Morgan Freeman Falls Asleep During an Interview

I can’t resist.

The other day actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman conducted a live interview with Bill Wixey and Kaci Aitchison from Q13 Fox News right here in Seattle.  The interview centered around their upcoming film, Now You See Me.  But as you now see here in this abridged clip, Mr. Freeman was having a bit of a struggle staying awake while Mr. Caine spoke.

I like in particular how he arouses briefly, nods his head slowly, as if he’s been fully attentive the entire time, and drifts back off.

Here is an online article, which includes Bill Wixey’s post-interview reaction and also the full video interview with Caine and Freeman.  It’s worth watching the entire interview here:  there is much more sleep time than what is seen in the brief clip above.

Now, to be fair about this, this soporific faux pas is likely not Freeman’s “fault,” and is probably not due to boredom, as at least one journalist has suggested.  It appears that Caine and Freeman were interviewed from a studio in New York.  I’m guessing Freeman had flown from Los Angeles to New York shortly prior to the interview, and if this was the case he was probably recovering from jet lag.

Remember, there’s a 3-hour time difference between the west coast and the east coast.  Sleepwise, it’s particularly tough to go from the west coast to the east coast, because upon arrival your brain is essentially asked suddenly to go to bed earlier and awaken earlier than usual, setting you up for insomnia and sleep deprivation.  I know this from experience:  I fell asleep at my table and virtually fell out of my chair once during a loud, boisterous classic rock awards banquet shortly upon arriving in London several years ago.

Additionally, in general, the older we get, the less tolerant our bodies become to insomnia, sleep deprivation, and shifts in our usual sleep scheduling.  So I definitely empathize with our nearly 76 year-old Mr. Freeman, who was sitting in a comfortable, quiet environment during the interview, his uncooperative body clock begging for a snooze.

One final comment.  I’m often asked if you fall asleep during the day just because you’re bored.  The answer is no.  However, if you are prone to becoming excessively sleepy during the day (due to sleep deprivation, an untreated sleep disorder, or the like), then your sleepy tendencies will be more likely to express themselves in the form of falling asleep by accident when you are sedentary as compared to when you’re active.  When you’re bored you’re usually sedentary, so in that setting you’re therefore more likely to fall asleep.  This is an important distinction to make; many people don’t get evaluated for their sleep disorders because they believe that falling asleep frequently during the day is normal because they’re bored.


Have a good, wakeful day, everyone!

This Morning’s Dream and Changes to Come

I’ve had a lot of whacky dreams lately.

Nothing particularly awe-inspiring or epiphanic, mind you.  Just a big mish-mash of strange, loosely connected but extremely realistic and visually intense viewscapes and scenarios.  Though there is much that is still unknown about the neurophysiologic mechanisms that drive rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dream content, there appears to be a deep connection between dreams and mood.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been on a bit of roller coaster ride lately:  I’ve decided to make some major changes at work (which explains my recent lapse in writing; sorry!), and though these changes are definitely for the better, executing the change can often be a daunting challenge.  It’s all good, I want to reassure you!  But I think the ultra-vivid quality of my recent dreams probably reflects my inner adaptations to the upcoming work restructuring I’ve decided it’s best to undertake.

Yesterday I awakened at 5 a.m. disappointed that I didn’t get to taste the margarita I had just made for myself in some bar in Cabo San Lucas.

Here’s this morning’s little adventure.

I’m in my car.  It’s a cool, sunny late morning.  I’m hungry and looking for a place to eat an early lunch.  As I drive slowly and silently down this flat, straight suburban road, nondescript shopping malls loom and pass by on my left.  I pass an Olive Garden.  Then a Macaroni Grill.  Then a whole bank of other large, corporate restaurants.  I’m just not in the mood for any of that today.  I’ve eaten at all of these places before.  This morning I need something different, something local, something smaller.

At the end of this row of restaurants there is a place that seems to fit the bill.  Set back a fair ways off the road sits a short, squat, long chrome silver building, designed to resemble the dining car of a passenger train.  I don’t see (or remember) the name of the establishment, but it’s pretty clear it’s a family-owned, greasy-spoon kinda place.  I’m looking for something different, to be sure, but I wonder if there is anything halfway healthy on the menu.  I decide to pull in and take a look at the menu.

I walk inside and take in what is now before me.  The place is much bigger and more stately than its exterior presentation would suggest.  Various strangers sit quietly in their booths, paying me no attention.  The sound of clinking spoons and the smell of coffee and waffles make me smile as I stand for a few minutes looking for a waitress, who is nowhere to be found.  Eventually I decide that I’m expected to seat myself, which I do, at a quiet booth meant for four.

