How did you sleep last night? Did you slumber lavishly, temperature and temperament aligned, waking with the sun? Or was it one of those stormy-seas nights, dreams indistinguishable from waking-life worries, tangled covers, eyes on the clock?
Sleep is mysterious, although we try mightily to make it less so. We use metaphors to describe it, diaries to track it, pharmaceuticals to manipulate it. I have spent a good decade trying to find the perfect pillow.
As we age, our needs for sleep change. The forces working against our undisturbed seven to nine hours multiply. In my 20s, I decided that if I was to lead a full and exciting life, I was going to have to be comfortable going to work exhausted. This seemed, at the time, like a workable model. I didn’t think that much about sleep. I thought about waking life, about how to get as much out of it as possible, with only brief pit stops to refuel. I would stay out late, barely sleep, vault awake with the alarm a few hours later.
“By definition, if you’re using an alarm clock to wake up, then you are chronically sleep-deprived,” Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, a sleep specialist at Penn Medicine, told The Times’s Dani Blum. If you’re getting enough sleep, you’ll wake naturally when you’re rested.
Now, in middle age, I’m determined to rely on an alarm only when I’m catching an early flight. Bedtime is sacred, and violating it requires a PowerPoint deck describing risks and rewards and return on investment. I’m always making calculations now, talking about sleep as if it were currency, feeling always a scarcity, greedy for more. “The sleep debt collectors are coming,” Oliver Whang wrote in The Times last year. “They want you to know that there is no such thing as forgiveness, only a shifting expectation of how and when you’re going to pay them back.”
I’ve been asking people lately about how well they sleep. Their responses are complicated. Even though we know we need to practice good sleep hygiene in order to be healthy and effective, I still detect a perverse hint of pride when people tell me they don’t sleep well, as if they’re society’s noble sentinels, up all night scanning the darkness for predators. Those who say they sleep well are a little bashful, as if their easy rest bespeaks a too-cosseted mind, a too-simple life. One person said of sleep in adulthood, “I just love sleep more now than I ever have. Does that make sense?”
I knew exactly what they meant. The older I become, the more grateful I am for whatever sleep I can get. I crave the overnight mop-up, the “taking out the trash” that occurs in the brain while the body’s out. A quick nap functions like rebooting a computer; my system is haywire, so I pass out and then chime awake a short spell later, flushed of unnecessary data. I crave what Walt Whitman called “free flight into the wordless, / Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done.”
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
President Biden will provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, breaking from Western allies who oppose the weapons. He called the decision difficult but necessary as Ukraine runs low on ammunition.
The Pentagon said the cluster munitions it was sending had been improved to reduce the risk to civilians, but they still contain old grenades that fail at high rates.
The U.S. added more jobs last month, continuing a 30-month streak. But the number of new jobs was lower than in past months, a sign that the job market is cooling.
The prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, announced that he would resign after his ruling coalition fractured over a dispute on how to handle migrants.
The gunman in the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting, a self-described white nationalist, was sentenced to 90 consecutive life terms on hate crimes charges.
A giant blob of stinking seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico that has been menacing Florida’s beaches shrank by 75 percent last month.
🎥 “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” (Wednesday): It’s a little hard to keep track of how many films there are in this Tom Cruise action espionage series, as they stopped using numbers in the titles after the third part. But we’re now on the seventh movie, which itself is the first of two parts. (Got it? Yes?) And if you haven’t already seen the stunt in which Cruise drives his motorcycle off the side of a mountain, then please show me the cave you’ve been hanging out in, because I would like to go there and rest my eyes.
📺 “Bluey” (Wednesday): In a fun piece arguing for the modern “dad canon” (Crocs, weed, wife guydom), The Times called Bandit, the canine patriarch of this Australian cartoon, “a textured representation of responsible modern fatherhood.” So it’s time to throw up the dad signal! Ten new episodes are dropping on Disney+.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Tomato and Peach Salad
I am a summer-tomato devotee, and I firmly believe there is no better use for them than a juicy, vibrant salad. Alexa Weibel makes that salad just a little fancy by punctuating it with peaches and adding a bed of whipped goat cheese, a tangy answer to the fruit’s sweetness. The presentation is gorgeous, and the recipe isn’t hard to make — all the more reason to seize the moment.
The hunt: A couple of longtime renters searched for a condo on Manhattan’s West Side. Which one did they pick? Play our game.
N.Y.C. galleries: Check out Edgar Calel’s solo show.
Visit the Azores: Find earth, water, fire and air — sometimes all at once.
Watch: These are the best movies and shows on Hulu right now.
Travel like a rich person: Visit Napa Valley without spending too much.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
In Defense of Cheap Sunglasses
Summer is all about feeling carefree. So why spend it tethered to a pair of expensive sunglasses that you’re constantly worried about misplacing or breaking? After splurging on a couple of costly designer pairs in my youth — and losing them at the bottom of the ocean or leaving them on planes — I’ve become a huge fan of Sungait Vintage Round sunglasses, the cheapest of all of Wirecutter’s cheap sunglasses picks. They’re sturdy, they’re stylish, and they cost under $20. Grab a pair (or two) and lose the summertime stress. — Rose Maura Lorre
U.S. Women’s Open: The stage could not be set more perfectly for Rose Zhang. After two N.C.A.A. titles at Stanford, Zhang turned pro in May and promptly won her first event. She arrived at Pebble Beach this week already owning the course record, a nine-under-par that she shot in college. “Golf has been waiting for Rose Zhang,” The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn wrote. 3 p.m. Eastern, today and tomorrow, on NBC.