by Jeng Yang
This is a new series where I explore posts that have unconventional or complex conclusions drawn from comparatively simpler life situations. Arguably, this is the entire premise of philosophy, but still.
I used to be like one of you uni-cyclical sleepers (People who sleep once a day)(I made that term up. It’s mine.) until I adopted the complex philosophy of ‘Screw it, I’m tired and going to bed, I don’t care what time it is’. This has resulted in me taking a series of short naps; waking up and sleeping at various times of the day. Common conversation topics with my hallmates include ‘Why the hell are you sleeping at 3pm?’ and ‘Why the hell have you just woken up at 12am?’.
It is much later that I back my habits with actual scientific data on the concept of segmented sleep, which allows for a person to sleep multiple times a day, for fewer hours while being fully refreshed. This is essentially the principle behind the concept of siestas. This is an awesome infographic that details all the possible combinations of sleep hours that people have tried successfully, including one epic one that involves sleeping 8 times a day for 15 minutes each. I sleep roughly 4 hours at night, from 4am to 8 am, go to lectures, sleep in the afternoon from maybe 2pm to 3.30pm, work and perhaps sleep again from 9pm to 10.30pm. This is roughly 7 hours of sleep where I feel totally refreshed throughout the day, allowing me to do things like procrastinate and watch Youtube videos. This is how I study for a law degree and watch the entire of Youtube during my lifetime.
Anyway, I’ll leave the discussions about the health benefits of sleep to another time. This is about me thinking way too much. Before adopting this sleep pattern, I of course slept the normal 12-8 sleep that most people do. There, there would be a clear distinction between days. To go to sleep was to concede that the day was over, one’s productivity has ceased and the full embrace of unconsciousness was to take over. Such sleep I found to be stressful since it put that much more pressure on the productivity on the following day to make up for whatever had been missed out the previous night. Sleeping, in that sense, was an indication of giving up. One had a binary choice of either going to sleep with a sense of victory, having accomplished everything, or going to sleep in defeat, with outstanding work.
Sleeping multiple times a day, sleep began to be viewed as something that happened concurrent to work. Sleep no longer became an enslaving master, but a guilt-free means of ensuring optimal function. After all, I always knew I would be heading back to work in less than a couple hours time. I would be constantly refreshed and in my mind, I was getting all the sleep I wanted.
The most interesting aspect of this was the fact that events were no longer parts of days. When days are no longer clearly demarcated by the single block of sleep, how could one perceive such arbitrary distinctions in time? When waking up three times a day, a single day would be perceived to be a string of hours. Life itself was a (relatively) uninterrupted series of hours. A late night out was no longer the tired extension of a ‘long day’, but another event in one of many series of hours. There was no longer any conceptual existence of a long day, save where multiple sleep slots were missed. The temporal distinction between morning and the afternoon can feel like the distinction between one day to the next. Over time, the concept of the distinction between days become essentially meaningless. When one stays up as much during the night as in the day, this further adds to the arbitrary nature of days.
It becomes harder to procrastinate when one loses this idea of the distinct future, that of tomorrow. In its place is the fluid conception of time, ‘a series of hours’, that demands immediate action. One can of course, still plan for the future, but the immediacy of the present is thrust in the forefront. Sleep has set me free in the now and the present.
It also does wonders for jet-lag and international Skype conversations.