The slow, muffled rhythmic activity of the place continues as I wait in vain for service.  There’s no menu at my table.  Growing impatient, I stand up and look around for one.  I finally see one at an empty booth, so I walk over to take it.  At the moment I arrive at the booth and extend my arm, I realize that on top of the menu there are car keys and a wallet. A split-second later, a sudden, loud male voice booms, “Hey!”  I look up.  A large man in his fifties walks toward me.  He’s clearly pissed off.  He thinks I’m trying to steal his wallet!

I back up a few steps in a defensive posture and tell him I mean no harm, I just want a menu because I can’t find one anywhere.  He calms down and sits.  I walk away, embarrassed, and wander through the aisles of the diner looking for someone to help me.  There’s gotta be some way to order something in this place!  I’m starving at this point.  I ask myself if my body and my primary care physician would forgive me if I have the chicken-friend steak, because I see one coming out of the kitchen and it looks damn good.

And that’s when I awoke.


In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that the diner was loosely modeled in my mind after the Quechee Diner, where we ate sometimes on Sunday mornings in my old Vermont days.  But I gotta put more thought into what the rest of this morning’s dream sequence might say about my current frame of mind and how I’m processing the changes that will soon take place.

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone, and dream good dreams tonight.  Cheers, all!

Where Children Sleep Around the World

Today I am sharing a post I recently discovered through my dear friend Reta Wright, a reknowned “sleep coach.”


There is a book by photographer James Mollison called Where Children Sleep.  This book contains photos of where children sleep around the world.  Many countries are represented, from Africa to North America.  As a disclaimer, I have not yet myself seen or read Mollison’s book (though I intend to), but Linen recently posted a blog on Demilked about it.  To see some of Mollison’s photos, please click on this link to Linen’s posted entry:

I find this work completely fascinating.  The children depicted here all have stories, stories told on their faces and by their sleeping environments.  The universality of sleep comes through in these photos:  the basic need for a bed or at least a bed equivalent; a place of relative quiet and privacy; a personal space in which one’s personality and circumstances may be expressed.  However, as you can see from the photos, that’s where the similarities end.  The obvious contrasts between sleeping quarters from different corners of the world are equally engaging.  My understanding is that Mollison was born in Kenya and raised in England; perhaps he may have had personal experiences to mirror such contrasts, at least to some degree.

One could come up with all sorts of political and social commentary by viewing these photographs, I suppose, but for me I am drawn in particular to the themes of the ubiquitous need for sleep and the necessity of getting sleep where and how you can, no matter who you are, where you are, or where you’re from.  I encourage you to take a look.

Something to consider today.  Cheers, everyone!

A Mother’s Day Wish For Better Sleep


This is my mom.  Please spend a moment and look upon her beautiful face.  Perhaps you may see some of the same qualities that I do:  the hopeful happiness in her smile, the joyful but fiery intensity in her eyes, the serene youthfulness in her gaze.  She looks so young and new here, new at adulthood, parenthood, American life.  But for me, her son, I also see wisdom, awareness, a vague sense of knowing, some ill-defined proficiency in everything she does, though she was much newer at this parenting thing when the photo was taken than I am now.  A lifetime of observing my mom’s way of being and burning love for her family gives me well-informed license to perceive these special qualities:  this unique perspective creates a sensation, and feeling you cannot know unless it’s your own mother you see looking back at you from that old, black-and-white photograph.

Mom had gone through a lot to get to where she was when my dad snapped this photo.  She had left her native country and a life of comfort and stability–a true rarity in Korea at the time–for a modest life with a young Japanese-born, American-trained professor of Korean descent, now living and teaching in Michigan.  An accomplished pianist and young scholar in her own right, she threw herself eagerly into the responsibilities of being a wife and parent, managing to earn a master’s degree in mathematics along the way.  Looking at her young, smiling face, one wonders if she had some inkling of the adventures to come:  all the soccer and baseball games, the world travel, the many times playing hostess to friends and her husband’s many colleagues and students, the maturation and graduation of her sons, the germination and success of her businesses.

She could not have known, however, about all the challenges that lay ahead.  Apart from the passing of my father–the most devastating event in the lives of everybody in my immediate family–the biggest challenge of them all was her diagnosis with Parkinson disease, which has over the past several years gradually robbed her of her agility, coordination, and ability to walk.

