Monday, April 4, 2011

Hit the Snooze: Sleep, Continued

My recent obsession with and lack of sleep continues. This reached an all-time new height this past weekend, when Emily and I got a good chuckle...okay, a belly aching laugh, out of a passage from Richard Ferber's (M.D.) famous book, "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems". Talking about the dangers of negative sleep associations (such as being rocked to sleep or held and then, once asleep, placed in a crib), Dr. Ferber writes:
Now imagine this person, instead of just taking your pillow, actually moves you from your bed to another room, without waking you. Every night you go to sleep in your bed with everything just as you like it, only to wake after your first sleep cycle on, say the floor of the living room. Unless you're an exceptionally tolerant sleeper, you won't even try to go back to sleep right there; you will get up and head back to your bedroom...Once you calm down, you will fall back asleep-- but some ninety minutes later you'll wake up again on the living room floor and again locked out of your bedroom...Soon you might be resisting sleep in hopes of identifying the person who keeps moving you; in other words, you might have trouble falling asleep even in your own bed because you know that you'll be moved once you fall asleep. If that happened to you every night, you would not be very happy. (Ferber 66-67)

Not very happy, indeed, but extremely funny.



And, on top of having a 5 month old who we are trying to teach how to fall asleep on her own, the NCAA Championship game starts at 9:23 p.m. EST.

Snooze button users of the world, unite.

Go ahead, and hit it. Not only will you get a few precious moments of shut eye, you'll also have a sense of control over the dreaded wake-up call, "You can't tell me it's time to get up, Alarm Clock, you vile fiend!"

But, snoozing, unless it's for a significant amount of time in between snoozes, does little to help us feel more well rested.

Before proceeding, a confession: I use/abuse (is there a difference for snoozers?) the snooze button. And, as mentioned in a previous blog, I do not get enough sleep. This is not necessarily a result of becoming a parent, though. I've always been a lousy sleeper. Elizabeth has merely compounded, not caused, my sleep deficiency.

Another point of clarification before proceeding: Despite my posturing last blog, I fully understand and appreciate the importance of sleep, not just for a newborn, infant, toddler, child, teenager, or adult but every person. What's more is that Elizabeth does get a good amount of sleep throughout the course of the day; it just doesn't all come at night. Her trouble sleeping at night and "through the night" are things that Emily and I are very concerned about, for our own sakes if not just for hers.

As a self-professed "athlete" (even though I don't regularly participate in competitive sports anymore), I firmly understand the connection between our bodies and our minds and among those two and our souls. Our minds don't function well when we've filled our bodies with too much sugar, fat, caffeine, or when we deprive our bodies of certain vitamins and minerals, water or sleep. Our minds function even more poorly when with additions or subtractions that are even worse than those listed above.

I must confess again (Lent is a penitential season, after all): even though I watch what I eat, I strive for moderation as opposed to obsession. Therefore, my diet is not void of sweets, fried food or an overabundance of peanuts, peanut butter and cereal. I love to eat; I just try to moderate my intake and maintain a healthy balance of different types of foods.

The 2004 documentary, "Supersize Me", brought to our country's and world's attention the dangers of unhealthy eating. Attempting to eat nothing but McDonald's fare for 3 meals a day for 30 days, Morgan Spurlock, the movie's director and guinea pig, (SPOILER ALERT) is advised by day 21 to stop the diet due to the health complications it caused.

Knowing the importance to our overall health, Catholic Schools should pay attention to what students are eating- not only in the cafeteria but also in the classrooms during class parties and celebrations. As an administrator, it is frustrating to deal with disciplinary problems that result from a school provided sugar-high and subsequent crash (the interruption to instructional time is another issue/frustration).

I believe that if students ate healthier, more well balanced diets, their performance in school would increase.

Likewise, I believe that exercise is another key ingredient in this recipe for academic and behavioral success. Play 60 is a campaign by the frozen NFL encouraging kids to get a total of at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Just as with eating, the benefits to such a lifestyle are not limited to children.

Finally, getting adequate sleep is another staple in this formula. Growing up, my grandmother would always say that my brother, sister and I (and all children) grow while we sleep. I'm uncertain as to whether this hypothesis was ever validated or not, but it makes sense that we'd function with greater efficiency if we were more well rested. I know I'm a better husband, father, principal, friend and man when I get more than 6 hours of sleep at night.

While it may seem overly holistic and simplistic, I wonder how many academic and behavioral problems could be avoided and/or corrected if we watched our diets, got regular exercise and even acquired the recommended allotment of sleep.

I also wonder if it's okay if we start all of these things tomorrow?

Call it a day-long snooze.