Robrt L. Pela

Attack of the bride zombies

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Very little surprises me anymore. After all, we live in a world where people voted George W. Bush in for a second term and where Tyra Banks has her own television show. Clearly, anything is possible. But when my editor sent me a press release about a consumer education outfit’s attempt to do battle with zombies, I thought she was playing a trick on me.

Oh, fine. I thought. She didn’t like that piece I did on Cher, and this is how she’s punishing me – with a cheesy practical joke. But it turns out that the Better Sleep Council (BSC) is a real thing and they are, in fact, out to cure something they call “Zombieitis” with a campaign launched this past May designed to warn consumers about the dangers of the disease, inform them of the cure and to help stop the spread of Zombieitis. But rather than going after more mundane, George Romero-type zombies, the man-eating kind who grunt and shuffle after dress extras, their arms stretched out before them, the council is starting at the top of the monster list by targeting a truly terrifying creature: the zombie bride.

“Planning a wedding can be very exciting, but it can also be very stressful,” sleep council flack Karin Mahoney explained to me when I phoned her. “Brides have to plan the ceremony, the reception, make a guest list, deal with family politics and drama, and so much more. In addition to that, most brides want to get into tip-top shape to look their best on their wedding day. Brides are often so wrapped up in the wedding planning process that they forget the most important thing: getting a good night’s sleep, which turns them into zombies.”

Zombieitis, according to the BSC press release, is a condition triggered by sleep deprivation, one that can “cause sufferers to exhibit Zombie-like symptoms, including bags under the eyes, weight gain, a slow gait, distracted disposition and apathy.”

What it mostly is, I suspect, is a catchy way to make a point about the health benefits of a good night’s sleep. “We want to enlighten people about how important it is to get your rest,” Mahoney says. “We’re taking a different group every few months, like brides and college students and mothers-to-be, and focusing on them, with the zombie angle.”

OK. But there’s got to be a better way to promote the value of a good night’s sleep than riffing on late-show monsters and reality TV programs about badly behaved brides-to-be. How about quoting some medical studies or quoting a sleep-deprivation expert? Like this: “Sleep loss is associated with striking alterations in hormone levels that regulate the appetite,” says Dr. Michael Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Anyone making a commitment to lose weight should probably consider a parallel commitment to getting more sleep.”

But I guess that’s a whole lot less fun than zombies. And speaking of fun, the Better Sleep Council has pulled out all the digital stops in its campaign to stamp out zombie brides, with a website (stopzombieitis.com/brides), a Facebook page, a Twitter account and even a vaguely amusing, animated YouTube video in which colorful line drawings take jabs at sleeplessness and the narrator mispronounces the word attributes. (Perhaps he was sleepy.)

The Facebook page is especially helpful, with instructions for overcoming Wedding Planning Stress Syndrome (it’s a real thing, apparently, with its own acronym: WPSS) and articles about how to deal with problem bridesmaids, who can really mess up a zombie bride’s day with complaints about ugly dresses, the high cost of being at a bride’s beck and call, and (worse yet!) screwing up your wedding photos by being overweight and not smiling correctly.

If the Better Sleep Council is going for camp over caution, it may be because the council is more interested in selling mattresses than in solving sleep issues. The BSC, it turns out, is the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, a trade association for the mattress industry. It’s no wonder they want to get rid of zombies. Zombies don’t buy high-end mattresses. And they never sleep.

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