From My WindowIssue Date: February 7, 2018
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Every human baby is different, but one thing all babies do, whether human or animal, is sleep more than adults. It is probable the key reason for this is because their bodies and brains are growing and changing so quickly. There are few sights as charming as a sleeping horse foal, long legs sprawled out in the sun; a pile of snuggling and napping puppies or kittens, or a soundly sleeping human infant. The sleep-starved parents of a newborn are especially moved by the sight of the sleeping baby!
My adorable granddaughter, though, fights naps fiercely. Even at six months, she'd resist the call of the "sandman," despite rubbing her eyes, twisting her hair and struggling to keep her eyelids up. A normal daily nap total for her could be as little as one 30 minute nap, and some days she slept less than that. The grown-ups in her life joked that she suffered from "Baby FOMO" or "Fear Of Missing Out." It seemed she was just so interested in everything going on around her she was loathe to miss something fun by being asleep.
I enjoy the days when I am caring for her, but on some of them, I would have welcomed a 30 minute nap myself! But often Baby B shows no sign of being willing to capitulate to sleep, and since she isn't fussy or crabby, it doesn't seem her body really needs the rest. She may grow up to be one of those adults who thrives on six hours of sleep a night.
Imagine for a minute, that you are on the job on a particularly trying day. Or that you are hard at work at 2 a.m., your work shift being overnight. If a kind human who loved you offered to tuck you in for a 30 minute nap, how many of you would struggle and resist? To a working adult, with lots of responsibilities and a never-ending list of things to do, a nap would be an absolute luxury. Even 10 minutes in a recliner with your feet up would be most welcome.
As we age, more people do take daytime naps, partially because so many senior citizens have difficulty sleeping at night. Many of my older relatives go to bed relatively late but still wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep. Some get up and read, or watch some TV. While some of this is due to physical ailments causing discomfort, others say they just aren't sure why they wake up and can't fall back asleep for some time.
I saw a fascinating study by anthropologists documenting the lifestyles of people who live deep in the Amazon rainforest, relatively uncontacted by outside influences. These people live a subsidence lifestyle, in small villages. They make, grow, or hunt everything they need and do not have stores, doctors, electricity or anything else even most third world inhabitants have. Anthropologists studying these people began to monitor the sleep habits of the tribal members.
What they found was interesting. The tribal members had sleeping patterns that meant that there was little or no time that there was not some member of the tribe awake. The natural sleeping patterns of "teenage" tribal members, healthy adults, and seniors varied enough that there was a tribal member awake nearly the entire time of darkness. People living much as our earliest ancestors did display the same kinds of sleeping patterns we see now. And they live in a world without "screens," and some of the other factors currently blamed for sleeping difficulties.
When I was a young adult, I thought nothing of going out for the evening at 8 p.m. Now that is my normal bedtime, or at least the time I retire with a good book. It is safe to say that I no longer have any kind of FOMO at night.
There is nothing in the world better than a restful night's sleep. You come to this conclusion after you have a child, or you spend sleepless nights watching over a sick loved one, or forfeit sleep due to work requirements, natural disasters or illnesses resulting in insomnia. Most of us can "coast" through a day or two of poor sleep, but the impact becomes accumulative quickly if it extends longer than that. Lack of sleep literally makes us both physically and mentally ill.
So if someone says to me, "Hey, you look like you could use a nap! Go lie down for a while, I got this!" color me gone. FOMO won't prevent me from declining such an invitation.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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