Monday, September 18, 2017

ELL vocabulary - sleep

Sleep, like many English words, can be either a noun or a verb:

sleep, n.: The unconscious state or condition regularly and naturally assumed by man and animals, during which the activity of the nervous system is almost or entirely suspended, and recuperation of its powers takes place; slumber, repose.

sleep, v.: To take repose by the natural suspension of consciousness; to be in the state of sleep; to slumber.


So sleep, the thing, is a state that all people need.  How do you know that someone is asleep (the adjective) or sleeping?  List the ways.

Here are the things I think of:

  1. Eyes are closed
  2. The person is still or not moving, usually
  3. The person's breathing is slow, deep, and regular
  4. The person is not as responsive; to get someone asleep to respond to you, you must wake him or her
  5. What other signs are there that someone is sleeping?

Most people have comfortable and dedicated places for sleeping.  In the Western world those are often beds.  We do other things in bed besides sleep, of course, but beds are the primary places we sleep.  Some people, such as the homeless, do not have beds of their own, making sleep deprivation a severe problem for homeless people.  Having a safe place to lie down, relax, and be protected from the elements or danger is a necessity for sleep.

(Boston, where The English Avocado lives, has a severe problem with homelessness.  See an article about that here.  But at least Massachusetts, the state where Boston is located, has a "right to shelter" law, which guarantees emergency housing for families that qualify.  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 23B, sec. 30.)

Another necessity is getting enough sleep.  The National Sleep Foundation published an article that declared the consensus for how much sleep people of different ages need.  You can see that article here.  These graphs represent how much sleep people of differing ages need.

Sleep needed by age group.

Sleep Needs

  • newborns:  between 14 and 17 hours
  • infants:  12 - 15 hours
  • toddlers:  11 - 14 hours
  • preschoolers:  10 - 13 hours
  • school-aged children:  9 - 11 hours
  • teenagers:  8 - 10 hours
  • young adults and adults:  7 - 9 hours
  • older adults:  7 - 8 hours
(See National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.  Hirshkowitz, Max et al.  Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation , Volume 1 , Issue 1 , 40 - 43.  DOI:

And what happens if we don't get the sleep we need?  We become tired, or exhausted.  If we are deprived of sleep for too long we begin to exhibit a condition called sleep deprivation.  A broader idea that includes sleep deprivation but also other sleep problems is sleep deficiency.  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, has produced this poster warning about the extent of sleep deficiency in the United States:

Sleep deficiency is a problem.
In fact, depriving a person of sleep is such a severe means of weakening him or her that interrogators trying to get a person to reveal secrets often don't let him or her sleep.  The Central Intelligence Agency has used sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic.  I've never been interrogated by the CIA, but I've been very sleepy before, and probably would have revealed any secret in order to be allowed to sleep.

(I just learned that sleep deprivation is a problem among teenagers in the United States, too.  In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that two-thirds of teenagers were not getting enough sleep.  The Academy urged that schools open later in the day to help fight this problem.  This view is shared by the CDC.)

Have you ever been tired?  Exhausted?  Sleep-deprived?  How did it make you feel?  Make a list of adjectives that describe the feeling of not having had enough sleep.

Or: your bed.  Describe your bed or the place where you sleep.  What about your bed makes it a great place for you to sleep?  Are there any things about your bed that you would change, if you could?  About your bed, describe your 

  • pillows
  • sheets
  • mattress

I know that I love my bed.  I'd spend most of my time there, if I could.

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