Is Forest Park the town that never sleeps? Or are we part of a national trend of sleep deprivation? According to a new medical study, Americans are only catching six hours of shuteye a night. This explains why energy drinks are so popular and coffee shops can be found on every corner.
It also confirms that falling asleep is a difficult aspect of the human condition. As kids, we didn’t want to go to sleep, because we might miss something. I had so much nighttime energy back then, I spent the first seven years rocking my bed and the next ten reading books by nightlight.
It’s easy to understand kids not wanting to sleep but what about adults unable to get their rest? According to the study, rich people fall asleep faster than poor people. That’s because rich people have comfier beds and fewer financial worries.
If we start worrying about money problems at night, we might as well get up on our knees and start rocking the bed. Using my middle-of-the night mind to balance the checkbook would result in bloodshot eyes and completely gray hair by morning.
I’ve tried many sleep-inducing strategies: counting sheep, counting ceiling tiles, counting strokes from my last golf round. None of these methods work.
The rest of my family doesn’t have this struggle. Every night they’re riding the fast train to Snoozeville. Sometimes, you can hear them tooting their horns at a crossing but that’s another story.
They have clear consciences and no regrets. The problem for many of us is that we’re replaying something bad from the past, or projecting worries for the future. Insomnia strikes when we have something stressful to face the next day.
The worst is when we have an early appointment and get mad at ourselves for not being able to sleep. If we get angry at our insomnia, we might as well switch on the nightlight and start reading.
So, I’ve devised a scorched earth approach to sleeping. I call it blanking. First, I blank out any thoughts about the past. Then I blank out any thoughts about the future. I just lay there, purposely not thinking”if my brain were tested, it would show no activity.
As for being sleepless in Forest Park, we have our share of nighttime noise and activity. We also have a sizable African-American population. The sleep study shows that blacks on average sleep an hour less than whites. There is no scientific explanation for this sleep gap. All of us would function better, though, with an adequate amount of sleep. The next time you’re wakeful, read a very complex book. There’s one by William Faulkner that leaves me comatose by the second page.
Or, you can do what our neighbors did one stifling night, when the power failed. Rather than roasting without air-conditioning, they hosted a 2 a.m. margarita party. I didn’t mind”I wasn’t sleeping anyway.