Women and fatigue."

This was not my idea.

It seems the dialogue about sleep has been going on in my family my whole life.

My paternal grandmother complained constantly until she died peacefully, and ironically, in her sleep at 95, that she couldn't sleep. We were always being told involved minute-by-minute accounts of how she woke up at 4:00 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My general impression was that she lay there mad, rather than getting up and start knitting slippers which is what she did the rest of the day.

Of course someone should have told her that older people wake up early and then maybe she could have rolled with it to 95.

OK back to sleep.

Why am I thinking about this?

Well since I have spent most of the summer in an unacknowledged period of what my daughter's mother-in-law calls a "convalescence" I have realized, as a high-energy person in genera,l that I do get tired. Particularly in the evenings.

The thing is I don't feel exactly tired but I do note that after 9:30 I lose my sense of humour. Sort of like that time when you kids start school and you finally realize that the feeling you had for say the last 12 years was just being tired.

I wish I could nap. 

I actually have never once in my adult life napped. 

I don't know how people do it. Like meditation. When David Page Coffin visited me he meditated a lot and that amazed me.

How could he not think about things? What about all the cool clothes and fabrics he saw at Threads? How could he put those out of his mind? How can a person think about breathing and not pockets?

Myself my routine is bed about 11:30 and if I am really really lucky, like not a work day, my best sleep is 7:00-9:00 am. And I sleep well but have trouble getting to sleep. 

Last night I was going over different ways to do a collar on the dress I am making (more on that later). Sometimes I wake up and look at the clock and am impatient. When will the night be over? When can I get up and do things?

When can I start that collar?

So I have a question for you.

How much sleep do you need? Do you nap?

What role does sleep play in your life?

Crazy question I know but on my mind this morning.


Sewing Geek said...

My Dad told me when I was little and having trouble getting to sleep, to stop thinking. I have since learned that he was right. Sometimes you have to tell yourself to stop thinking. It is actually a lot of work. When I lay in bed with my mind working like squirrels in a cage, I have to force my mind to stop and then spend 15-30 minutes reminding myself , until my mind finally relaxes and then I can go to sleep.

a little sewing said...

In 2007, I spent a summer convalescing, too and the fatigue was the hardest part of the process. Like you, I simply could not nap.

My husband and I were just talking about this yesterday. We both seem to fall asleep more easily if we can shut out stimulation to our senses. He has a way of putting a pillow on his head to muffle sound and he needs a dark room. I use an eye mask to block out light and I like white noise, such as a fan. I wish I could get that pillow trick to work! For some reason, blocking out visual and audible sensation helps my mind slow down.

Oh! One more thing! about meditation - yes it is hard to discipline myself to take time for it. I found something that does the trick - quite by accident. I lie face-down in the bath tub and place my face in the water and blow bubbles, raise up for the in breath and face back down for the out breath. I just started doing it because my bathtub is so uncomfortable and I was fooling around. I started doing it every day and one day it hit me - eureka! This is the same as meditation! The effort required to avoid drowning keeps me focused on my breath and blowing bubbles is fun.

Kathie said...

oh my, I'm remembering my mom telling us (when we kids would complain that we couldn't get to sleep) to "say a rosary"... When I'm stressed and can't stop my mind from going to all sorts of crazy places, I sometimes start saying Hail Marys over and over again, concentrating on the words... it usually works! It's that emptying your mind thing I guess.

Most nights, however, I sleep well and find as I age that 6 hours is typical and 7 hours is wonderful. I am also a cat-napper... mid to late afternoon, I frequently nod off for 20 to 40 minutes and wake refreshed. (Should I nap longer than that, I'm pretty groggy.)

Great topic Barbara! Thanks for always giving me something to think about or a smile ...or, often, both!

Jodie said...

Funny, did major work in the yard/garden yesterday and am tired today. I have medication I have to take and a side effect is sleepiness, so that usually means I fall asleep easily. But sometimes, especially when stressed, I have a hard time falling asleep as my brain won't turn off. I hate that. I can nap, but have to watch the timing....if I'm tired enough to nap....often I'm better to just tough it out and go to bed earlier. More than 30 minutes of napping, then I either don't want to get out of bed or can't sleep at night. I'd love to get 10 hours of sleep at night, but average 7 or 8, especially during the school year (teacher). By Friday night - I'm bagged! Interesting topic!

Pammie said...

Excellent piece. I too have been worrying about sleep - I really prefer 7 - 8 hours or more. But I routinely get 6 hours. No kids, but a huge job.

We just put a portable AC (we live on the coast in Cal) in the bedroom for the week and this was the first night I slept well because it was cool - temperature, I think, I'm finding out plays a part in how well I sleep. . .

shams said...

I am a nap connoisseur. Never go a day without one. :)

Karen in VA said...

I have sleep apnea and can't find a cpap mask I like, so I am ALWAYS tired. So yes, I nap...I love naps..I've also been thinking about sleep alot lately as the apnea is getting worse, will be getting another sleep study done soon. It's really affected my life - can't even work full-time anymore and as a self-employed person, it's really impacted my life....sleep is soooo important!!!!

