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Columns

October 20, 2013

CEPEDA: The elusive night of good sleep

I don’t remember which one exactly, but it was one of my early elementary school teachers — probably well near the end of her rope with my alternating frenetic chatter and yawning lethargy — who drilled into me the famous adage: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

I tried to sleep as a child, I really did. But it never came easily.

I’d be in bed for hours, watching the minutes flip over on the analog clock across the room. With excruciating slowness the numbers would flutter from 8 to 9, then from 9 to 10 and again through 11.

So many nights I was still wide awake at midnight, trying to gin up conversation with my exhausted parents who slept in a twin bed just a few feet away. They learned not to talk about anything important at bedtime.

Or I’d fall asleep early in the night only to awaken in the wee hours, sitting up in bed in the dark, talking to myself in order to stave off the boredom.

The next day I was quite the handful at school. I’d go in strong in the morning, hopped up on ultra-sugary cereal, and push my teachers to the limit by constantly being out of my seat, talking too much and asking too many questions.

Oh, and there was the whistling. My fourth-grade teacher would regularly growl, “Don’t whistle, Esther, it makes the angels cry.”

Then in the afternoon, during social studies class, I’d fall asleep. Some days, I would start in a sickly fog and rev up after lunch. The net result was, at least, consistent. Throughout my elementary-school experience, teachers, lunchroom monitors and principals repeatedly warned me that I needed to learn to exercise self-control.

These memories — and not at all distant, since I still suffer from frequent bouts of insomnia — bubbled up the other day when I ran across a new child sleep study.

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