Al Batt: What do you want, sleepyhead, worms or waffles today?

Published 8:45 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I yawned.

The average person yawns about 20 times a day.

Al Batt

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We yawn when we’re tired, bored, hungry or stressed. Theories say yawning wakes the brain, cools the brain or demonstrates empathy. A friend said she yawns every time she sees her dog yawn.

Our cat rarely yawns. Of course, it sleeps 22 hours a day.

I’d written about sleep several months ago. Then I nodded off. Upon awakening, I found myself at Union Station in Washington, D.C. It’s a historic transportation and shopping center with a food court a short walk from the U.S. Capitol Building. I battled a burger too big for my appetite. I cut it in half and offered it to a homeless man who leaned against a wall, surrounded by his meager yet scattered belongings. He thanked me as he pulled plastic silverware from his shirt pocket to enhance his dining pleasure. He raved about the half-burger.

I asked where he slept. He replied, “Wherever I get tired.”

I hoped he got a good night’s sleep somewhere. Most of us don’t get enough sleep. Our sleeping isn’t top-notch. We look in the mirror and our reflections cringe when they see the bags under our eyes. Airlines charge us extra for those bags.

A Gallup Poll found that 20% of us get five or fewer hours of sleep per night, up from 14% in 2013, when Americans averaged 6.8 hours of sleep a night, down over an hour from 1942.

In 1910, the average person slept 9 hours each night. A recent WebMD survey found its respondents slept just 5.7 hours per night and it took them 29.8 minutes to fall asleep.

More than 50% of the people you know nap during the week. The rest lie about it.

Worrying about things keeps us awake. You don’t need to worry about getting up early enough to wake the rooster. Remember, the early bird gets the worm. The later bird gets waffles.

You’ve already lost the lottery again, which gives you time to fret as to how Rudy Giuliani will come up with the $12,000 he spends on cigars and the $7,000 he blows on fountain pens every five months.

If I dream I’m awake all night, does it count as sleep? Our minds become video games filled with stress, frustration and tribulation. How can we drift off promptly and sleep the sleep we were meant to sleep?

Count sheep. I hear you saying you don’t have any sheep and you’re wondering where you could rent a flock.

Just close your eyes and imagine an endless line of sheep leaping over a fence. Don’t imagine great leaps. Sheep don’t dunk basketballs. As you count each sheep jumping over the fence, your mind gradually slips into numbing boredom and eventually, sleep. Does counting sheep work? I tried to ask a sheep census taker, but I couldn’t wake him. Few things go according to plan, so there is little support for its effectiveness in inducing sleep. Research at Oxford University suggested that counting sheep may prolong the time it takes to fall asleep. That’s right, people who count sheep take longer to fall asleep than if they hadn’t counted sheep. The researchers found that people who pictured a relaxing scene, such as a peaceful woods, a soothing waterfall or a self-mowing lawn, fell asleep 20 minutes earlier on average than otherwise.

I sleep on my assigned side. When first married, my wife and I chose sides of the bed and we continue to sleep in place. The bed is always sleepier on the other side. As I drift off to dreamland, I try not to think of Barbara Eden, the Diet of Worms, the pumpkin spice surcharge on my last oil change, and if the inventor of the snooze button invented anything else. I give myself a pep talk, but it doesn’t always help. I warn myself that if I don’t sleep, I’ll find myself watching a TV commercial for the George Foreman Grill, if it still runs commercials in the middle of the night.

A doctor said the secret is routine. I should sleep and eat at the same time each day.

I tried that. It’s messy, but a sheet makes a fine bib.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.