Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How Do People Stand to Feel This Way?

I am tired. Miserably tired. My head is fuzzy and I'm struggling to put thoughts together. My bloodshot eyes hurt and my eyelids feel like they've weighted down by invisible barbells. My legs feel like huge sandbags have been attached. My muscles feel like I've done four aerobics classes in a row.

I've been awake way too many hours. We've been in New York City this past week. We explored the sites from Harlem in the north of the city to Staten Island beneath its southern tip, and points in between. We ate so much New York pizza we're in danger of exploding. This morning, I left Manhattan at 4:30 a.m., or 2:30 Denver time. I've been up since then. It's not pretty.

How do people stand to feel this way all the time? Lots of people live in a constant state of sleep deprivation. All the time. They think the foggy head and sluggish body are normal. In fact, the latest National Sleep Foundation poll found that we get an average of 6.5 hours of sleep now. That's not enough.

We all know what we need to do to be healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Get regular medical tests. When we rattle off this laundry list, we rarely include getting adequate rest. This doesn't make sense. Getting enough sleep is way easier than getting mammograms or colonoscopies. It doesn't require the discipline of hitting the gym everyday or steaming up that broccoli day after day. It doesn't hurt at all, and in fact, feels good!

Do you get enough sleep? If not, why not? We'll discuss the reasons why it's difficult in our caffeinated, speedy, hyped-up, 24/7 society ... but not now. I've got to get some sleep.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Drowsy Driving Rant

Last week we read a brief article in Woman's Day magazine about what to do when you have to drive and you're sleepy. The magazine suggested that readers eat peppermints, drink coffee, and turn up the music on the radio.

Articles like this make us crazy. This advice is just plain stupid. It doesn't matter how many peppermints you eat or how loud the music is. If you're too tired to drive, you shouldn't drive. Period. End of sentence. Even caffeine can only give you a jolt for a couple hours (and that's if you're not used to it).

Here are the facts. If you are too sleepy:
--Your reaction time is slow.
--Your vision is not as sharp.
--Your brain does not process information well.
--Your judgment is impaired.
--You are at a much higher risk of crashing your car.

In fact, you are in the same shape to drive as if you're drunk. Drowsy driving probably causes about a million accidents per year, though the exact number is unknown because it's hard to tell whether sleepiness caused an accident.

To learn more about drowsy driving, visit Or, take this quiz about drowsy driving: To see the reality of drowsy driving, go to the Drowsy Driving Memorials site, at Look at the photos of people who are gone because somebody thought it was okay to drive even though they were tired. Maybe those drivers had been munching on mints and listening to the radio too.

It's heartbreaking to sit at the funeral of someone who's been killed because a driver fell asleep at the wheel. This happened in our family, and we'll never forget the grief-stricken faces of our nephew's parents, the weeping teenagers at his funeral, or the sight of a 16-year-old wearing his basketball uniform, a basketball at his side ... in his casket.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Three A.M. Insomnia

I do my finest worrying at 3:00 a.m. The night is dark. The house is quiet. Everyone in the house is asleep. Except for me.
My mind races wildly at 3:00 a.m. Last night, here are the thoughts that danced through my brain at 3:00 a.m.:
· When is the Visa bill due?
· How much of the Visa bill can we pay?
· Will it be cold tomorrow?
· How is our marriage doing?
· Did we spend enough time together this weekend?
· When is the Visa bill due? Gee, I wish I’d gotten a better check yesterday. What’s the balance anyway?
· How is son Devon doing at college?
· How about son Ethan at another college and is Bryce buying too many CDs?
· Why did I eat so much last weekend?
· How long have I been awake?
Okay, the answer to the last question was easy. I broke one of the sleep rules that says never look at a clock when you’re having insomnia. It’s a good rule, theoretically. The only trouble is, I don’t even need to look at the clock to know the time. It’ll be 3:00. Possibly 4:00, but probably 3:00. Rarely any time before 3:00 or after 4:00.
Last night I cheated and looked. Twice. Once at 3:00. The next time at 3:45. No sleep in between.
Most of my friends are familiar with the 3:00 a.m. witching hour. Maybe that’s because we’re all in those fuzzy peri-menopause years. One friend who’s into psychic phenomenon tells me 3:00 a.m. is the time when “the spirits” are the closest, when we’re most likely to receive inspiration.
I wish that were the case. I never receive inspiration at 3:00 a.m. Only fears, concerns, anxieties, stupid stuff. Sometimes the worries are real. I really do need to pay that Visa bill. More often, the witching hour magnifies my concerns and the next morning they seem ridiculous. Why did I spend one second wondering about weather, for heaven’s sake? It’s not like I can do anything about it.
Robert sleeps peacefully beside me as I worry. He says there’s no need for him to worry at 3:00 a.m. because I do it for him. I agonize about teenagers getting home safely; he snoozes. I worry about the bills; he sleeps. I fret over whether the dog got fed, who will win the presidential election, whether I can meet my writing deadlines, and the chocolate bar I ate in the afternoon. Robert sleeps. I’m jealous.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Writing a Book About Sleep

For years Robert has hesitated to tell people (especially on airplanes) what business he's in. He always said that when you told somebody you worked in a sleep lab, they wanted to talk in grand detail about sleep. They asked lots of questions ... about their own sleep, their kids', their spouse's. They wanted interpretations of their dreams and especially enjoyed discussing snoring and insomnia.

Since we've been working on our book, I've learned that he is right. (Don't all husbands want to hear their wives say that about something? At least once?) Whenever we mention that we're writing a book about couples sleeping together, whoever we're chatting with starts talking, and asking questions, and telling us about their time in bed. We've heard about the usual problems -- especially snoring. (Do you snorers have any idea how miserable you can make your spouse's night?) We've also heard about unique issues -- terrifying hallucinations of spiders before going to sleep, the feeling of being paralyzed upon awakening, and spouses who freak out when being touched during sleep. We've heard a lot about insomnia and fatigue.

We are thoroughly enjoying talking with people. And we want to talk to more folks. We've heard from some of you on our Pillow Talk blog at the National Sleep Foundation's website - (a great website, by the way) - and we'd love to hear from you on this blog. This is your chance to share your stories, complaints, and thoughts. To ask questions and raise issues. We'll do our best to search out answers.

Sleep is something we all do, yet it still holds an air of mystery. Scientists are just cracking the code on what makes us tick when we sleep. Join in the conversation and let's figure out how to make those eight hours in bed even better than they are.