Money can't buy me sleep

November 10, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I swear the coffee cup was nearly as big as her head.

It was one of those convenience store deals. My friend had picked it up on the way to our evening meeting.

Though she'd worked and taken care of her kids and home that day, she knew that when she went home later that night, she would not be kicking back with a good book then drifting off to sleep. She and her husband own a business and there was work to be done.

"Call me if you get tired. I'll be up," we often tell one another regarding our late night labor.

I do much of my work from home, frequently after the rest of my family has gone to bed.

I don't recall what time my friend posted on my wall that night. My head was full of the shadows and echoes that come with sleep deprivation. I remember that it was late, she was still working, and she was "still pretty amped."

I understood. I have gained the dubious title of "Diet Mountain Holler queen." It's my generic beverage of choice to keep me adequately alert when sleep is threatening.

My friend and I are not alone in our sleep deficiency. Many people these days run not on a good 40 winks, but on caffeine and determination.

Science Daily says sleep deprivations affects 47 million adults in the United States. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 20 percent of Americans report that they get less than 6 hours of sleep on average.

The National Institutes of Health attribute shrinking hours of shut-eye to our 24/7 society. With all-night gyms, digital video recording, the Internet, night shifts and the ability to work on the computer at home, there are increasing opportunities to do things other than sleep at night.

These alleged conveniences don't come without a cost. When I'm short on sleep, I am not only tired, but cold, hungry, confused and moody. Don't look away and expect my smile to be there when you look back, because in that second, I might have grown fangs and turned into a being you don't want to be around. It's an awful feeling.

Sleep deficits are proven to result in decreased cognitive brain function. According to, an ongoing sleep-restricted state can result in clumsiness, poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems and depression. Health risks in people with chronic sleep loss including weakened immunity, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Sounds like it might be time to re-evaluate the 24/7 lifestyle. I am reminded of a family I know who got in over their heads, activity-wise. They ran ragged for a while, until one day they took drastic action. The parents and children took sabbaticals from all their activities. Yes, the kids even up and quit sports teams and music lessons. And the world kept on spinning.

The bold action gave the family a clean slate, and time and clarity to re-evaluate what they actually wanted to be doing. They've since stepped cautiously back into things and found a better balance.

 Such action is not warranted for everyone. But it provides a template for stopping the insanity and conceding the need for rest.

I offer a less radical alternative. Acknowledge the need for adequate sleep, and take a step toward getting it.

Here's my support. Tonight at a reasonable hour, get a mug of warm milk. Pick up this column read the following line over and over until it does the trick.

You are getting veeerryy sleeppyyy ...

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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