ODE TO ZZZ
ZZZ are A-okay methinks,
Each regarded with great esteem.
A long sleep or just 40 winks,
To doze, perchance to dream.
There is some irony in the fact I started a luxury brand which sold many thousands of silver-topped casters of posh “sleeping powder” and silky sleepshirts to customers like the Ritz-Carlton Hotels—though much of my life I have been a super-lousy sleeper.
My sleep-ineptitude didn’t seem to be genetic. My older, wiser brother was a great sleeper. He was so good at it, he could do it with his eyes closed. We always shared a bedroom as kids. He would drift off to slumberland the moment his head would hit the pillow and I would be lying awake trying to remember if the child psychologist said I had amnesia or insomnia.
During the day, my kid brain was bouncing around like a pinball wizard, “Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, ping…ping. Squirrel!” Then, in the dark middle of the night, I’d be doing my most clear-headed pondering, “Hmmm, why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible? They first appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233 million years ago. I wish I had a flashlight so I could get up and confirm this data on the bottom of p. 287 of my dinosaur book. Of course, the time depends on the speed of evolution. Oh yeah, and on whether Mr. Darwin was right about his theories of evolution. I really need a flashlight or a miner’s cap. I need to ask Santa Claus for a tiny flashlight I could pin on these pajamas. I wonder if there really is a Santa Claus. Also, was Santa Claus in the Bible?” Then, I would chart the dinosaur timeline and the days until Christmas on an imaginary blackboard in my brain, wake up exhausted and sleep through grammar school like a foggy-brained dope head.
“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more,” quipped the humorist, Wilson Mizener. I’ve often found that to be the case, but I’ve also learned there are choices we can make to take some control of our sleep life destiny.
ZEST FOR ZZZ–Here are 20 favorite recommendations to enhance the likelihood for happier sleep as you age, based on my 40 years as “The Gerontologist of Joy:”
- BE YOUR OWN SLEEP RESEARCHER—before you sign up for a “sleep study,” do your homework. For just one month, every morning when you are fully awake (after coffee?) jot down how you slept the night before and what you did different the day prior that might have positively and/or negatively impacted your sleep quality. Did you get some exercise the day before? Did you have a nightcap? Once you understand the impact of your awake choices on your sleeping, you can be a more effective monitor. Each day, rate the previous night’s sleep experience on a 1-10 scale. Every night may not be a 10, but for overall good health and life enjoyment, you should aspire to being a superior sleeper.
- LOSE WEIGHT, SNORE LESS, SLEEP BETTER—Yes, it’s just that simple. Well, it’s just that simply said. Obviously, losing weight requires a lot of willpower and lifestyle changes. According to the Obesity Medicine Association, approximately 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are obese, and 1 in 5 Americans (25 million people) are estimated to be affected by sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is defined as five or more breathing-related events per hour, measured by polysomnography (sleep study).
There is a strong link between sleep apnea, snoring and obesity. Excess fat in the neck area reduces the width of the air passage and constricts the natural flow of breath. Eliminating your obesity is one of the best things to do for better sleeping, and lessening snoring can be a good thing for relationships.
- SLEEP BETTER TONIGHT, PERFORM BETTER TOMORROW—Remind yourself of this truism. Write it on a notecard to leave on your nightstand. Embroider it on a pillow. Sleep matters. If you want more joy in your work and in your play, plan for optimal sleep.
- ADJUST YOUR SLEEP BY 15-MINUTE INCREMENTS until you identify an optimal sleeping time for yourself.
- SEVEN MAY BE THE CLOSEST TO SLEEPYTIME HEAVEN—According to the latest major research results, seven hours of sleep per night is recommended for most adults.
“While we can’t say conclusively that too little or too much sleep causes cognitive problems, our analysis looking at individuals over a longer period of time appears to support this idea,” reports Dr. Jianfeng Feng, a professor at China’s Fudan University in the scientific journal, “Nature Aging.” The vast study was based on almost 500,000 adults ages 38-73 in the U.K. and China.
However, since researchers often seem to bicker like sleep-deprived kindergarteners, consider this from Russell Foster, author of “Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock:” “How we sleep, our preferred sleep times and how many times we wake during the night varies hugely between individuals as we age. Sleep is dynamic, and we all have different sleep patterns, and the key thing is to assess what our individual needs are.”
