Tiring On All Cylinders

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” – people who don’t know what sleep or death is.

Fatigue, if left untreated, can in severe cases lead to being asleep, which of course can be incredibly detrimental to living a continuously wakeful lifestyle. So, try to avoid fatigue where possible by occasionally sleeping for eight hours every single day sometimes. People are definitely getting less sleep than we used to, even a few years ago. Sleep issues came in at number two of the top health complaints in a 2015 survey among Americans. “That’s probably because of the time difference and jet lag screwing up their body clock!” you cry. But no, the survey was also carried out in America if you can believe it. So either people are getting less sleep, or just think they are. Well certainly it seems people are more educated on things like sleep apnoea than they used to be. And maybe we’re therefore more eager to self-diagnose with that knowledge, assuming that the diagnosing part of doctoring is where the big bucks are. It could be another casualty in the war of cyberchondria; reading about conditions online and instantly assuming you have it, like how I convinced myself I had throat cancer because I couldn’t hit the high notes in an Elton John song for the first time in a while. Although the symptoms weren’t as specific as that, it did list ‘sore throat’ as one, and after straining for the same unattainable note for a few hours, that’s exactly what I had. Turns out it was just a mild case of glandular fever, or the kissing disease, if you like to brag about being disgusting. See also ‘the love bug’ as a euphemism for chlamydia, or if you have oral herpes, just say you have an ‘infectious smile’.

But you’ve been there. Convinced you have Lyme disease because of a rash; or meningitis because you have a stiff neck; or worms, which would explain your loss of appetite, vomiting, and your coat looking less thick and shiny. So is it us being over dramatic, or are people actually getting less sleep than we used to? And if so, why?

Kristen Knutson headed an investigation into this in a journal called ‘Sleep’ a few years ago, where they identified that, yes, people are getting less sleep than we used to around forty years ago, and one way they measured this is identifying an increase since then in the proportion of ‘short sleepers’ – people who get less than six hours of sleep in every twenty-four hour period. Interestingly, they also worked out that statistically people are more likely to be short sleepers if they are over 45 years old, male, have some college education, are single or separated, and are African-American (again, from an American study). So if you were wondering how Bill Cosby can sleep at night, the answer is, statistically not very well.

One reason would be the role of technology in our lives, even something as ubiquitous as artificial light, but also having immediate access to stimulating media on our phones, right up to the point when we shut our eyes to go to sleep. Apparently the colour blue brings to subconscious mind the daytime sky and is featured in a number of apps like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Safari, so what chance do we have? One of those apps is so popular it literally had a movie made about it. No-one’s made a movie of Twitter yet, but any new Scary Movie instalment is surely only one fired writer away from just being a ninety-minute long recitation of the funniest tweets of that year. So how is this going to get any better? Children born now will be on their phones more than any previous generation, so by the time they’re my age, will they just be wakeful monsters, devouring all illuminated content with a mildly blueish-hue? Sleep deprivation can also contribute to weight gain, since it of course increases fatigue. And weight gain will just continue the cycle of not wanting to exercise. We all know the feeling of being inexplicably tired from having done nothing all day. Not working up energy or motivation can lead to feeling knackered, even though you’ve expended hardly any energy. Newborn babies need sixteen hours of sleep a day, and I can only assume this is because they’re also tired from laying around doing fuck all.

So what is our ultimate fate? The movie Wall-E probably had it bang on, apart from not mentioning that humans will eventually stop sleeping entirely, and probably employ some weird dolphin brain-technique of sleeping with half of our brains at a time, while the other half mindlessly scrolls through social media updates that don’t make any sense, since they were written using only half a brain. Never has the phrase ‘wake up sheeple’ been less appropriate. Don’t try so hard to be ‘woke’. Stop scrolling looking for ineffective petitions to share. Put your phone down, and pick up something with a numbing orange glow to it, like a Lucozade or some fire. Stare into that until you feel drowsy, and take a nap. Just half an hour or so. Meditation’s gaining a lot of traction in the west among wannabe Buddhists, and probably vegans, but why not settle for the original, subconscious meditation that requires no training or purchasing of expensive manuals.
Get some sleep sheeple.



Next time on the bandwagon, I’ll teach you how you can make a basic shelter, just using objects found in any ordinary household, including the house itself.