When I was younger, sleep was stupid. It seemed pointless, an inexplicable wet blanket forever dampening the fun of living. The less I slept, the better. Middle school sleepovers were judged solely on how late I stayed up.
High school parties (which for me mostly consisted of Apples to Apples) were only cool if they went past twelve o’clock. Staying up all night was something to aspire to. In college I got as little sleep as possible and averaged 5 or 6 and a half hours of sleep a night, not including the all-nighters I would pull during finals week.
I remember the smell of my own musk coming from my armpit one early morning in the library. Instead of being disgusted with my state, I thought only of how noble and inspiring my struggle was against the clock and my own biological necessities.
Sure, sometimes I didn’t feel great the next day. I would see black specks or forget simple things and have digestion problems, but those all went away with just one conversation with a hot guy. Then, the vigor of life would course through my veins and my body would forget all about the eight hours I spent pacing in the study hall. Sometimes, in fact, I felt like my skills were sharpened by the lack of sleep. I felt funnier, more inventive, less inhibited. I felt invincible.
Times have changed. Last night I got only six and a half hours of sleep. In college, that would have been more than enough to fuel a day of doodling in class and meals with friends, but my body is not my college body and my mind is not my college mind. Colors seem pale in a world full of ash. Nothing is easy. Sentences are hard to form and usually the words get mixed up in my head before they come out and then there’s only a small chance they make any sense.
Talking to new humans is an almost impossible task, as is any kind of ambition or self-discipline. I think of eating chips and ice cream. My dreams of achieving my dreams seem laughable. Distances have multiplied between familiar places and all around in my brain there is a thick fog, denser even than the fog that covers San Francisco at this very moment. There is no triumph here, nothing noble or satisfying about denying myself the rest my body clearly needs.
Instead of pride, I feel shame. How could I have done this to myself? What damage have I done to this earthly vessel and to others by leaving the house without proper rest? Surely great evil has come about in the world because people have not and are not sleeping enough. Surely I have done a great evil by doing this.
This is not living. No – this is purgatory, a state similar to life but devoid of everything that brings it color and meaning and it is no substitute.
I’ve learned much in my post-college years about what is true and what isn’t true. Sleep is a true thing. Therefore, let us raise our glasses and our pillows in a solemn toast to fight the good fight against sleep theft and get the winks our bodies need and deserve.