Thursday, April 24, 2008


My doctors have emphasized the importance of establishing habits to ensure getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis. They call this good sleep hygiene.

I really wish they would call this something else. When I think of a restful night's sleep, the word hygiene would not be my first choice to describe something so pleasant.

The word hygiene conjures up all these middle school images which are just plain icky. Things like health class, our teacher Mrs. Blum (I couldn't fabricate a name like that), THE MOVIE, and discussions about gross personal habits. And looking at the floor while squirming in our chairs as charts were unrolled which illustrated things which we sincerely wished were left un-illustrated. 

Then there's the whole dental connection to the word hygiene, as in dental hygienist. The dentist's chair doesn't have warm fuzzy connotations for me. (Except for the nitrous oxide - see my previous post tagged "teeth".)

Hygiene implies something that I am not doing correctly, or frequently enough. Like flossing, for example. Or tweezing my eyebrows. 

Maybe I need a different image to link to this word. According to Esther Sternberg, M.D., in her book, The Balance Within, the word hygiene comes from the Greeks. It seems that the Greeks worshipped the god of healing, Asclepius. Asclepius was said to have two daughters, Pancea and Hygeia. 

"....Hygeia and Panacea symbolized all that was essential in this balance - healthy diet, pure waters, exercise, and support of friends and family. The concept has survived to this day: "hygiene", or cleanliness, is still the first step in preventive medicine, and "panacea" still means heal-all." 

Hm. Maybe the mental imagery of beautiful maidens crunching vegetables, floating in a mineral bath, surrounded by crowds of adoring onlookers,  symbolizing all that is pure and healthy........


It would take more than that to displace Mrs. Blum. 

There must be a better word to describe those habits which ease one into a relaxing, calming, renewing state of sleep. 

Ideas, anyone?

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