Why I No Longer Set an Alarm When I Go to Sleep

I used to believe it’s sad to think about sleep during the day, to be longing for sleep when you’re awake. Sleep, I thought, is an escape, and if you feel the need to escape, it must be quite bad.

But is sleep indeed an escape? And an escape from what? If the waking state was the primary reality of human beings, and if our living in that reality was always and without exceptions a hardship, then we could consider sleep an escape.

But our reality is composed of both sleep and wake, both playing a huge role in our well-being. That the waking state takes up two thirds, and sleep only one third of our lives, does not mean the latter is less important. We live in both, and need both.

The waking state is not always a hardship, either. I used to think it is for personal reasons, but now I’ve become acquainted with many more of the experiences that life has in store.

There is pleasure in life, and there is love. There is enthusiasm and exhaustion, and there is sadness and pain. There is also the feeling that one is actually lucky to be alive. And there is much more.

Coming back to not-so-personal beliefs, let’s remember that the time we spend asleep is equally valuable as our waking time. It is a time for rest, a time perfect for connecting with our inner lives, a time for dreaming and, let’s not forget about that: for growing.

But we’re reluctant to accept this fact of life, aren’t we, the twenty-first-century high-speed human machines? We minimize the time for sleep to have more of it for work, game playing, partying and whatnot. We treat sleep as if it was a necessary evil, often resorting to it only when we’re completely exhausted.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? If you haven’t, then my congratulations. But most of us relegate sleep to a place down at the bottom on their list of priorities. “Sleeping won’t get us a financial upgrade, awesome friends and photos from an enviable exotic trip, so why waste our time?”

There are at least two reasons… no, not to “waste our time”, but to change our minds about sleep so that it doesn’t seem a waste of time. Aaand to finally sleep enough.

Reason one is very simple, and you already know it: we need sleep. Our bodies, our minds, our everything needs sleep like plants need the sun. There’s no denying it, even if we like denying our needs so much. Remember: there’s no shame in being in need of something, so there’s no need to deny it.

Reason two is arguable, and I am going to argue for it: sleep makes our lives richer and more interesting. If we were to go with the current conception of a human being as a sort of organic robot, with brain for its main computer, stomach for the fuel tank and so on, we’d make ourselves dull and exhausted.

We’re not machines. We’re animals with an enormous capacity for experiencing things. Numerous things (see the personal paragraph above). And I have no doubt that we experience and remember them more fully when we are rested than we do when trying to fight exhaustion and boredom.

Our lives get more interesting also thanks to the dreaming we do while asleep. Seriously, wWhat would they be without those strange nightly phantasms, reflections on their possible meaning in the daily light, and evening discussions with our loved ones about whether they mean anything at all?

These are my reasons for not feeling bad when I think about sleep during the day, not setting an alarm when I go to sleep, and enjoying most of all the days when absolutely no external force can make my eyes open until they open by themselves in the morning.

What are yours? If you don’t have any, go find some, quickly. Because sleep is quite a lovely state.


A source that made me reflect on my attitude to sleep, and also a place for you to look for reasons to start getting enough sleep: The Cure for Insomnia Is to Fall in Love with Sleep Again

On a less serious note: A video presenting a healthy attitude to sleep


Nighty night!

Word Issues #4: Virginity

As I have already said in this post, I like words.

But some, I don’t. It might be because they “sound bad” to me, or it might be the way people use them with other words and create horrible images that reflect their horrible views of the world they live in.

Because words matter, and after a year of attending a seminar in cognitive poetics, I have become much more sensitive to this: words matter in the way their usage reflects how we see the world.

For example, we associate the upward direction with changes for the better, and the downward direction — with deterioration, and hence we speak of e.g. “uplifting stories” and “down-trodden workers”. Or we see certain actions as involving a transfer even if what is “transferred” is not a material object but, say, a piece of information (consider e.g. “leave a message”).

This leaves room for endless mooning over particular collocations that strike you as meaningful: you hear someone use an expression, and then you have something to analyse cognitively when you’re on a bus, or something. But it can also make life very annoying.

For instance, if you search for “virginity” in any collocations dictionary, the entry you’re sure to find is “lose virginity” (some also give “take away virginity”). You’ll find the same results in any language corpus and, needless to say, you’ll probably hear the word used that way more often than any other.

And if you think of this in cognitive poetic terms, like I do, you’ll soon be mad because you’ll see the error in it. These words put together show virginity as a thing you can transfer, something you can lose or take away from somebody, when in fact… it’s just a state.

You’re in this state, and they you might stop being in this state, but the moment this changes — the moment you stop being a virgin — isn’t an act of losing or taking something.

Like all error, this may influence the way we think about the world in stupid ways: for instance, some people see virginity as a value to be protected when in fact what we should protect is not made-up values, but people’s safety and health.

Of course, it may well not bother you at all, but I can’t just pass over it. Not as a cognitive poetics student, and certainly not when I’m in my annoyed mode.

Because, like all error, it’s annoying.