An Essay on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

by Beth Stephenson (Apr 2011)

I wasn’t sure if I should keep my Archaeology class. I decided that if it was taught by an old dinosaur, I’d drop it. Indiana Jones and I’d stay. I knew I needed heavy-duty incentive to stay awake for any two o’clock class. I was like Cinderella. When the clock struck 2:00 p.m., my head would drop onto my desk like a smashed pumpkin. Friends got suspicious about the purple bruise in the middle of my forehead.

I half hoped for a tyrannosaurus that would justify my taking an afternoon nap instead of the class. The teacher came in and sure enough: think Barney in shades of grey. No Indiana Jones here. . .until the T.A. came in. Tall, scholarly, good teeth, square jaw with  a milk-chocolate voice that nuzzled my ears.

The road to hell is truly paved with good intentions and the path to archaeology was VERY well paved.  That T.A. was literally the man of my dreams.  His silken voice wove my dreams around his handsome head like the coronet of a Greek god.

 Scientists have now allied themselves with teens and young adults defending their rights to stay up late and sleep late on a physiological basis. I’d long listed “sleep” and “nap” as hobbies on my interest survey, but  had no sense that my zombie state each afternoon had anything to do with the fact that my “ brain's circadian timing system--controlled mainly by melatonin--switches on later at night as pubertal development progresses.” (According to Mary A. Carskadon, PhD, of Brown University Medical School,.) In fact every time I think about looking up what a ‘circadian system” is,..ZZZZZzzzzzz. But I believe it!

Where was I? Yes, teens and young adults need more sleep than toddlers, older adults and three-toed sloths. The Three-Toes  sleep only an average of 18 hours a day. Their toenails grow long and curvy  and algae grows in their fur until they are tinged green.  However, sleep studies prove that only green-tinged teeth are likely the result of an over-active snooze button. Other green tinges should receive medical attention.

 There are other key indicators of too little sleep . If the resident witch gets up at 6:30 and you come to life around 9:00, and everyone says you look EXACTLY like the witch, you might not be getting enough sleep. If you believe that alarm clocks need no electricity but work by howling evil spirits, that also could be sleep deprivation.

Happily, there are a few solutions.  Going to bed an hour earlier really works. (Who knew?) If you have trouble going to sleep on command, get an archeology text book or an Old Testament and start reading until you can’t keep your eyes open. . .works every time. Stop drinking caffeinated stuff after dinner or cut it out altogether. Substitute some vigorous exercise when you start to sag. Who cares if the  sloths around the library think you’re loopy when you leap up for a hundred jumping jacks or a fast jog around the room. It will perk you up body and soul, and make your night dreams as good as your day dreams.

  People used to weave rope over pegs in a bed frame to support a mattress.  When someone said, “Sleep tight”, they didn’t mean “up tight” they meant “sleep well by tightening the ropes so the mattress doesn’t sag.”

 So, my fellow former sloths, may we banish all things saggy, body and soul, and sleep tight. 

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Revised April 2011.