Marolt: Nobody is bad when they are asleep
My wife loves to sleep. I just like it. She makes sure she gets eight hours a night. I take whatever I can get. She likes a nap. I don’t do that unless I’m sick. I snooze lightly during the night while she’ll sleep through Armageddon and the day of reckoning unless St. Peter shakes her. She falls asleep while the sandman is still at the beach. I count sheep until I’m working in a sweater factory in my dreams. Sleep is a funny thing, until you can’t.
A good night of sleep is one of life’s most enjoyable treats. It increases in number other pleasures. It makes you feel you can accomplish about anything. It results in a sharp mind and strong body. Work is productive and recreation is scheduled when you are well rested. It is almost impossible to become annoyed. Nobody is irritating. Stubbing your toe makes you giggle at your clumsiness. You love life and most people in it. You look at your work calendar and notice the next big holiday is just around the corner.
Sleep depravation reverses most of this. I would go so far as to say that — after getting to bed late, waking up early and tossing and turning the few hours between — the next day is one of the most miserable things life throws at you. Even powder skiing or sunny days are torturous when exhausted. There is no such thing as a favorite food. There is no best friend to the tired. Every novel is dull and movie trite. Even if you get a promotion and big raise the first thing in the morning after a sleepless night, all you focus on are the additional income taxes to pay.
When our kids were young, I remember looking forward to a camping trip in the mountains, one of my favorite things to do. When we got there, the site was perfect and the scenery gorgeous. We spent a magnificent evening around the fire under the stars. We had food, drink and merriment.
Then, we retired to our sleeping bags. The baby cried for hours. The dog ran off into the dark. A little pebble under the tent floor in the day grew into a boulder penetrating my back and ribs, no matter how I twisted my body around it in the dark. The neighboring campers grew louder. It got far colder than expected.
The first words out of my mouth in the semi-dawn were, “I hate camping.” I know this because I have been reminded of it on every one of the many camping trips we have been on since. The infamous declaration came in a moment of insomnia-induced temporary insanity. My love of camping and some perspective came back after the prescribed cure all — eight hours of sleep following a warm shower.
Everybody knows we need sleep, but nobody really knows why, or more specifically, what it does to rejuvenate our minds and bodies. We are pretty sure we cannot survive without it. Fortunately, our bodies will not let us test this theory. We fall asleep before our internal systems stop working for lack of it.
We know our bodies can recover without shutting our eyes. A physical workout can refresh our minds. The effect of food, water and oxygen to our bodies are explained by chemistry. Sleep is, as of yet, mostly out of the reach of understanding by known science for its bolstering of our well-being. So, what if the need for sleep is less about our physical bodies and more about our souls?
We cannot be bad people while we sleep, physically or in thought. Sleepers do not lie or cheat. The Ten Commandments and Golden Rule remain unbroken while we dream. It is impossible to sin while we snooze. No one has ever been murdered by a mad slumberer.
Therefore, what if the purpose of sleep is actually to reconnect ourselves to the inherit goodness with which we are all born? Perhaps it is a necessary reprieve from the material world constantly drawing us inward. Maybe it is to revive the tone and tenor of the little voice on our right shoulders.
While it also is true that we cannot help our fellow humans while we are lights out under a warm blanket with our head on a soft pillow, it would be hard to argue that this state does not better prepare us to do good things when we wake up. If a good night’s sleep feels like heaven, maybe we are closer to the truth than we think. Now, go get some rest.
Roger Marolt would like to remind everyone that snoring is an inadvertent offense. Email at email@example.com.
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