- ENJOY BRIGHT DAYS LIKE SUNFLOWERS, EVENING SHADE LIKE ORCHIDS and DARK SLEEPING TIME LIKE NIGHT-BLOOMING JASMINE—Flowering occurs throughout the day. Use bright light to stay alert. Lessen your lighting as the sun sets for calming. Arrange for total blackout darkness for sleep.
- BEING HOT IN BED IS NOT GOOD—Well, it might be good for other things, but your body temperature changes throughout the day and for best sleep, experts suggest you set your sleeping room thermostat for 66-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- SLIP INTO SOMETHING MORE COMFORTABLE FOR SLEEP—whether, for you, that’s a Victoria Secret teddy, a Mother Hubbard flannel gown or your birthday suit. Avoid sleepwear that chokes, binds or scratches.
- TO LOOK YOUR BEST, REST YOUR BEST—Great shoes and matching bags under your eyes is a “Glamour Magazine”—DON’T. You want to be rested and radiant for your next Met Gala or Mr. America pageant.
- TAKE A HIKE—Even five minutes under the sky each day aids sleeps. Get outside some each day and when possible, this is even better done in early-ish morning. Exercise in the day will help tire your body which will want to naturally regenerate at night.
- THINKING YOU MIGHT WANT A BABY, SLEEP ON IT—I thought of this example because I once saw a condom machine in a men’s room at a Texaco station, euphemistically labeled “The Family Planning Center.” No big decision like that should be made impulsively while pumping gas at the filling station. Pondering something major? After a good night’s sleep, you’ll think more clear-headedly.
- SLEEPYHEADS DON’T WANT TO HEAR SPURS OR ANYTHING ELSE JINGLE, JANGLE, JINGLE—If some sounds are jazzing up your brain too much to doze off, add a “constant, background noise” like a whirring fan, a noisemaker or a smartphone app.
“Real Simple Magazine” touts the customization options of the LectroFan Classic which has 10 “fan sounds” from industrial to vent to oscillating. It also has these options: white noise (TV static), brown noise (the low hum of a brass instrument) and the new, sleep darling, pink noise (something like falling rain). Visit https://www.soundofsleep.com/.
- WHO OR WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST IRRITANT? —Identify one “Mighty Stressmaker” you often lose sleep because of, address it and banish it from your nighttime worries.
- CONSISTENCY MAY BE THE HOBGOBLIN OF LITTLE MINDS—but your “body clock” wants consistent times for going to sleep and awakening from sleep. Scientists believe the reason for the “Sunday Blues” which plague many people is not from dreading Monday and the work week but from confusing the brain with late nights and morning “sleep ins” during the weekend.
- CREATE A “ONE HOUR PRE-SLEEP REGIMEN”—no food, no drink, no television, no electronics at all. (Full disclosure: I regularly keep this rule but have a task lamp to read good-but-not-intense novels in bed. It’s rare but last night I dozed off while reading, then awakened in the wee, small hours of the morning and I’m a zombie with a pain in the neck today. Possibly karma for the hypocrisy of preaching all these “sleep commandments.”)
- THE TONIC FOR YOUR TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO-GOOD DAY—is sleep. Restore your body and you’ll restore your perspective so you can begin again and again and again and…
- DESIGN YOUR WORK TO RESPECT SLEEP—Let your boss and co-workers know your health priorities while also assuring them you will “pull your load” as a good team player. Some may often opt to “burn the midnight oil” but you might suggest innovative time-use strategies such as the “walking meetings” Tim Cook, Apple CEO, conducts or possibly healthy, “working lunches.”
- THROW YOUR “SNOOZE BUTTON” CLOCK OUT THE WINDOW (The Riddler would say, “See time fly.”)—Instead of 10 minutes of pillow-hugging denial and giving that bojangle clock the finger, when you first wake up, spread an ear-to-ear smile across your face (your brain can’t distinguish between happy to be getting up and faking the happy), then get out of bed and open the curtains and/or turn on the lights. Repeat every day for the rest of your life.
- DON’T BE A CRAMMER—Plan ahead for a test or an important work assignment and go to bed 15-minutes earlier the night before.
- RELAX, SLEEP WILL COME—Mindfulness meditation in which you focus on the present moment and let your mind wander without latching on to your thoughts and judging them can lead to sleep. Dr. Joshua Tal, a psychologist specializing in healthy sleep suggests deep, relaxing “belly breaths” to activate your body’s “rest and digest” system. I use “box breathing” with a 4-4-4 pattern. Breathe in to a count of four, hold for a count of four, breath out for a count of four. Relax and get a good night’s sleep.