A neurologist by training, I have counseled many patients and families regarding the management of Parkinson disease over the years.  No clinical experience or medical training could compare, however, to the education I have received from helping a parent cope with this cruel disorder every day.  It has been a truly humbling experience, realizing the true personal effects of Parkinson’s as I have through my mother.  This knowledge now in hand and without dwelling on details, I am qualified to offer this one, non-doctorly piece of simple, universal advice:  never get Parkinson’s.  It blows.

Today’s entry pertains to sleep because Mom started having substantial insomnia–without a clear trigger–years prior to her diagnosis with Parkinson’s.  Parkinson disease is commonly associated with sleep disruption and it is not uncommon for the first symptoms of Parkinson’s to be very nonspecific, starting well prior to the onset of more specific symptoms (tremor, slowness of movements, and the like), so I wonder in retrospect if her difficulties sleeping represented the heralding problem of her particular disorder.  Her neurologist, a movement disorder specialist, is doing what she can to manage the insomnia, but Mom still struggles with her sleep from time to time.


Last year I had the pleasure of introducing my mother to Michael J. Fox, whose public battle with early-onset Parkinson disease has been the inspiration for many public speaking events and several excellent, highly recommended books (which Mom and I have both read), including Lucky Man:  A Memoir and Always Looking Up:  The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.  Mr. Fox told Mom, “You look great!”  It was wonderful for her to meet someone who has lived what she is living, someone who understands.  She smiled quietly in response, and in her expression I saw that same hope and determination she’s always had, qualities so relentlessly challenged in recent years by this crippling disorder.  I believe that that fight will always be there, despite the fatigue, because that’s who she is and who she will always be.  And my family and I will continue to be there for her, helping her fight.  When it comes to my mom, I took off my doctor’s hat long ago.  I’m just a son, a boy loving and trying to help his parent.  That’s all I can be now, and I think that’s what she needs most.

Today’s Mother’s Day.  Dang it, man.  Love your mom.  Remember her if she’s gone.  Squeeze her tight if she’s not.  Call her if she’s away.  Just don’t waste a second of her presence.  Moms are incredibly precious.  I know mine is.

Sleep Song #5: “Sleeping With the Television On” by Billy Joel

Recently I wrote about my early love for Billy Joel’s music:

The year after my mom bought me his great album 52nd Street in 1979, Joel’s Glass Houses was released, and I managed to get my grubby musical little hands on that album as well, and as I had done with its predecessor, I played it over and over in our basement until everybody in the house was bloomin’ sick of it.

The second song on the the second side of the LP is a happy 3-minute track called “Sleeping With the Television On.”  Here it is, for your listening pleasure.

It occurs to me as I write this that younger readers may be genuinely puzzled by the prelude to the song:  years ago, before “24-hour news cycles” and hundreds of channels to choose from, network television stations “signed off” late at night, following the national anthem, and the viewer would then see snow or some focus pattern until the next morning, when the station would resume its programming.

Anyhow, though this song actually has little to do with sleep, I am nonetheless using it as an opportunity to bring up one point:  many people do sleep with the television on, specifically because of their insomnia.

When you’re tossing and turning in bed for hours at a time, frustration inevitably develops, paradoxically making you feel more stimulated and awake.  This problem is compounded by a natural tendency to try to fall asleep, which rarely works, because you can’t force a biological function to occur just because you want it to, so the more you try to sleep, the more frustrated you get, and the worse the insomnia becomes.

At some point this can drive you completely nuts, and finally you arise from bed in disgust and go to the living room.  You turn on the TV and you lay down on the couch.  You’re now asleep instantly.

Why is that?  Because you’re no longer trying to sleep.  The TV also serves to distract you from the frustration, allowing your body’s natural impulses to become drowsy and fall asleep to take over unimpeded.

Sometimes this phenomenon leads people to believe that they need the TV to sleep, and that they are unable to sleep without it.  Trust me when I say that your body and brain do not biologically require a television set in front of you to generate sleep.  It can feel like they do, however, because, as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, we humans are creatures of habit.  We’re simply used to what we’re used to, and so over time sleeping without the television on after spending years sleeping in front of the TV seems foreign and abnormal.  To me, it’s reasonable to expect that if you managed to learn how to sleep well with the television on, you can learn how to sleep well without it as well.

