(Time of day – about 8:00 p.m.)
“No. You can’t stay up another 10 minutes. Bedtime is bedtime. Get your pajamas on and get your teeth brushed.”
“Yes. You can have a glass of water and then I want to see that light go out.”
“No, there isn’t a werewolf living in your closet. Now, go to sleep…”
“…and be sure you close your eyes. It’s already 5 minutes past your bedtime and tomorrow is a school day.”
This was a fairly standard scenario at my house when my brother and I were very young. Our family pod wasn’t particularly rigid or strict, as I recall, but both of my parents (especially my father) were very invested in making sure that we children got our required amount of sleep. They were young parents and maybe they were nervous about doing everything right. Now, if we go forward in time several years, my younger sisters are about the same age as my brother and I in the scene above and the following would be part of a typical evening spent getting them to bed.
(One weary parent or another is shutting the door to the bedroom. The time? 8:30 p.m., 9:00, 10:00, 11:00? Who knows?)
“Yes, you can have the light on.” ”
“No, you don’t have to go to sleep right away.”
“Yes, you can play with the Legos but keep it quiet and don’t come out.”
Oldest children (and some of those in the middle) will sometimes complain that the youngest “Had it so easy.” I think that parents don’t shrug their shoulders and just give up – I think that they just decide that certain things (“Try not to break any bones if you can help it and leave the cat alone.”) are more important than some others (“You know we have broccoli at least once a week. Okay, just one little bite, okay?”) when it comes to raising children.
But this isn’t a post about child rearing or sibling order. This isn’t a post about the importance of family meal times either. This is a post about…sleep. When I was a kid, it wasn’t so much that I minded sleeping as it was all the exciting things that happened after 9:00 p.m. (or so I imagined). In later years, studying or just having fun often seemed more important than getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Night owl habits can be hard to break, but I think that I’m finally becoming someone who appreciates the early hours which, cliche or not, really are the best part of the day. I don’t seem to know that many people anymore who brag about how little sleep they’re getting and, in fact, more seem to complain about restless nights or noisy neighbors. Clearly, sleep is important for everyone, regardless of age, and getting enough of it can benefit everything from memory to weight loss.
But how do we get the sleep that we need in this stressed-out, always connected culture that we inhabit? If you aren’t naturally what my grandmother would have called a “good sleeper” or you’re just interested in the always intriguing subject of sleep, then DCPL might have resources to help. Consider these:
The always lively, often controversial, Arianna Huffington’s latest book is Sleep Revolution: transforming your life , one night at a time. If that subtitle gives you pause, you may be interested to know that Huffington experienced a sleep revelation of sorts when she collapsed several years ago due to exhaustion. Since then, she has made it a mission to get good sleep – and to make sure that you get it too. In spite of that, this isn’t so much a how-to book as it is a look at the latest science on sleep. Huffington covers everything from the deceptions practiced by the sleeping pill industry to how artificial light (including that from our devices) effects our sleep. There’s also a discussion of how parents can have productive conversations with children about sleep and “model” the type of sleep behavior that they would like to see. Hmmm….so maybe I would have happily gone to bed at my assigned time if everyone else hadn’t seemed to be having so much fun?
Do you feel that you aren’t getting the quality sleep that you need at night and does that have an impact on your waking hours? If so, you might check out Robert S. Rosenberg’s Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: a doctor’s guide to solving your sleep problems. There’s lots of useful information here as well as a few tidbits that might surprise you. Did you know that a blue room is the most conducive to slumber? On the other hand, the “blue light” created by televisions, smart phones and computers can disrupt your melatonin production thus leading to a restless night. Which might mean that your bedside table should hold print books and an old school alarm clock instead of devices. I mean, once you finish painting the walls.
All living things seem to require a certain amount of sleep (or its equivalent) but sleep itself, and what really happens during it, remains in many ways a mystery. If you’ve always been curious about what sleep means in a cultural context be sure to check out The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff. Duff explores the meaning of sleep, both in its physiological aspects as well as its social significance. Along the way, you’ll discover some interesting facts. Did you know, for example, that before the widespread use of electric lighting, people really did go to bed and arise with the sun but most people woke up for a lengthy period of time in between during which they would do some chores, pray or read. Fascinating stuff!
I’ve come a long way from the would be night owl, feet dragging to bed habits of before. These days I go to bed happily, dare I say eagerly, and, for the most part, I sleep well. How about you? Are you an early riser or do you come alive in the late hours? Most importantly, do you get enough sleep?