Nov. 6, 2001

Concerned with sleep deprivation in children, Cornell psychologist James (Doctor Zeez) Maas answers 'but why?' questions with science and song

Before Cornell University Professor of Psychology James B. Maas achieved national recognition as a sleep researcher and educator, he was a parent, and he knows all about that ploy for postponing bedtime: Following every parental answer with another "but why?"

So Maas' latest book, Remmy and the Brain Train: Traveling Through the Land of Good Sleep , illustrated by Guy Danella and including a read-along, sing-along CD by composer/songwriter Suzanne Scheniman, provides plenty of reasons why the four- to eight-year-old set should get a good night's sleep.

"'Because I'm your parent and I say you need more sleep' is never going to cut it with the kids," says Maas. "I knew from experience that you need reasons that will resonate with young people, about why adequate sleep can improve their alertness, mood and performance."

Those scientifically insightful answers come from Doctor Zeez, the conductor of a special train that transports young Remmy in his dreams. The youngster has fallen asleep, wondering why he is uncharacteristically groggy at school -- why an otherwise bright lad is having trouble with mathematics, spelling and even remembering names.

The persuasive Doctor Zeez (voiced by author Maas in the CD version of the story) convinces Remmy that plenty of deep sleep (both the deep and the REM, or rapid-eye movement, kind) is not only energizing but is essential for processing newly acquired information and storing it in a retrievable part of the memory. Far from vegetating, the mind goes on a fantastic journey during the various periods of sleep, Remmy discovers. Developing good sleep habits makes the child stronger, smarter, happier and healthier.

That's the same advice Maas offered in Power Sleep, his best-selling book for adults, and that he delivers to the sleep-deprived everywhere, including national television audiences, corporate executives and the 65,000 Cornell students he has taught in introductory psychology classes for 38 years. And ever the educator, Maas can't resist giving a quiz on the official Remmy web site http://www.remmyweb.com/ . Fill in the missing letters: Most d_e_ _s happen in _ E _ sleep. That's also when m _ _ or _ traces are made .

For those who slept through Remmy or through introductory psychology class, the answers are: dreams , REM and memory.

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