It usually turns out that our mothers are right.
My mom believed kids who do not get enough sleep are grouchy and “puny.” We took naps. We went to bed early, very early. My sister claims she never saw the moon until she was ten years old.
When my own three kids were young, they hated naps — and going to bed at night, for that matter. They did not want to miss out on fun. Afternoon naps were a struggle reduced to my saying, “Don’t close your eyes. Just rest your voice.” Sometimes that led to accidental naps. At night, after a bath and a story read again and again, we would come to “just one more thing” — maybe a drink of water or another look at the moon.
I love to write about everyday life that could happen anywhere on earth with specifics from my own observations and imaginings. The need for sleep falls into that category, and I decided to write a children’s story on the topic.
Around that same time, Arianna Huffington came to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute’s inaugural “Global Brain Health and Performance Summit” as its keynote speaker. In addition, the university sponsored a community event which I attended to hear her discuss her book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time.
Hearing Ms. Huffington’s discussion and the reading her book inspired how I would frame the story: a combination of observations, imagination, and experts’ data.
The book, Tired of Naps!, is now on the market. The core message says that, all over our wonderful world, people and other animals need sleep. Some get more sleep. Some get less sleep. Most kids need more sleep than they get. The story tells of a young boy and his dog who, instead of a nap, take an imaginary trip around the world in an open-cockpit airplane. As the adventurers fly over each continent, they see and hear animals talking and balking about rest yet falling asleep anyway.
These days, elementary school teachers tell me many students fall asleep during class, and even first-graders say they stay up late to play games on their computers. First-graders! Late-night computer games are a new-wrinkle fun cause for kids’ not wanting to go to sleep, and Ms. Huffington frequently notes the negative impact of using technological devices on adults’ sleep deprivation.
To include a pediatrician’s data and clinical studies, I contacted Mark L. Splaingard, MD, director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Splaingard states a compelling message at the end of the book. He writes, “sleep is extremely important for not only a child’s health and growth but also their mood, emotional stability and ability to learn.”
Getting enough sleep makes a sweeping, extremely important impact on our health, our moods, our emotional stability and our ability to learn new things. In other words, our ability to thrive.
Near the end of Tired of Naps!, flying their open-cockpit airplane over Antarctica, the boy and dog see a mama seal and her pup and overhear their conversation:
Pup growled, “Cat nap?!” “We all need enough sleep to thrive. Everybody knows that!” the mama seal told her pup.
Our mothers are right.
Molly Davis is the author of Tired of Naps!, available here.