The best night’s sleep possible is often described as “sleeping like a baby”, which is interesting if you think about how babies actually sleep. I don’t think many of us really believe that waking up to go to the bathroom or have a snack every two hours actually constitutes a good night sleep. We might also experience problems with work or school if we spent 12-18 hours a day between the sheets.
So, why do we equate a good night’s sleep with sleeping like a baby? The truth is that no one seems to know, although most people agree that actually sleeping like a baby isn’t something to aspire to. Perhaps the phrase is meant to describe the peacefulness of deep sleep that is so clearly apparent in the faces of babies when they sleep.
If we don’t want to sleep like a baby, what should we be hoping to sleep like? If you are the parent of a teenager, you might pick that age since they seem to be able to stay up half the night, sleep for only a few hours, and still have the energy to hang out with friends, play sports, and go to school. But the truth is, most teenagers are not getting as much sleep as they need which means that sleeping like a teenager might appeal to our need for more hours in the day, but the long term effect on our health wouldn’t be worth the time gained.
Maybe the problem is that the kind of sleep we want can’t be compared to the kind of sleep we, as people, usually get, regardless of age. So perhaps we should attempt to sleep like a member of the animal kingdom, the question is, which one. If we slept like a giraffe, we would definitely get everything on our to-do list done since they go weeks without sleeping. If we slept like a brown bat, we would get fired even faster than if we modeled our sleep habits after our offspring as they sleep almost all the time. Sleeping like a cow would work, but only if our sleep needs were cut in half and we didn’t mind sleeping standing up. It would be great to sleep like a dolphin since only half their brain sleeps at once. For busy moms and overworked executives, this could be the answer to their prayers. Unfortunately, just like the sleep habits of our own species, there just isn’t an animal that can complete our analogy.
This means we may need to look at inanimate objects to find just the right phrase. Another popular way to describe a good night’s sleep is to say that you “slept like a log”. This implies that you slept deeply, without moving for a very long time. Unfortunately, this may not be the optimal analogy either since logs, once felled, don’t get back up. That is nearly as bad as wanting to sleep like the dead. There is one other phrase used to describe a good night’s sleep although it comes from our past, not our present. The phrase “sleep like a top” may seem strange, until you thing about what happens when a top spins. It spins so fast, it can appear to not be moving at all, even though all of its parts are working together optimally. It quietly spins as long as it needs to and then it stops. It is peaceful and perfectly balanced while it is spinning. So, sleeping like a top really means that you are still and quiet even though your body is hard at work, you sleep as long as you need to and then you wake up, and you appear peaceful and in perfect balance. Sounds like heaven.
- 7 Tips for Getting Babies to Sleep Through the Night (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Depression in New Mothers: Who is Waking Up the Baby (valleysleepcenter.com)
- 6 Ways Parents of New Babies Can Combat Sleep Deprivation (valleysleepcenter.com)