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.

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Vapid Eye Movement

“Man, I had the weirdest dream last night. So I was in this submarine…” – Everyone at their worst.

The singer Gabrielle, who somehow made wearing sunglasses a signature look (not a patch on my oft-mimicked trademark of wearing shoes when outside) assured the world in 1993 that dreams can come true. Entirely accurate, presuming you only have very pedestrian dreams, like one I once had about driving to get petrol, and upon arrival at the petrol pump, realised I actually had enough petrol, and so went home. The main issue with this of course, is that ‘dreams’ are now synonymous with ‘aspirations’ instead of just ‘your brain doing whatever the fuck it wants when you’re asleep’. You may as well equate an artistic desire to depict a beautiful landscape in watercolour, with someone who snorts powdered paint, then sneezes onto a post-it. And in case you’re wondering, yes that probably is a brilliantly well-veiled criticism of modern art.
Dream interpretation is based on the idea that dreams can be revealing and meaningful, instead of a random assortment of images and thoughts, which is symptomatic of the human mind. We yearn to find patterns and meanings in everything, whether seeing a face in an Artex ceiling, or presuming to find deliberate thought in Ed Sheeran lyrics. Every aspect of life can be psychologically evaluated, like how what you wear affects how people react to you (to illustrate this, try wearing a Spider-Man outfit to a climbing centre. You’ll soon notice that people treat you like you’re some sort of prick), or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, where subtle changes in your phrasing can penetrate other people’s thoughts. For example, using the word penetrate, even innocuously, can turn the listener’s thoughts to smut.
Disgusting.

There does seem to be a circular logic to dream analysis, whereby people marvel that something they were thinking about a lot, turns up in a dream, hence proving that they were thinking about it a lot. Similarly, if something turns up in a dream and was previously believed to be of no consequence, it is now proven, by its appearance in the dream, to be more important than first assumed. Consequently it is given more attention, and then looms larger in the dreamer’s mind. People don’t need to be told what they are thinking about a lot, because luckily we have direct access to our own brains and thoughts. Dreams are a BuzzFeed quiz you take that purports to guess your age, but only consists of one question: ‘How old are you?’
Worse still are people who believe dreams to be predictive. I honestly don’t know whether that makes more or less sense than believing you can divine your own future based on the relative position of giant rocks that happen to orbit the same star we do. At our brains have the potential to predict our own behaviour, and to some extent the behaviour of others based on that (see Spider-Man example above), but again, dreams are essentially a mind-mess; a basket of dirtied thoughts thrown into a washing machine and tumbled around until the colours run. The most ordered that dreams get are lucid dreams, wherein the dreamer knows they are dreaming and can sometimes take control of themselves, and influence the dream. Some people can do this anyway, while most have to practice it to get it right. One method I’ve seen is to get into the habit, in your waking life, of constantly asking yourself whether you are dreaming or not. Then you will eventually find yourself asking this question during a dream, and apparently realise you’re dreaming. As a trade-off that seems a little uneven. In order to enjoy a semi-realistic hazy fantasy, you have to induce an existential crisis by constantly questioning your own reality. And who’s to say that when you ask yourself ‘am I dreaming’ while asleep, you won’t just answer ‘no’?

My understanding is that dream interpretation is usually much more straightforward than we think, and it’s our minds sorting through emotions attached to the events of our day. Like whether we find Helena Bonham Carter’s ape character in Planet of the Apes just interesting, or sexually attractive, and whether we can continue to live a normal life based on the disgusting answer. If you end up having a sex dream about an ape after that, don’t assume that your brain is trying to communicate an atavistic desire to regress evolutionarily, and that you are spending too much time indulging your higher brain functions. Assume that the prosthetics were shit. And be thankful you’re not Tim Burton, who had to direct his ape-attired wife all day, and then they went home together and he had to reconcile a continued sexual desire for her. Unless that was his plan all along. Filthy bugger.
The only rational reaction to dreams is to do nothing. You’re unlikely to learn anything from them, although they apparently serve a purpose within your brain that you don’t need to be conscious of. Don’t dwell, don’t analyse, and if you ever have a sex dream about an ape, don’t worry. And certainly don’t bother to write an entire blog about dreams, in a vain attempt to rationalise it.

Next time on the bandwagon – My smoke alarm’s been going off for about two weeks. There’s no fire anywhere, so should I turn it off, or continue to let it embarrass itself?