KC said...

I'm a championship sleeper--got 12 hours last night because I was done with the day early yesterday (sewed a Renfrew, laid out and cut a maxidress with an uncontrollable asymmetric print, watched a typically tedious episode of Taggart on netflix) and couldn't be bothered to get up early. DH, on the other hand, has both insomnia and sleep apnea. Too bad sleep can't be shared.

annie said...

Wow, this sleep thing is a hot topic! Says a lot about the problem. I periodically have issues as does my spouse. He says one of the worst things you can do is begin reviewing a project or work issue as it activates your mind. Too true for me as well. The experts say that you should NOT get up as light interrupts some chemical something. But after lying in bed for and hour and a half I often get up and do something. Maybe read or watch a middle-of-the-night boring movie with the lights out. It works as long as I don't mind sleeping on the sofa! But oddly, if this isn't going on, I sleep 8 hours to within 5 minutes. My present deal is falling asleep at 9:30 and awakening at 5:30. My walking partner (also spouse) likes to sleep until 7:30. It's always something isn't it? But honestly, I haven't felt sleep deprived since my children left home. Grateful.

debbie said...

I get about 6-7 hours a night, give or take, and usually don't have any problems falling asleep. If I get less than 5 it means a bad headache for the day and feeling like I just don't have the energy to tackle anything that requires any sort of physical exertion. I only slept about 4.5 hours last night so that tells you how I've been today!

I used to be able to nap but not anymore. If anything it's a cat nap for 20-30 minutes.

Bunny said...

I'm like you, never nap unless very physically ill and don't sleep through the night due to a health issue. I go to sleep instantly so I guess I am tired and ready enough but my nights are fitfull. I get a nights sleep maybe once every month and a half. I have started reading now during my "tossing" moments and find I easily get back to sleep with that. I think it is just worse to lay there and get mad because I can't sleep.

Is there really a woman anywhere over the age of 45 who sleeps all night? I truly doubt it. It's just the beastly nature of time marching on.

Gail said...

I adore naps! I usually try for 20 to 30 minutes, if possible.

Lately I've been fascinated by all the talk about the idea that humans have historically gone to bed as the daylight faded, slept about 4 hours, woke up and were relatively active for a couple of hours, then fell back asleep for another 4 hours, waking as . I have a feeling I'd work well with this schedule.

Mae said...

My dogs sleep after they have their dinner until I go to bed. I wake them up and take them outside for a pee, then they go back to sleep in my bed. They often refuse to get up in the morning with me, and when they emerge they go outside, pee, and then go to sleep on the couch. I've never had a dog with insomnia.

Catherine Daze said...

I get 6-7 hours a night but I really ought to get 8. There just aren't enough hours in the day though. I read in order to drop off, but I find I need to pick the material carefully; thrillers are no good. If I had three wishes I think one would be to have another hour in the day just for sleeping!

SusanM said...

Fascinating discussion. I am not a good sleeper but, as per Gail above, I've been investigating the sleep/wake/sleep overnight cycle lately and I think there is something to it. It's a matter of not lying there cranky because you can't sleep which is what we seem to do.
It takes a bit to work out bedtime, wake cycle (and what to actually do in this time!!) and second bed time and I'm certainly not there yet but I intend to keep trying.

LinB said...

Inveterate daily napper here. Also, one of those whom stress drives to sleep, not hyperactivity. I am an introvert at heart -- are the two related? Do extroverts lose sleep at night, introverts become unable to stay awake? On those few occasions when too much caffeine or anticipation of some coming horror (like intercontinental air travel or a job review) prevent me from dropping quickly into a restorative snore-fest, I take three valerian root capsules. It's over-the-counter, non-addictive, and gentle on the system. It won't keep you asleep, though. You're on your own for that one.

firesheep67 said...

Let's see...tried treating my sleep apnea with cpap and about seven different masks for 1.5 years. Gave up and used provigil, until I switched insurance providers and couldn't get it anymore. I am naturally a night owl, but must be up by 6:15 to make it to work by 8:30. I'm slow in the morning and use the snooze five times to "surface." I have to force myself to go to bed before midnight, because as a natural night owl, I finally come to life between 8 - 10 pm. The cycle continues through the week until I hit the weekend and sleep until the cows come home. I am constantly tired and am fortunate that I take public transit to work and for much of the day while I work I can sit there in a coma until asked to do something. Insomnia? What the heck is that? I wish I could wake up...I can sleep for hours on end until I have to get up to pee. Thank god I never had children!

SueC56 said...

I completely identify with laying in bed, wondering when you can get up and sew. And thinking about how to solve a sewing problem when you should be sleeping. I love sleep and I DO nap sometimes, but I never go to bed early enough to get the sleep I THINK I should be getting. And if I do, then I can't get to sleep, so what's the point? Maybe I really DON'T need that much sleep.


PS New reader here. I really enjoy your sense of humor.