Hey, I bought into the myth myself…. for a long time. The idea that sleep is for the weak, that I was somehow special, needing less sleep than your average schmuck. This was part of my modus operandi for a good decade.
I eventually let go of this notion when I realized that I couldn’t focus on anything substantive for longer than a few hours and some days a few minutes.
My transformation into a person who demands that love, family, money, bosses, friends, and even Jesus Christ himself bugger off for at least eight hours a day came with a few interesting realizations.
Like the only sober guy in a group of giggling stoners – I began to see, with laser-like clarity that my fellow dudes and dudettes weren’t being profound, they were being idiots.
It’s an epiphany that has allowed me to be paradoxically sympathetic and impatient.
A few months ago I was at a job interview and couldn’t help but let my eyes glaze over when the interviewer described their drive (“I love the grind!”) in glowing detail. I don’t mind boasting. I think when done properly it can be a valid assertion of one’s accomplishments in a world that loves to pick apart your every weakness. But I can no longer stomach heaping praise on maladaptive behavior.
Part of this man’s pride seemed to come from his capacity for privation. He explained in exquisite detail how on many nights for a good long while he was only getting two hours of sleep. Well..no wonder he was balding before thirty. Sure genetics may play a role…but, supposing this tale of robbing the Sandman blind were true…I wouldn’t doubt it was a contributing factor.
Generally, things that are high quality require a lot of effort. I think that’s how the myth really digs its way into the psyche. Going without sleep is difficult, it gives you more hours in a day that never seems to have enough, ergo going without sleep is a feat of self-sacrifice on par with the very Cross.
Sleep is for the lazy and the weak. The strong drink an espresso and soldier on. Towards what exactly…I don’t know. But I’ll wager that it looks a lot like early mortality and an increasingly burdened medical system.
The United States has a serious issue with chronic illness. Chronic illness is expensive. It is expensive in every possible way. It damages the life of the afflicted and the lives of those around them and costs a hell of a lot of money. The times, the cheers, and the laughs that could be spent living well and healthy are instead sopped up by hospital visits, little blood sugar kits, and lots of feverish accounting.
This trend has been attributed to a number of factors like diet, work, and exercise habits. All of which are valid. Sleep has also been implicated though I fear that its not been implicated strongly enough. Because culturally the myth of the Insomniac Ubermensch still reigns. Hence, my interviewers glowing opinion of the practice. It’s what achievers do!
I’m a tad skeptical when it comes to suburban achievements. 40, 50, 60 k a year, some degree in something spiffy, etc all seem like tawdry compensation for health. I really doubt that had these talented and dedicated individuals, spent their time truly critically assessing what it was that allowed for real excellence, that they would have hopped onto a giddy predetermined little maze.
With the resources and technology, we have at our disposal today we could do far better than more of the same.
It never ceases to amaze me how awkward social interactions are. How weird and spacey people are. At first, I thought that I was just seeing things. But as I adopted healthier habits and gained more confidence in my powers of observation I really only found my impressions confirmed.
This is, of course, likely due to a number of factors. But peoples inability to critically assess concepts, to remember things, and to hold a sustained polysyllabic conversation definitely has something to do with everybody being constantly shagged out.
As I got more and more refreshing shuteye, like the former drunk who notices the slur in his AA buddies speech, I noticed the lapses in attention, the moodiness, and the infuriatingly obvious missed cues of the sleep deprived.
A good portion of the dangerous myth of the Insomniac Superman has to do with an ignorance of biology. It’s really funny because there is so much in our culture that people now use to cast off responsibility and cultivation. O you’re a bit blue: HERE’S A Pill! They have no trouble attributing the blues to biology but they don’t attribute their ability to perform to the most natural and biological of things: sleep.
Well, the NIH, Harvard, and a good number of researchers and scientists have done great work in isolating the exact role of sleep. Everything from weight to memory, to the susceptibility to accidents and cancer, is affected by sleep.
As I have already said sure there are many factors that contribute to something like cancer. I’ve heard people wonder aloud as to why we see so much ailment, why we have such a high rate of chronic illnesses. Despite the fact that plastics and pollutants and longer lifespans are a factor we must never leave out behavior.
Not sleeping is bad behavior. If you don’t believe me here are some links to people with bigger diploma shaped Phalluses than I:
As for me I’ve just awoken from a lovely post work siesta and am going to use my relaxed natural energy to enjoy a beer and play the piano.
Go forth and nap!