According to a report on this week’s 60 Minutes, when you don’t get enough sleep your brain starts sending out messages that you should start eating. Lack of sleep makes us hungry. Evidently sleep deprivation causes a drop in our levels of leptin, the hormone that tells our brains we are full. No wonder Americans have weight problems. Everyone is so tense and overworked that by the time we get into bed our minds are racing, our jaws are clenched, and we lie there with every conceivable morbid thought about personal destruction spinning in our brains. So to all you fellow insomniacs out there, I’m passing along my remedy for sleeplessness. It doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes.
I begin by thinking about something my grandfather once said to me when I was a miserable, brooding teenager. He said, “Tell me where it’s written you’re supposed to be happy.” Now, this is a classic Italian immigrant concept, foreign to most Americans’ thinking. But if I ponder it while I’m tossing and turning and thinking of everything I’m jealous of and all the frustration and lack I feel in my little life, I notice an almost immediate release. I get comfort from his words, the pressure lifts, and I do often then relax and fall asleep. And if sleeping will help me stay thin, that advice from my ornery but contented Italian grandfather should serve me very well.