Cheating Sleep

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

That’s a sentiment I’ve heard often in the last few years. It’s spoken by either workaholics or braggarts who pride themselves on being able to function on little or no sleep. The sad thing is this is usually seen as a good thing, especially in the United States, which has a culture that idolizes work. Honestly, in many cases, it’s nothing more than disguised greed.

There was a recent episode of Doctor Who entitled “Sleep No More” that touched on this. The Doctor and his Companion, Clara, come to a space station whose crew was conducting sleep experiments, but the station has now gone dark, most of the crew killed. The Doctor discovers that the crew was developing a means to allow humans to get through the day with less than an hour of sleep so as to increase productivity. He was angered by this, accusing them of trying to “cheat nature” in their arrogance. Then, in true Doctor Who fashion, the “sleep dust” (the crust often found in tear ducts after much sleep) all collected into murderous monsters thanks to that sleep-cheating process.

What intrigued me about this episode is its theme was something I’d been contemplating for a while at the time. Call me crazy, but I think God designed humans to require sleep as a means of keeping them humble. If they were able to function without it, they would either become lazy (or lazier) or, more likely, they would get to the same point they did with the Tower of Babel, looking upon their accomplishments and thinking themselves gods. (The sad thing is there are people now who, in one form or another, think this already).

However, research tells us that humans need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Think about that: that’s a third of a day. Some look at that and, much like those scientists in that Doctor Who episode, say that’s a waste. What they don’t realize is that it’s part of an ideal balance for one’s life. For eight hours you sleep, and for eight hours you work. That leaves eight hours to spend doing whatever you want. Everything is equal. But as is typical with human beings, they want to tip that balance, and that often requires eating into sleep time. Heck, there’s at least one entire industry built around cheating sleep: energy drinks. From Red Bull to Monster to 5-Hour Energy, their marketing centers around giving you a boost to do more. That could be doing more work so you could have a bigger paycheck or staying up late playing video games. (These are just two examples). Unfortunately, as I’ve observed myself, people become addicted to energy drinks to the point that they can’t function without them. If they don’t have one, they crash, and they crash hard. Then they run the risk of drinking too many and overstimulating their hearts until they explode (their hearts, I mean. I doubt energy drinks make people explode). 😛

I’m not saying one should never use energy drinks or that one can always get eight hours of sleep a night. For example, parents with newborns will lose sleep because they must care for the baby. Some people also have health issues that can cause insomnia. Stuff like that aside, it’s best not to make a habit to lose sleep. It will catch up to you. Trust me, I know.

What do you think? Would humanity become more arrogant if it could function with little or no sleep? What would happen? Do you try to “cheat nature” by avoiding sleep? How has that worked out for you?

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