Sleep is a grand, glorious thing. I love sleep. Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t love me back. It takes my love and, much like a killer whale tossing a seal around before consuming it, toys with it relentlessly.
It usually takes me an hour to an hour-and-a-half to fall asleep, and even after that I wake up just about every hour. To make matters worse, when I actually do start falling asleep I dream that I’m still awake. So even when I’m sleeping, I’m still all upset that I’m awake. Very restful. What’s even more upsetting are the bizarre things that pop into your head when you’re in that curious state in between sleeping and not sleeping. Suddenly you’ll be having a very lucid and informative conversation with an emu wearing leather pants, which at the time seems to be completely and utterly rational. Then you wake yourself up and are thrown into a weird shame cycle wondering why on God’s green earth your brain had the capacity to conjure up an image of a talking, leather pants-wearing emu at the drop of a hat.
Ironically, the only time I fall into a deep, satisfying sleep is about 7 minutes before my alarm starts going off. By that time, sunlight is cheerily streaming into the bedroom and birds are chirping their happy “The Morning is Here, The Morning is Here!” song. Nothing in the world angers me more. And makes me wish I was a gun owner.
Another matter to contend with in the morning is the oxymoron of the alarm clock. On one hand, the sound of an alarm clock going off is one of those universally loathed noises. On the other hand, there’s the snooze alarm. Ah, the snooze alarm. 9 minutes of sheer joy. (And why every alarm clock on the planet employs the 9-minute snooze is a mystery left to the ages. Was 10 minutes just too indulgent? 8 minutes too insulting?) The thing that is great about the snooze alarm is that it’s the only time that you can actually relish the fact that you’re sleeping. Nobody remembers how great sleep was in the middle of the night — you were sleeping. But when you groggily start flailing your arms around looking for the snooze alarm, you’re all too aware of how incredible the cozy, enfolding hand of sleep really is. You will never be more comfortable in your life as you are when you get to fall back into your warm, enveloping, soft bed, each position more blissfully comfortable than the last. It truly is the best time of day. Until that 9th minute comes beckoning again.
What’s interesting to me about sleep is that scientists still cannot explain why we need it. Conventional wisdom says that sleep allows our bodies and brain some downtime, but studies have shown that our brain is still quite active when we’re asleep. My theory is that sleep is there to mess with us. It’s when our subconscious finally gets to take over and have its revenge on the things we repress while we’re awake. We’ve all had those moments when we’re lying there peacefully and comfortably, and suddenly your body spazes out so violently that it looks like someone hooked you up to a car battery. (And then you feel all embarrassed and ashamed even though no one saw it.) Or you try to get out of bed, but because at some point your legs have inexplicably stopped working you dive face-first into the credenza. Or the worst, — and this actually happened to a friend of mine — because you were sleeping on your stomach your arms fell asleep, you are powerless to turn yourself over as you’re drowning in your own pillow.
I’d say it is obvious that sleep is a cosmic joke. We all act so powerful during our awake hours. We are in control. But when sleep hits, it’s time for that tucked-away area of the brain to have some fun. To toy with you. To make you think that having an intellectual discussion with a giant, flightless, S&M-clothes-wearing bird is the most natural thing in the world.
And that’s the reason why I really love sleep.