By Bradford J. Senning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 3, 1998

Sleep Deprivation, Part 1: You're getting sleepy


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bradford J. Senning

I've slept a total of 45 minutes in the last two days.

It seems like I've got so much to do that 45 minutes is all I can afford to waste. I study all night, or clean my bedroom to avoid studying, or discover a secret file called "Games" in my computer .... Like I said, I can't afford to waste my time by sleeping.

Eventually I look at the clock on my bedroom wall, which is caught in the day's first sideways shaft of sunlight. Damn. I've got a class in 45 minutes. What can I do but take a nap, then take a cold shower, then tape the lids of my eyes to my brow, displaying a wide-eyed enthusiasm for today's subject to my professor: "The colon, what does it look like?"

Tom, of "Tom & Jerry," once propped his eyelids open with toothpicks to keep awake. Not a bad idea, I think after 45 minutes of sleep.

I know I'm not alone in my line of voluntary insomnia. I can spot the others who try but aren't quite making it. I would recommend to some of my classmates that they buy neckbraces to keep their sleeping heads from falling forward, over and over. Besides, neck braces are funny. That's my sit-com mentality after 45 minutes of sleep.

On the to-do list today, and on any of the several Post-It notes flagging from the tops of my books, it doesn't say "get some sleep." I can't get anything done while I'm asleep. So I borrow from the bank of my sleep time and hope I can earn time to pay it back later.

The idea ever since the turn of the century, in the popular myth born of streamlined factory production and promoted by a guy named Frederick Taylor, is that time is money. So we borrow time from other resources, like the time we used to spend with family, or the time we used to spend sniffing roses, or the time we used to spend sleeping. And we spend this time being - I don't know - productive?

Since the turn of the century, human beings have been sleeping one-and-a-half hours less per night, despite the fact that, since the turn of the century, the day has remained 24 hours long.

Earth-bound creatures have a biological clock that abides by the day's 24-hour cycle. This circadian rhythm is a neurological trait which we can thank the sun for engendering in us. Yet, since the human has figured out ways to provide his or her own light, it's also been more difficult for the human to keep in tune with his or her natural rhythms. Some claim that the advent of round-the-clock entertainment such as television and Las Vegas has made life too interesting to value sleep, despite its special-effects mechanism of dreaming. Sleep just isn't going to make our top-ten list of natural wonders.

We have, in turn, supplied cinemas to prove to ourselves that we aren't merely delusions in a platonic cave watching our lives dance before us.

We give ourselves jobs inside tall office towers to grant us the feeling that we can climb above this rock of earth. And we defy our natural inclination to sleep, believing instead that through our restraint we defy the ape that clings so tenaciously to the fabric of our genetic outfit. We defy our savage instinct in order to feel ourselves . . . progressing.

Yet since the turn of the century, in one hundred years of evolution, we've only gotten one-and-a-half hours better.

Bradford J. Senning is a junior majoring in American literature and creative writing. His column, "The Emperor of Ice Cream," normally appears every Thursday. "Sleep Deprivation, Pt. 2: Coffee for one" will appear in one week. Brad would also like to remind his readers that "the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream."



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