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BEATTS ME!

Stay Awake Through the Power of Sleep

June 28, 1998|ANNE BEATTS | Anne Beatts is a writer who lives in Hollywood

It had to happen. First we had power suits, power breakfasts and power walks. And now there's "Power Sleep," a new book by James Maas (Villard, 1998). The point of the book is . . . well, I can't really remember what it is, because to tell you the truth, I dozed off while I was reading it, but that's OK, according to professor Maas, God bless him.

It just means that, like millions of Americans, I'm sleep-deprived, not that I'm a dummy or anything, says professor Maas, and he's an accredited professor of psychology at Cornell University whose book sells for a big chunk of change, so I choose to believe him.

The part of the book I did stay awake for was a quiz, sort of like those quizzes they used to have in Coronet magazine that if you answered yes to even one question, it meant you had a brain tumor or something equally horrible. (Whatever happened to Coronet magazine? I miss it, especially when I go to the dentist. My current dentist just has the trades and Architectural Digest, which only serves to remind me that if Demi Moore's living room looks that good, imagine how much better than mine the inside of her mouth must look.)

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Anyway, this particular quiz is very positive and encouraging. It begins, "If three or more of the following describe you, it's possible you need more sleep." Well, what can I say? I didn't get any further than No. 3 before the ol' Prof had me in his pocket. And the more I read, the more I said to myself, "Yes, oh yes! And again, yes!" like a regular Molly Bloom, who never wanted to get out of bed herself, if you recall.

Just to pick from the list at random: "I feel tired, irritable and stressed out during the week." Yes! And what a relief to know that when that java jockey at Starbucks gave me lowfat instead of nonfat, I only jumped down his throat because I was sleep-deprived. And it's not road rage, it's sleep deprivation.

Here's another good one: "I have trouble remembering." Well, of course, yes. And it's like having some kind of a million-something weight lifted off my shoulders (I can't remember how much or exactly what kind) to know that when I'm forced to say "that thing in the kitchen that makes bread brown" instead of "toaster," it's not the early onset of Alzheimer's. It's simple sleep deprivation.

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And how about this: "I find it hard to stay awake in boring meetings or lectures, or in warm rooms." Does that strike home? It does for me. The other day I was in a warm room in hell having a meeting with my accountant, and he was lecturing me as follows: "Don't you know you have no more money? You have to curb your spending. You owe the government thousands of dollars." Well, I could barely stay awake to hear this depressing news.

Of course, that was sort of a two-in-one example, since just prior to the meeting ("Do you ever nod off after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol?") I had consumed half a glass of wine and some eels in eel broth (at least I think that's what they were, since I was drowsing during the waiter's recitation of the daily specials and decided I would just close my eyes and point at the menu).

Once you know that you're sleep-deprived, as I am--though I must admit that another thing I answered "yes" to on the list, difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings, may have more to do with my vanishing motor skills, and how high up off the ground my bed is--what can you do about it? Not to worry. Dr. Jimbo is right on it.

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All you have to do is take power naps. Both Winston Churchill and Lyndon Johnson were known for their afternoon naps, and apart from the fact that one of them couldn't get elected again after winning World War II and the other one got us deeper into Vietnam and didn't even try for a second term, they both did more than OK.

Why, even President Clinton is reputed to take a siesta every now and then, as long as the Republicans don't catch him at it.

Interestingly enough, the only drawback to napping is "sleep inertia," a period of grogginess and slight disorientation that may last up to 15 minutes after a daytime nap. So I'm wondering if the president might have been suffering from sleep inertia after he took a nap to avoid sleep deprivation, and otherwise he would never have gotten mixed up with that big-haired California girl, whatsername, no, don't tell me, it's coming to me, I just need a nap to refresh my memory, and then 15 minutes afterward I'll be fine.

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