If my kids had a dollar for every time they’ve heard me shriek, “GO TO SLEEP!” throughout their lifetimes, they could pay off their college loans in a snap.
Often it’s not until we become parents ourselves that the true value of sleep fully reveals itself, and from then on, there’s no turning back.
As a sleep-deprived mother of newborns, I vaguely remember trudging through the early days of three kids’ lives, ingesting more caffeine than medically advisable and struggling to battle brain fog while simultaneously relishing the wonder and non-stop bodily emissions of precious human infants.
By the time they each notched the six-month mark, I was SO DONE with middle-of-the-night feedings and more than ready to engage in the Ferber Method (otherwise known as, “Cry yourself to sleep for a night and learn how to self-soothe”). With adult ears tightly pillow-covered, we collectively toughed it out — and wouldn’t you know, those little honey-buns settled down and fell into deep, contented slumber after no more than 20 minutes of fussing apiece.
It would have been terrific if getting them to hit the sack as teenagers were as easy, but….no such luck. Their biological clocks shifted into “night owl” gear, and their activity and homework demands rose, just as my husband and I sunk into middle age. Consequently, we wrestled with our closing eyelids by 10 p.m. while they were raring to go until at least midnight.
My offspring alternated between amusement and irritation at my repeated exhortations to “Get more sleep” when they were at college, swamped with classes, essays, labs, rehearsals, work and social activities. Even so, I easily detected sleep deprivation in their tired voices on occasional phone calls made to despairingly wail there was “too much to do” and they were “going to fail.” (For the record, their work always got done, somehow, and to date nobody has actually failed.)
Last Christmas, my youngest purchased me a clever gift: the 2017 book “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Dr. Matthew Walker, an eminent sleep researcher who has persuasively presented his findings to widespread media outlets.
My trio of young adults laughed as I paged through the paperback, though the gift-giver never dreamt how his joke on mom would backfire.
At bedtime, I began perusing its 300-odd pages, absorbing the science Walker understandably relates and the disturbing effects lack of sleep has on every aspect of human performance, health and even life expectancy.
Soon I was liberally sprinkling Walker’s findings and recommendations into text messages and emails, reminding the family that “…landmark studies reveal just how quickly and comprehensively a brief dose of short sleep can affect your cancer-fighting immune cells,” or, pertinently, “…practice makes perfect. Not so, it seemed. Perhaps it was practice, with sleep, that makes perfect.”
Still, this old nag got pushback. But no one has to take it from me.
Conveniently enough, the co-founder of the University of Minnesota’s Sleep Performance Institute, Michael Howell, shared an opinion piece headlined “Tom Brady: Sleeping his way to the top,” in the Star Tribune’s Feb. 1, 2021, edition. Howell highlights legendary quarterback Tom Brady; the seemingly super-human 43-year-old is preparing to play in his 10th Super Bowl this week.
Howell writes, “Like other elite athletes such as LeBron James, Brady attributes his edge to sleeping better than the competition. ‘Proper sleep has helped me get to where I am today as an athlete and it is something I continue to rely on every day,’ he [Brady] says.”
I rest my case. And please, sleep well.
Check out Time for Moore, Jane Turpin Moore’s blog, at https://timeformoore566445504.wordpress.com.