Sleep is a bizarre concept. Sleeping is essentially lying unconscious while hallucinating vividly–if you’re fortunate enough to have dreams. Sleep is the body shutting down, resetting, rebuilding, rejuvenating. We can’t do without it, yet the average human treats it like a waste of time.

I’ve known people who can sleep anywhere. They can shut down on airplanes, on busses, in the backstage area of a theater during a performance, at the table of a cafeteria. The body chooses to sleep–like a computer with drained batteries, it will shut down without warning of pushed too far. This is why college students sleep in class. This is why people with illnesses feel constantly drowsy. The body has to stop burning energy in order to create more of it.

Then there are the insomniacs.

These are the people who want to sleep–who need to sleep–but can’t. Their thoughts keep them up at night. They wake up for no reason and sleep very lightly. They are night owls–often creative types forced into creativity because they have to do something to keep themselves occupied in the deep watches of the nights when they can’t get their minds to turn off and rest.

I have often wondered if I am one of these people. I sleep, sure, but I sleep very lightly, always chased by fascinating dreams and I’ll awake at the sound of a pin hitting the carpet. As a child I remember being unable to take naps in strange places. It took me hours to fall asleep every night because my eyes would find shapes in the shadows and give them names and adventures. My hands became hand puppets acting out epic sagas while I waited to feel tired, or even drowsy.

As a result, I don’t think I got enough sleep as a child.

The deficit is catching up with me. Hours and hours of unattained sleep that have accumulated since my childhood, accelerating in my adolescence and multiplying exponentially in my college years have left me in a constant state of sleepiness and scattered thinking, always walking partially in a dream.

This can’t be good for me. But my brain, so trained, won’t let me stop. Even now, as a 21-year-old, my eyes hunt the shadows on the backs of my lids as I dream up wild and ridiculous futures for myself, my own waking dreams keeping me from the sleep my brain needs.

Sleep isn’t a waste of time. I know this better than most. But I can’t get my brain to agree with me.


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