The last few weeks have been a haze of sleeplessness for me. Although I'm running all over the city most days and working evenings, I nonetheless stay up late every night messing around, even when each passing minute is agony. Although sleep is the most delicious thing I can imagine at any given moment, I can never force myself to adhere to an early bed time, even when I must wake in just a few short hours.
I could blame this pattern on the stress of moving, on adjusting to an evening work schedule, on the deflated air mattress upon which I currently snooze. But the fact is, I've been this way for years. My night-owl-ness used to be remedied by Saturday sleep-ins (even as a little kid I was known to sleep till noon!), but in recent years I've become so panicked about fitting as much life as I can into one day that I've been making myself rise early on weekends, too.
I do tell myself that if I were well-rested, my body would feel so good that "living life" would be ten times better. But the majority of my brain roars "I'll sleep when I'm dead!"
This attitude towards sleep was recently shaken, however, when I picked up Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams by Paul Martin. I checked it out thanks to my long-time fascination with the psychology and biology of dreams, and although the book sadly didn't delve into much new dream research, there was one early passage that caught my eye:
In some respects, sleep has acquired the dismal status that eating had in post-war Britain, where austerity and a cultural blind spot reduced the culinary arts to a joyless act of refuelling. Bland, fatty food was daily shovelled in to keep the boilers stoked, with scant attention paid to its preparation or enjoyment. Fortunately....recent decades have witnessed cooking and eating emerge as pleasurable activities in their own right. For some people in wealthy nations, cooking and eating have become more a form of entertainment than a biological function.
Meanwhile, sleep is mired in the cultural equivalent of a 1950s British canteen meal: an inadequate and faintly unhealthy affair, indifferently concocted and consumed with more haste than enjoyment. Too many people regard sleep as the brain's equivalent of fast food or overboiled cabbage. If gastronomy is "the reasoned comprehension of everything connected with the nourishment of man," as it was originally defined, then should we not start thinking about sleep in the same way? I hope that by the end of this book you will be pondering the gourmet delights of sleeping, napping and dreaming, and starting to savour more of their lost pleasures for yourself (pp. 15-16).
This intrigues me to no end. Will culture someday decree the sensual pleasure of sleeping as something worth cultivating? We already purchase comfy beds, paint our bedrooms with soothing colors, and splurge on other little luxuries to make sleeping more indulgent. Yet the overwhelming cultural consensus seems to lean in the direction of endless caffeine and energy drinks, bright lights and early mornings and "hobbies" to take up our time post-work.
Sleeping, and the opportunity to sleep comfortably at that, is a luxury, one we shouldn't take for granted. So ideally, I would like to keep these sentiments in mind and come to see sleep as something precious and pleasurable, rather than a chore that detracts from my busy-bee life. I know I have yet to learn the balance between work and play, and I definitely need to take care of myself better. But it's hard to make changes like these overnight. (Ha.)
What do you think of Martin's comparing of sleep to the foodie movement?