Sleeping with the sugarplums

Is it healthy relaxing and unwinding, or unhealthy retreating with depression? Is it hibernating, or a dangerous sleep disorder? Is it okay to put on our jammies at seven p.m., burrow under two quilts, and pull the pillows over our head? Can we pretend to be a bear in a cave?

We don't sleep enough. Studies keep reporting this finding. We don't sleep at the right times or in the right places. Worse, our kids don't sleep enough, even though we are glad to see them fall asleep any time anywhere. Phew!

Aging and dementia wreak havoc with sleep routines. So do pain pills, cough meds, sleep aids, job stress and mortgage worry, pregnancy, menopause, restless legs, caffeine, alcohol, parenting infants, parenting teens with drivers licenses, and overdue library books.

This is the first I've heard of a PBS Sprout channel, or its annual Christmas Eve "Snooze-a-thon". I applaud the idea of kiddies sleeping through the night, but their reliance on a tv or online program of sleeping puppets is frightening. Why would the tots even have access to media in the middle of the nighty-night?

Just the idea of snooze-inducing tv brings back in HD my five surreal days in Dad's hospital room when he was hallucinating. A lowly night-shift aide was the savior who tuned Dad's tv to the C.A.R.E. channel. The channel's music helped cancel out the beeping, blinking, dripping, chatting, pages, squeaky nurse shoes, elevators, and floor buffing machines. Don't let anybody tell you a hospital is a quiet place! It's a 24-hour arcade.

Dad had been sleeping all day between gurney rides for tests and x-rays. When awake he was seriously paranoid. After dark he'd been hallucinating, but in the very wee hours he was all charm and chatting with anyone who humored his requests for sandwiches and ice cream.

Trying to sleep on the hard cot in Dad's room at night so I could confer with elusive doctors by day, I was getting almost as loony as Dad. Not easy to get shut-eye when the patient is ripping out his IV and believes you are an enemy spy

The C.A.R.E. channel showed outer space images all night, accompanied by relaxation music. Galaxies, Saturn's rings, and nebulae began convincing Dad that night was night and a fine time to sleep. All day the channel showed horses frolicking in a pasture near a mountain range, and other subtle hints that day is the time to stay awake. It was simple, brilliant, and effective. Amen!

Asking your doctor might not lasso relief. Asking Santa might not bring a frolicking pony. Ask your hospital if it has the C.A.R.E. channel for patients. Tell the little sprouts to stay under the covers for another bitty while!

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

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