Some of these 20 sleep suggestions could help you have some joyful 40 winks. Consider which might be useful for your own personal sleep health, then—sleep on it. (And, for ultimate lulling, get someone you love to read you GOODNIGHT MOON—full text below.)
ZEST FOR ZZZ ODES FROM OTHERS:
“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”—St. Thomas Aquinas
“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”—Carrie Snow
“Sleep is the best meditation.”—Dalai Lama
“I count it as a certainty that in paradise everyone naps.”—Tom Hodgkinson
“O bed! O bed! Delicious bed! That heaven upon earth to the weary head.”—Thomas Hood
“Without enough sleep, we all become tall 2-year-olds.”—JoJo Jensen
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”—Irish proverb
ZEST FOR ZZZ LAFFS:
“Scientists have shown that an uncontrollable urge to start singing The Tokens’ hit single, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ is just a whim away…a whim away, a whim away.”
“What do you call a mare that sleeps around? A whorse.”
“I have a condition that make me eat when I can’t sleep, it’s called insom-nom-nom-nom-nia.”
YOU ARE GETTING SLEEPY, VERY SLEEPY TURKEY SANDWICHES—INDIANA
(Source: “Men’s Health Magazine”—November, 2020)
Each week, Joy & Gerontology shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.
Trytophan is an amino acid in turkeys known for its sleep-inducing capabilities but is really more delicious hype than science. With the right enzymes in your brain, tryptophan, can transform to serotonin which has a calming effect but renders nothing like the “turkey coma” popularized on the television sit-com, “Seinfeld.”
These turkey sandwiches published in “Men’s Health Magazine” will wake up your taste buds. For each sandwich, they suggest: “Get Toasty—toasting the bread enhances sandwich flavor and structural integrity. The toaster is fine, but heartier breads (ciabatta, baguette) benefit from a minute or three beneath the broiler to turn crisp outside and chewy inside.” Also, “Stack Smart—each recipe makes two sandwiches. Double the flavor by distributing the spread on the top AND bottom slices. Then add ½ cup sliced turkey to the bottom slice, followed by an equal portion of the topping and finally the top slice.”
JALAPENO POPPER—Bread: 2 sandwich thins; Spread: ¼ cup BBQ sauce; Topping: ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese + ¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices +1 cup shredded lettuce
SHROOM SERVICE—Bread: 4 slices pumpernickel; Spread: 2 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard; Topping: 2 slices provolone cheese + 1 cup sauteed mushrooms + ½ cup parsley
BIG FIG—Bread: 4 slices seeded multigrain; Spread: ¼ cup fig preserves + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbsp chopped shallot + 1 tsp fresh thyme
TBLT—Bread: 4 slices sourdough; Spread: ½ cup hummus + 2 Tbsp pesto; Topping: 4 strips cooked bacon + 2 thick slices tomato + 1 cup torn bibb lettuce
GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown
(This magically mesmerizing, sleepy time book has sold more than 50 million copies around the globe. Written by Ms. Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, “Goodnight Moon,” was first published by Harper and Brothers in 1947.)
“In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs and kittens and a pair of mittens and a little toy house and a young mouse and a comb and brush and a bowl full of mush, and a quiet, old lady whispering, ‘Hush.’
Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon.
Goodnight bears. Goodnight chairs. Goodnight kittens and goodnight mittens.
Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks. Goodnight little house and goodnight mouse.
Goodnight comb and goodnight brush. Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush. And goodnight to the old lady whispering “Hush.”
Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.”
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued):
407. “Sleepless in Seattle” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
408. Deviled eggs made with Sriracha hot sauce and smoked salmon.
409. Grilled okra wrapped in bacon.
410. May Day posies someone leaves on your front door.
411. Mother’s Day lap and love.
412. Drive-in movies.
413. Drive-thru daiquiri barns.
414. Drive-By Truckers.
415. Lightning bugs in a jar.
416. “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys.
417. The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
418. College beer joints on the Tennessee line.
419. The Funky Chicken.
420. The Fickle Finger of Fate.
421. “As It Was” by Harry Styles, original video.
422. Independent bookstores.
423. Pen pals.
424. Slow-dancing at an Eagle’s concert with a lady whose husband was in the federal pen.
425. Uni-Ball pens, bold, black ink.
426. Taj India buffet.
427. Indian leg-wrestling.
428. “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
429. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens.
HAPPY JOYFUL DAYS and ZESTFUL ZZZ!