How Much Shuteye Do You Need?—Hey! I’m Talking to You!
Sleep-deprived researchers are at it again
By Ed Goldman
If you have trouble falling asleep tonight, why not catch yourself up on the latest research into just how much shuteye we need? Why, you’ll be in the realm of REM in mere moments.
Scientists—and the makers of prescription knockout drops and over-the-counter hypnotics—have been debating for years whether adults need as few as six or as many as nine hours of slumber per every 24 hours. I firmly believe the discussion itself hastened the creation of “yawn-inducing” as a compound adjective.
Doze were the days, my friend
Worth noting is that the late comedian Steve Allen caused a small-scale ripple among people given to small-scale rippling when he confessed to an interviewer that he regularly logged in 11 hours of sleep every night. This isn’t why I refer to him as “the late comedian,” by the way: he’s dead. Yet I imagine punctuality became a scheduling challenge when he left himself only 13 waking hours each day.
And while we’re at it, what about the title character of the hit play “The Drowsy Chaperone”? I’ll bet he had some HR issues to deal with because of his condition.
Some people think if they sleep fewer than the minimum daily requirement they can cadge extra credit by napping during the day. Sleep experts aren’t so sure. They seem okay with the concept of the catnap or “genius naps,” as lovingly delusional spouses label them when their significant others take them, even when they don’t awake as geniuses. But the snooze mavens caution that even though these may prove refreshing, they’re no substitute for the full-night shift.
I’ve rarely slept seven nonstop hours, even before age and its companions—impostor syndrome and that pesky prostate—presented themselves.
Sometimes it was because I worked weird job shifts, like the summer I worked as a reporter, from 2 to 11 p.m., or the year I worked the same job from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both instances saw me get home around 2:30 and pile into bed: the former in the a.m. and the latter in the p.m.
The early shift guaranteed that whoever I went out with that evening would later be able to write a memoir, “I Dated A Zombie.”
The late shift meant that if I wished to date, I’d need to find someone who liked going to dinner and a movie starting around midnight, which meant screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” followed by patty melts at Denny’s. I discovered the pool of female graveyard-shift security guards was pretty shallow.
While I appreciate the research that went into determining optimal and minimal hours of sleep, I’m guessing they vary country to country and culture to culture.
For example, babbel.com reports that the afternoon nap, or siesta, a diminishing custom in Spain and Mexico, “is still embraced in other parts of the world like in Greece, Italy, Nigeria, and the Philippines.” In fact, the website says, “Siesta is a sacred tradition in Greek culture.”
Because of his erratic work shifts as a firefighter, my dad would often nap on his afternoons at home. When I asked my mom if this prevented him from falling asleep at the traditional bedtime, she laughed and said my dad fell asleep so easily, all he could croak out was the first half of “Good night” before diving into the arms of Morpheus.
I find this inspiring—and confess that all this talk about sleeping has made me a tad groggy. So, let me conclude by wishing all of you a heartfelt good.
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