I’d rather have an hour to myself at night than more sleep, thanks

If I didn’t stay up late, I wouldn’t get time to decompress at all.

woman with ipad and baby at night
Hear that beautiful sound? It's silence. And it's exactly what I need for a little while every day.iStock

If there’s one thing every working mom has in common, it’s that we’re exhausted. Depleted. Bone tired. Dead on our feet.

And yet, many of us are hiding a secret, even from our husbands: We could be getting more sleep.

And it's not because we have insomnia, or can't stop thinking about our kids or work (although that's common too). We actually choose to get less sleep.

For me, there’s this magical hour, usually around 11 p.m., when the house becomes blissfully quiet. My toddler has finally stopped fighting the bedtime battle. My husband has fallen asleep with a basketball game still streaming on his cell phone. Work emails have stopped rolling in. Text messages from my friends and family have stopped lighting up my cell phone. Even our cats have quit prowling the house.

In other words, no one is bothering me. No one is bothering me.

In a day packed with meetings and emails and deadlines and questions and chores and reminders, I finally have a heavenly moment alone. All to myself. To do whatever I want.

A moment to look at nursery photos on Pinterest for our second baby. (It’s not even conceived yet.) A moment to look at the luxury penthouse I’d buy when I won the Mega Millions. (Alas, I did not.) A moment to check out neighborhood real estate prices on Zillow, read a romance novel or watch Kim Kardashian’s latest Instagram story. (Don’t lie, you do it too.)

So I sit in bed, clutching my cell phone, when I know damn well I should be asleep. Or, at the very least, researching elementary schools or deleting some of the thousands of unread emails clogging up my inbox. Doing something productive with my time.

But here’s the thing: If I didn’t stay up late, I wouldn’t get time to decompress at all.

When you combine job and family duties, working moms clock in 98 hours a week. If you do the math, that means there are only 10 hours a day left over for commuting, friends, self-care and sleep. There are basically zero hours for “leisure” in a working mom’s life.

So I sneak it in where I can, even though it means I only get around five or six hours of sleep a night, far less than the recommended seven to eight.

I am aware sleep is vitally important to my health. I know that lack of sleep is tied to everything from weight gain to depression, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. That it makes it more likely for me to pick up a nasty preschool virus from my son. That it probably even impacts my work performance the next day. (Or requires me to drink two more cups of coffee, which comes with its own set of problems.)

And yet I just can’t stop my late-night Kindle reading or cell phone scrolling. Maybe that’s because it’s not just about winding down—it’s about fulfillment too. It’s about honoring the person I was before kids—the one that had time to devour the latest books and to teach myself to knit on YouTube. That person still needs nourishment too.

There’s more than one way to take care of yourself. After a full day taking care of everyone else, I think working moms have earned some me time to rest and recharge—even if that rest means a little less sleep.