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Monday, October 20, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 1/24/2004

If candidates don t snooze, they can lose

Not surprisingly, the big winner of the Iowa caucuses got plenty of airtime.

On one TV station, in that mini-moment of small talk before the real interview between journalist and subject begins, John Kerry mentioned off-handedly that he and his team had been running on a mere four hours sleep most nights.

This reminded me of a seemingly trivial subject I ponder during every presidential campaign, namely: How do those people handle all the hand shaking and question answering and speechifying when they re cruising on so, so, so little sleep?

During my now-teenager s 10th month of life, she stopped sleeping.

She. Simply. Stopped. Sleeping.

It got to the point where I didn t even want to go to bed at night, because I knew from maddening experience that the baby would be crying within the hour, and toward the end of a sleepless month, it felt more cruel to be roused from slumber than to just go without it.

During that phase of infancy, there were too many days I couldn t quite remember how to string together a complete sentence, which is a horrifying realization for someone in my line of work. And at the time, I was only in my early 30s, whereas presidential candidates - OK, c mon, we re almost always talking here about guys who are d-e-e-p into middle age.

It s that time in life (trust me on this) when the word nap takes on a special significance, that time in life when it s not always easy to stay awake through Letterman s Top 10 list, that time of life when people recall in awe the effortless all-nighters they pulled in college.

So then late this week, German researchers made headlines when they released the first documented evidence to back up what common knowledge always assumed - namely, that getting enough sleep is important for creative problem-solving.

By administering a simple math test to volunteers, the scientists found that their sleep-deprived subjects were three times less likely than their well-rested counterparts to figure out the problem.

Gee.

Makes you hope they didn t spend too much money on this experiment, since anyone who has skipped the better part of a night s sleep knows only too well that the next day they re going to feel like their brain has turned to pudding.

Obvious though they are, however, these findings made me think anew about this business of presidential candidates swooping through state after state, for months on end, fueled by just a few hours sleep here and a catnap there.

Lots of people make fun of George W. Bush for his strict bedtime policy, but I wonder if, on this matter, anyway, the guy s got the right idea.

Consider: If Howard Dean had racked up enough sleep, is it possible the nation would have been spared a post-caucus speech that made him look more like a cranky, over-tired toddler than a statesman and orator?

Hey, just a thought.

Get back to me after you sleep on it.



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