Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

When Does Maha Sleep?

| 3 Comments

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 36 seconds

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I get this question regularly. Or a variation of it claiming that I don’t sleep. So I thought I should probably write a blogpost and get it over with. I am up at 2am writing this post. How appropriate. 

So I do actually sleep. Not much, but a little. I just give off the appearance of no sleep because 

  1. I don’t sleep at regular hours each day (explanation forthcoming) 
  2. I don’t sleep an entire chunk of time all in a row (explanation forthcoming) 
  3. I don’t need more than a total of 5 hours (disjointed) sleep hours most days. Occasionally I crash and sleep a good/bad 8 hours (but the possibility of that happening is v low – I started eating more healthy and exercising and since then sleep a little more)
  4. I can’t go back to sleep easily once my sleep is interrupted and so I either get online or read on my Kindle when awake. So I respond on social media and everyone knows I am awake because of it

Many of the reasons I don’t sleep regularly are ones many moms (and some dads) will recognize:

  1. Because my kid is awake or needs me to be awake. My kid is sick (like tonight), or needs attention because of bedwetting or needing to get up to go to the toilet or the new wonderful nightmares she sometimes gets 🙁 or simply because she wakes me up asking for a hug. I don’t mind doing any of that. I just can’t sleep again afterwards. At some point she was on new meds and would wake up v hungry in middle of the night. Thankfully we solved that problem. 
  2. Because I can’t get enough work done during normal hours. I gotta leave work early to spend time w my kid before her bedtime. I can’t work with focus while she is up. So I have to work after she sleeps. I learned during last weeks of my PhD dissertation how to not-sleep so I could finish writing even on days when my kid slept late or was sick. Not sleeping is how I survived and finished my PhD…
  3. Because I work a lot with people on other timezones and I will make the effort to stay up and talk to them. It’s not their selfishness. They do it for me sometimes too (get up early or wake up late). I am hypersocial and my f2f social life is limited to work and morning/afternoons as my husband has erratic work hours and once it’s the kid’s bedtime i can’t go anywhere. Online is my only social life then. My US friends were my support in those last days of PhD. Mom and husband would be asleep at 1am when I needed someone to talk to
  4. Following up from above – sometimes I can’t sleep because I am upset or worried and I go online for therapy. I probably won’t tell whoever I am talking to what’s happening but I will benefit from their warmth at a distance. Occasionally it will be someone who can listen to the problem. Not always. I got through some of my lowest moments by talking to friends on social media. Twitter and Facebook mainly. And sometimes by blogging it. Many poems and articles written at weird hours of night
  5. Impostor syndrome makes me wanna do lots of stuff to advance my career like do research, write articles, attend conferences online (virtually connecting mainly) and that often keeps me up and sometimes I am too jazzed after all this to sleep immediately. Like last week after the #digPed sessions that ended near midnight my time I couldn’t sleep immediately coz of adrenaline after some great sessions! 
  6. Sometimes I am sleepy but my kid is not. By the time she sleeps I have missed my window of sleep and can’t sleep anymore 
  7. Sometimes I just miss my alone time (I am an only child) and just want to read or write uninterrupted in a quiet house.

Most of the above are gendered reasons. When a man needs to work (in my society at least) he can stay at work late. He can close the door and tell kids not to disturb him. He can also go to bed whenever he wants even if Thekid is awake. He can go out with friends whenever he likes or travel any day.
Now non-gendered non-kid non-career reasons why  I appear not to sleep are religious/spiritual 

  1. I am up to pray fajr (dawn) prayer (somewhere between 3 and 5am in Cairo depending on season). That means going to bathroom for ablution (religious washing) and praying which doesn’t take long but I usually can’t sleep again immediately so I may go online. Sometimes I am up for another reason at 2am and I choose to stay up so I can pray instead of sleep and get up again. For info, not everyone gets up to pray this dawn prayer – they make it up the next morning any time…but I prefer praying it on time in the range it is meant to be prayed. It’s technically pre-dawn actually 
  2. I  am fasting and need to eat before dawn time so I am up at 2am eating and waiting to pray before going to bed

So there you have it. The definitive guide to when Maha sleeps. Written between 2-3am as I wait to see if the fever will go down and wait to pray fajr.

3 Comments

  1. As always your post speaks from the heart with honesty and openness. You are a wonderful inspiration is so many ways Maha.

  2. Wonderful Maha, I had some insight here but love that you shared this.

    Our middle child suffered often from night terrors so I identify with that. For some reason, I was the one that almost always ran to his room to comfort him through that. I agree with your points about gender roles here, this is prevalent here in Mexico even more so than Canada and I (try) to break that as much as I can. I’m sure there is still work for me there.

    I have the privilege to be in a secure faculty position (not really tenure, we don’t have that here) for most of the past 21 years and some consulting income. Not rich, but comfortable enough that I have been able to take a stand for more time for family and health in my life over the past 5 years or so. Truth be told, part of dropping my Ph.D. and not finishing as yet-another-ABD was to let go of that time sink in my family life.

    I also get the “you answer instantly on Twitter” and will agree that my mobile device is indeed part of my anatomy (shared by you on Twitter recently).

    Cheers, I am so privileged to have bumped into you here online.

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