Slumber

In which RVA counts sheep…

How much sleep do you get?

I get the impression I’m very fortunate to sleep adequately.  I tend to go to bed about 10pm and I wake up at 5:30am.  7.5 hours, that’s not bad, right?  I wouldn’t say I wake up feeling refreshed and rested every day, but I wake up without much trouble most days.  Neither my alarm nor my cats really startle me most of the time.  I also have gone to great lengths to secure a napping space during the day.  Working in an office, it’s harder than it used to be, but I get a quick twenty-minute nap in every day.  I set my alarm for twenty-three minutes, but I’m usually out at within that first three.

That’s another thing I realize I am fortunate for.  I can fall asleep with ease.  My wife?  There are hours between getting into bed and finally falling into slumber.  If it takes me ten minutes to fall asleep, that’s unheard of.

I don’t understand people who discard sleep with ease.  I understand professional needs for some, but I feel like the jobs that truly require skipping sleep are fewer and rare than most people realize.  I read about game developers who have to work 16-18-20-hour days.  I understand the economics of having and keeping a job in a competitive (or really, exploitative) field, but I just don’t get how anyone got to point where they’d say ‘yeah, that’s acceptable’.

Sleep is important.  Which is funny to say because, as best I understand it, we still don’t fully grasp what sleep is.  We know there are neurotransmitters involved with sleep, or rather, with being awake, or maybe both?  Like most things in chemistry and neurochemistry, we know a little bit, but we really don’t know as much as we think we do.

And dreaming!  We don’t get dreaming.  We have some theories, sure.  Some educated guesses.  But it’s my understanding that we really don’t have a solid understanding of what dreams are and where they come from.  Are they just the brain’s version of a ‘disc defragmenter’ or are they something else?  Even a realist such as myself has to allow for the possibility that dreams might be something more than the tangible world can currently conceive.

So much about sleep we don’t know or understand.  And yet, for some people, they cut it short.  I scorn to be like people who try to sleep less.  It’s periodically a fashionable thing to want to sleep only four hours a night.  Whether it’s polyphasic sleep (sleeping in small blocks periodically throughout the day to force your brain to jump into REM sleep immediately), or merely getting up early to ‘feel ready to conquer the day’, purging so critical and unknown a thing from your life as sleep seems hazardous.  Even dangerous.  It seems like restricting water-intake.  Sure you can do it, but why?  And what are the long-term effects?

I know some people have a different relationship with sleep than I.  Some people chase it jealously, unable to get reliable sleep from night to night.  Others are plagued by sleep they don’t want.  Like all elements of health, there are polar extremes and every variable within.  Yet for something we spend a sizeable point of our entire lives doing, it is something few people pay much attention to.  Unless they are trying to do less of it.  And often then, only because they feel austerity is somehow superior.

Of course I don’t write any of this as I anxiously await the next change to sleep.  But the thought of my pillow does make me smile.

Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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