On Sleeping

5 stages of sleep
I've got a confession to make. A dreadful, dastardly, horrible confession - and it doesn't help that it's probably a bit bizarre, too.

You see, I don't really like to sleep all that much. There's just something about spending a good couple of hours unconscious that doesn't really interest me. Maybe it's the utter lack of anything to do or feel...Anyway, I digress; regardless of how little I like my sleep - especially, for obvious reasons, while I'm snoozing away - I still need it. I need a ludicrous amount of it, actually.

Black and white photo of a white woman sleeping
And it's that frankly ludicrous amount of sleep that is my undoing; you see, like a fair number of people I can't get to sleep early but still need to wake up at a ridiculously early hour to get myself all presentable and ready for another day of slog. So I get some sleep - but not enough, and so, like most people, I spend the day walking around in a grumpy stupor.

Enough people do this for someone to recognise that there's a problem - and so we are constantly told that sleep is good for us, that without sleep we die of exhaustion, that walking around sleepless is like walking around drunk...Hell, I've even heard about "junk sleep" before, because apparently sleep comes in grades like food now.

It's a sleeping ginger kitten!
However, despite people's supposed commitment to raising awareness about good sleep hygiene, the conventional approach (the one that most people tend to swear by) is riddled with flaws. I could probably go on and on about them and bore you all to tears (hey, maybe that would be a good sleep aid!), but not only do I have an aversion to boring people - shocking, I know - but I'm too lazy to go through every reason, particularly as they fall neatly into two categories.

The first main flaw is that current advice treats sleep hygiene as the individual's personal responsibility. Now, most of you probably don't see anything wrong with that, and I don't blame you for not doing so: after all, we're bombarded with messages to take responsibility and assured that the alternative is being nannied around.

Sleeping cat
I don't particularly want to nanny people around; at the same time, I'm aware that taking responsibility is often code for blaming oneself and not receiving any help from the current system. (You try having any kind of serious misfortune. People will expect you to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, which rarely happens.) I am also aware that oftentimes getting sleep is even more difficult than normal because of, say, insomnia. It's not that getting sleep is impossible - it's that even following recommendations (often very difficult, not because of personal weakness or a lack of willpower but because of systemic problems, which I hope to deal with in the next paragraph) isn't an instant guarantee of perfect sleep as people want to make out it is.

Sleeping ginger kitten!
The second main flaw - and another one that everyone seems to conveniently ignore - is that current advice doesn't take our current system into account. This might seem like a bit of a strange concept: anyone coming up with and trying to implement advice should be able to see how it relates to the current system, shouldn't they?

You wish. Sadly, that requires common sense and a willingness to overturn the status quo, both of which are lacking in our so-called pillars of society.

Woman taking a nap. Aww.
At the moment - at least in the West - we have a culture where the day starts early and then sometimes extends relatively late into the night depending on how much of a social life you have. Somehow everything depends on one bouncing into the office at 9.00 sharp, and everything depends on students getting up before dawn to prepare themselves for school - even though many people have a sleep cycle more suited to sleeping and waking relatively late in the day. Letting people get up when they feel refreshed and ready for a long day, or letting people set their own working hours? Impossible! Unthinkable! Inconceivable! Society would grind to a halt.

Yet another sleeping cat, because they're awesome.
Now, I as a misanthrope don't have much problem with that - I could finally get on with plotting my escape to Antarctica - but a lot of other people would. So let me assure you that society would not in fact collapse into dust were everyone to actually get a good night's sleep, at the price of starting work at 10 or 11 in the morning instead of 9. Productivity, that love of all capitalist drones, wouldn't fall - if anything, it would probably rise because people would be better able to process information and in a better mood to boot. And maybe, you know, we could be somewhat alert instead of dragging ourselves around in a sleep-deprived stupor.