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    I'm man enough to admit that I enjoy a good snuggle. There's really nothing like sleeping in late on a Saturday morning, only to be woken up by your kids jumping in your bed, turning on the TV, and curling up next to you as they watch SpongeBob flip Krabby Patties for the umpteenth time.

    Yeah, just hanging in bed, half-sleeping with the kids is great. Sleeping with them through the night, however, not so much. At this point, it's mostly because they'll toss and turn a bit and keep me awake. Or my snoring will wake them, so they'll toss and turn and wake me. And somehow, I always get blamed.

    Apparently, though, men who sleep with their kids get a few points docked off their Man Card. I'm not making a statement here, just pointing out a fact. According to a recent study, fathers who sleep right next to their kids have a lower level of testosterone.

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    Hey, I have a great way to make depressed people feel better -- let's tell them all the reasons why being depressed is all their fault! In fact, let's find scientific proof! Yes, yet another study is out linking depressive symptoms to something depressed people do every day, like brushing their teeth or putting on socks. This time?

    "Animal research" suggests that "exposure to dim lighting at night — such as that generated by a TV screen, computer, or night-light," may lead to abject misery, overall lethargy, malaise of the soul, or whatever else you want to call depression.

    Okay. Fascinating as I find mood disorders in laboratory hamsters who fall asleep watching Chelsea Lately or Conan or Jimmy Fallon, I'm not buying this one. To me, this is clearly a "chicken or egg" issue, and researchers got the order wrong.

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    We all know getting a good night's sleep is super-important, right? Because lack of sleep is linked to all manner of health problems, from obesity to depression to diabetes to breast cancer to leprosy (okay, not really that last one. But I wouldn't be surprised! According to the most recent study, missing a night's sleep is as bad for the immune system as physical stress!). And we all know that snoring definitely messes with getting a good night's sleep, whether you're the one who's snoring or you're "sleeping" next to somebody who's snoring. What we didn't know, until now, was how to make that noisy nighttime problem shut the hell up go away.

    Enter "Jukusui-Kun," the Japanese polar bear shaped robot/pillow designed to help people with sleep apnea stop snoring. Well, of course! (Forehead smack.) Why didn't anybody think of this before? A polar bear! Makes perfect sense. Right?

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    If your first thought upon seeing this glorious photo was Mmmm, donuts! I could eat that whole box! DONUTS! (I know mine was), then you, like me, are probably really, really tired. We've known about the link between sleep deprivation and obesity for a while, but now we know more about why one leads to the other: Junk food is actually more appealing to weary brains. Like, scientifically.

    A recent study scanned the brains of people in two groups -- the first after five nights of sleep for nine hours and the second after five nights of sleep for four hours -- while showing them images of healthy and unhealthy foods. And guess what? The pictures of junk food only activated the brain's "reward centers" in sleep-deprived people. (Which is basically what happened when that donut craving hit you like a freight train a minute ago.)

    Explains a lot, doesn't it? And that's not the only way lack of sleep can apparently screw with your body ...

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    I've had nightmares for as long as I can remember. My mother says I whimpered and cried in my sleep as a little girl. By the time I was in my early 20's I was so afraid to go to sleep that I developed insomnia.

    But over the past year, they've been worse than ever. I've woken up screaming, flailing, kicking (I once punched my poor sleeping boyfriend right in the nose). 

    Maybe I needed to talk to somebody about my nightmares, he suggested, probably fearing a future of similarly rude awakenings. I had to agree. Luckily I knew exactly who that somebody was: Karen Hollis, a professional intuitive and psychic medium. I was fortunate enough to work with Karen before (she did an amazing reading with Kurt Cobain for me), and I remembered that she also offered Dream Interpretation with the Tarot.

    I was in for another amazing experience.

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    Secretly, I've always believed I might be narcoleptic. No matter how much sleep I get, I'm always nodding off at very inconvenient times: During movies, at work, and -- absolutely WORST of all -- while driving, which scares the living daylights out of me. And next to nothing helps. No amount of coffee wakes me up, no energy drink does the trick. (I think I've developed a caffeine immunity.)

    So what is a sleepytime gal supposed to do when darkness is closing in and a nap is NOT an option? Besides taping my eyelids open? (Which I haven't done, but I have considered. More than once.)

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    So how are you sleeping these days? Having trouble shutting down all the nervous thoughts running around your head at night? Reschedule that pediatrician appointment, kid needs new soccer cleats again, why won't the baby's cold go away, where did our dog go, why is the electric bill so high this month ...

    Or is that just me?

    The folks at Dream Water had the notion that the moms at The Stir might need a little help getting to sleep, so they sent some samples for us to try.

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    The concept of "alone time" takes on such a radically different meaning once you're a mom. Before baby, taking time to yourself meant spending the night at home with a book instead of on the town with your girlfriends or going on a weekend yoga retreat without your spouse. After baby, alone time can mean anything from a 10-minute shower to a quick diaper run (without the wee one strapped to your chest).

    When my kids were babies, anytime I left the house without them, I felt like like I was missing something. Did I forget my wallet? My phone? Walking down the street without a kid in a sling and/or stroller was nothing short of bizarre. I felt so ... light.

    But not always in a good way. At first, those rare child-free moments were both disorienting and guilt-inducing. Not only had I forgotten how to function as an individual, I felt like I'd abandoned the tiny creature who, until recently, actually lived inside my body.

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    Almost as much as I enjoy eating, I love sleeping. Oh dear, sweet, blissful sleep, how I love your unconscious, drooling ways! I will sacrifice just about anything -- including, most days, my morning workout -- to make sure I get my full eight hours. And now there's another great excuse reason for me to demand all that sleep: It keeps you skinny. Fist pump! Boo-yah, SLEEP.

    Gotta love those scientists. They're always studying sleep. And the latest study shows that people who don't sleep enough eat more, move less, and gain weight. Yipes! Sleep-deprived parents, are you worried about this?

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  • Mom Moment

    A Letter to My Old Friend Sleep

    posted by Jenny Benjamin March 6, 2012 at 6:49 AM in Baby
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    Dear Sleep,

    Hello there, old friend -- I miss the hell out of you. Since I had the babies, things just haven't been the same between us and ... yes, yes, I knew this was going to happen, but still, I guess I hoped that it would be different for us. I mean, we're Sleep and Jenny, Jenny and Sleep -- there hasn't been a better pair since PB and J. So, I thought maybe we'd beat the odds. But, alas, you and me? We're never going to be what we were.

    I know what you're going to say. Yes, I realize that our relationship is so much better than it was a few months ago. But, call me selfish or greedy, I want more, I do. I want like 7 or 8 uninterrupted hours of your time. I want you to be there for me at 4 a.m. when my baby's, "Help, I'm trapped on my tummy!" wails leave me wired and unable to drift back into your comforting arms. Why, oh why, can't things be like they used to be?

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