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Sleep – Love/Hate Relationship

October 19, 2011

I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. When I feel drained and completely empty of energy, I love nothing more than to rest my head on a quilted pillow and absorb the silence as I descend down the rabbit-hole into the wonderland of my dreams. Yet I may as well have been born a bat or a bush-rat, as I feel a sense of being a nocturnal creature, hooting with energy when most are dressing into their nightgowns. I work best when only the reflection of the sun, beams outside and coffee flows through my veins. Somehow I manage to find and turn on more of my bodily generators that continue to supply me with energy long after the main source should have depleted.

The old comedy script by Jerry Seinfeld summarises my nature:

 “…I’m Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. ‘What about getting up after five hours sleep?’, oh that’s Morning Guy’s problem…”

The ‘morning guy’s problem’ that was so well put, is what brings me to my second persona – the hate relationship with sleep. Sleep is an enduring and forbearing force smirking at my taunts to forgo it for another hour. It will patiently wait and circle like a pack of hyenas, until one gives in and surrenders to it. But what is worse is when I am down and helpless – the early waking hours that the predator will really strike – paralysing me with fatigue and regret.

They, the collective wisdom of the internets [sic], estimate that the average human sleeps 1/3 of their life. I personally believe I clocked-on between ¼ and 1/3, and will continue to fight the good fight to keep it lower than the mean.

Yet it’s still a huge part of everyone’s life that is put aside to let the brain perform some menial functions that in this day and age is still lacking a full understanding.

Human society has come a long way in the ability of condensing the time to perform the necessary things to live (they always managed to fill the free-time with other things but I am digressing). We no longer have to hunt for our food or laboriously tend to our livestock; moving from an agrarian to an industrial society and then to our modern high-tech society means food is prepared and available in a supermarket, a cooked meal takes so many minutes as opposed to hours, and refrigeration means we can cook for later, saving us more time.

I personally have only seen the tail of what it means to wash clothes by hand, but thankfully was too young to be the one who is washing it. The washing machine is one of those silent heroes that has freed an enormous amount of time for humans to focus on other needs.

My point is that human ingenuity has given us an enormous amount of time we can spend on higher order things. Leisure, hobbies, pursue things of passion, philosophical musings etc can now fit into a timetable that use to be made up of milking cows and plucking chickens. Yet, given all that, ‘sleep’ remains a living fossil – an unchanged aberration, that consumes our lives night by night.

Salvador Dali - The Dream

Perhaps to appease my wrath, ‘sleep’ offers a small gift in return. The other mysterious yet phantasmagorical phenomena: dreams. Ask a child about dreams and they may tell you how much of a double-edged sword dreams can be. But for most adults dreams can be pleasant and magical. Lucid dreaming, act of being aware you are dreaming is something I have yet to experience in full. I have only had a sample of the experience in the half-awake half-asleep moments.

Yet dreams do not fully absolve the act that sleep is guilty of. It is thus that I write an open letter to all the great minds of the world to either fully understand the significance of sleep or better still to discover a way to remove it completely from our lives. Let sleep be an archaism – a historic artefact that our ancestors once endured.

People joke that they wish there was 25 hours in a day. They don’t need 25 hours, they just need more time in which they can be productive. Remove sleep and you get your wish. You heard of the cities that never sleep, we could have towns and villages that never sleep, the whole world a-buzz with living.

I hope that time is just a few sleeps away.

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