Below you will see Joel’s lyrics for this great song.  Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Sleeping With the Television On

(written by Billy Joel)

I’ve been watching you waltz all night Diane
Nobody’s found a way behind your defenses
They never notice the zap gun in your hand
Until you’re pointing it and stunning their senses
All night long, all night long
You’ll shoot ’em down because you’re waiting for somebody good to come on
But you’ll be sleeping with the television on
You say you’re looking for someone solid here
You can’t be bothered with those “just for the night” boys
Tonight unless you take some kind of chances dear
Tomorrow morning you’ll wake up with the white noise
All night long, all night long
You’re only standing there ’cause somebody once did somebody wrong
But you’ll be sleeping with the television on
Your eyes are saying talk to me, talk to me
But your attitude is “don’t waste my time”
Your eyes are saying talk to me, talk to me
But you won’t hear a word ’cause it just might be the same old line
This isn’t easy for me to say Diane
I know you don’t need anybody’s protection
I really wish I was less of a thinking man
And more a fool who’s not afraid of rejection
All night long, all night long
I’ll just be standing here ’cause I know I don’t have the guts to come on
And I’ll be sleeping with the television on
Your eyes are saying talk to me, talk to me
But my attitude is “boy, don’t waste your time”
Your eyes are saying talk to me, talk to me
But I won’t say a word ’cause it just might be somebody else’s same old line
All night long, all night long
We’ll just be standing here ’cause somebody might do somebody wrong
And we’ll be sleeping with the television on
Sleeping with the television on
Sleeping with the television on
Sleeping with the television on
Oh, sleeping with the television on

Governor Chris Christie Undergoes Weight Loss Surgery


Today it was announced that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie underwent lap band surgery for weight reduction in February.  Governor Christie’s longstanding struggle with his weight has been the subject of intense media scrutiny–perhaps in some cases unfairly–in recent years, but at least the publicity has brought some high-profile attention to a problem that many find difficult to discuss openly:  what to do about the American epidemic of obesity.

Bariatric surgery for weight loss has been around for a long time, but public awareness of the availability and benefits of bariatric programs has increased substantially in the past decade or so.  There are now numerous surgical techniques to modify the anatomic volume and functional volume of the stomach and surrounding gastrointestinal structures to reduce hunger, food intake volume, and therefore weight.  Historically bariatric procedures centered around the physical reduction of stomach size.  More recently, however, technological advances have allowed for many to undergo less invasive procedures, such as gastric banding (commonly known as lap banding).


Aggressive measures to lose weight are not just for cosmetic reasons.  Many people undergo bariatric surgery due to medical problems associated with obesity–such as diabetes and hypertension–or to reduce the likelihood of later developing obesity-associated chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease.  Though it is a misconception that you have to be overweight to have obstructive sleep apnea, it is true that your chances of having sleep apnea increases substantially if you’re overweight or obese.  Over the years a great many of my sleep apnea patients have undergone such gastric procedures, usually with great–and even dramatic–success.  Usually these folks experience a gradual improvement in their baseline sleep apnea as the weight loss progresses, and in some cases the sleep apnea may go away completely with sufficient loss in weight.

It’s important to know that a sleep evaluation is usually a standard, integral component in the overall assessment for one’s fitness for bariatric surgery, not only because sleep apnea is a common medical problem for overweight people, but also because sleep apnea represents a peri-operative risk, particularly following extubation while recovering from anesthesia.  Often I am called upon to evaluate a bariatric candidate’s sleep well prior to surgery.  If sleep apnea is diagnosed, treatment is initiated and continued.  In addition, the patient and the physician sleep specialist should interact regularly in the months following surgery.  If CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is utilized for the patient’s sleep apnea, for example, the CPAP air pressures likely will start to feel uncomfortably strong as the weight goes down, and adjustments will need to be made accordingly.  Mask and headgear fit often also require adjustments and re-adjustments.  Finally, once the weight has “plateaued” (such that no further substantial weight loss is anticipated), it’s standard to reassess the patient formally to determine the extent to which the pre-existing sleep apnea has improved or, hopefully, resolved completely.

There are many great bariatric programs around the country.  They offer hope to many people that have utilized more conservative measures to lose weight with limited success.  I wish the very best for Governor Christie.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Fall-Asleep News Blooper; Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Hoping everyone had a great weekend!  It was an absolutely gorgeous one out here in the Pacific Northwest!

Nothing profound or heavy for you tonight, I’m afraid.  It’s Cinco de Mayo, you know, so tonight should be about celebration, not science!  In that spirit, then, please enjoy this Twin Cities’ KARE 11 news blooper, in which an early morning anchor, Eric Perkins, appears to have awakened, uh, perhaps a little too early one morning.  I love his attempt at an on-air recovery upon realizing that he had just dozed off in front of the camera!

This serves as a gentle reminder to get proper amounts of sleep and, particularly if you work during hours other than the traditional 9-to-5, keep your sleep schedules as regular as you can between workdays and non-workdays.  Otherwise you may end up falling asleep by accident when you really shouldn’t be.

Cheers and have a great evening!