Opinion: Losing sleep over naptime

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Something curious is happening to me. I’m not napping as much as I used to. For most of my life, if I was on the couch watching a TV show, I’d nod off within five minutes. But a couple of weeks back, I was awake through an entire Colts game. That particular game, even the Colts couldn’t say that.

When I was a high school teacher, I actually fell asleep in class while proctoring a statewide exam. The kids were very polite. “I hope we didn’t disturb you yesterday, Mr. Wolfsie,” one of my students said. “We tried to cheat as quietly as we could.”

Until recently, I could take a quick snooze while having dinner with friends, at red lights, while waiting for my wife to put on makeup, as the dog was relieving himself, at fast-food drive-up windows, in checkout lines — pretty much anywhere.

As a result of grabbing the occasional 40 winks, I missed some events I probably should have stayed awake for. Here are the top three:

1. My 70th birthday party (I wish they had screamed “Surprise!” louder)

2. Paris

3. The end of my 2005 interview with Mitch Daniels

My wife, Mary Ellen, has never understood the value of a nap. I think women are afraid they’re going to miss something. Like a sale, or a beautiful sunset, or the plot of a movie. Men don’t care about stuff like this. On the rare occasion Mary Ellen has fallen asleep during the day, she would awaken with an apology. “I don’t know what happened. I must be coming down with something!” I always had a different attitude when awakening from a short slumber: “Man, that was a great nap. I’m getting better at this all the time.”

My recent inability to nap came up during my last annual physical, but there was some confusion in the conversation.

“How are you sleeping?” Dr. Coss asked.

“It’s been rough,” I told him. “Sometimes, I’m awake for 8-10 hours in a row.”

Ten hours?” he gasped. “We need to do some testing. How long has this been going on?”

“Several months.”

“Do you just toss and turn in bed?”

“Well, I’m not in bed. That’s the problem. I’m out driving the car, watching the news, cooking. Sometimes I’m in the garage operating heavy machinery.”

“This is troubling, Dick. So, you don’t sleep all night?”

“No, I sleep great at night. It’s all day that I can’t sleep.”

Dr. Coss was very helpful once I straightened out the misunderstanding. He said men experience changes in their bodily rhythms as they mature.

“I want you to go home this afternoon and really think about that,” he said. I told him I’d have to sleep on it. Which meant, of course, it would have to wait until that night.


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