How I Reclaimed My Ability to Sleep Without Shame

Becoming a parent taught me that sleep deprivation is deeply uncool

Kerala Taylor
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readJan 29, 2024

--

Photo by clearstockconcepts/Getty Images Signature

If I could give just one piece of advice to my 20-year-old self, it would be to go the fuck to sleep.

When I became a mother, at age 31, I cursed myself for every hour of sleep I had ever denied myself for no good reason. So much sleep squandered in my 20s because I fancied myself a Busy and Potentially Important Person. I was trying to make my mark, trying to launch a company while bartending to pay rent, and everyone knows that entrepreneurs can’t be bothered with such frivolous pastimes as sleeping.

In my early 20s, I got home from my Sunday bartending shift at 3 a.m. and arose at 7 a.m. to start my workweek. I stayed up too late on Fridays — because I was young and didn’t yet get hangovers — and stayed up too late most other days just because.

But still, when I did sleep, I did so with gusto. I routinely enjoyed uninterrupted, untroubled hours of sleep, all stacked up one after the other. I made up for staying up too late by sleeping in on the weekends, a luxury I didn’t yet know to cherish.

I have, in fact, always been partial to sleep. As a child, I never protested my 9 p.m. bedtime; in fact, I even continued to honor it through my freshman year of high school. My parents were confused. “You don’t have to keep going to bed at nine,” they said.

I was that obnoxious kid who was no fun at sleepovers. I’d try my best to stay awake, but at a certain point, usually just when the other kids were revving up, my sleeping bag would beckon. I’d zip myself in and fall promptly asleep under blazing overhead lights while sugar-fueled chaos reigned around me.

When I spent the night at my friends’ houses in middle school, they always wanted to talk until the wee hours of the morning. I’d give it a go for as long as I could, but eventually, as exhaustion overtook me, I had to feign sleep, willing them to get the message and shut the hell up. One friend, in particular, was tenacious in her late-night banter and would carry on through my long, pointed silences, intermittently kicking me because I was being lame and it was only 1 a.m.

--

--

Kerala Taylor
Human Parts

Award-winning writer. Interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. Subscribe: https://keralataylor.substack.com