Did you know there are people who only need 3-4 hours a sleep a night? I didn’t, at least until I read this New Yorker interview with a woman who has the..disorder? Disease? Mutation? Whatever. They’re called “short sleepers.” She never gets jet lag! She can take really long road trips! She didn’t feel sleep deprived when she had a baby! While it’s fascinating to learn about this ability and how it affects this woman’s life, I found myself wondering if I would want it if I could have it. To my own surprise, I gotta’ say I’m leaning towards “no.”
I really like that there is a window of time during the day when there are no expectations upon me. Somewhere between 11pm at night to maybe 8am in the morning, it’s widely accepted that it would be rude to call someone or drop in on them or ask them to do something for you. If you do get a call during that timeframe it’s also wildly accepted that something has gone horribly wrong and you’re about to receive life-changing information. That’s because that time is your own. You do not owe it to your employer. You don’t owe it to your friends (unless you want to party). You might owe it to your family if you have people to take care of. But otherwise it’s “you” time when you get to hide away from the world for awhile, curl up, and get unconscious. I love it.
If this window of time were suddenly shortened from 8-9 hours to just 3-4 hours, I would be pissed. Now people would think it was ok to call me at 4am in the morning, and we’d be expected to work 12 hour days, or 20 hours days if you were a workaholic. There would be pressure to get even more done than I currently do. I already feel like I don’t accomplish enough during my waking hours, so if you added another four hours a day I’d just feel guiltier about it, because I wouldn’t get as much done in that time as I wanted to either. I like having eight hours during the day where it is societally acceptable to do nothing. I don’t feel the need to do more. I feel the need to do less.
I also spend a lot of my waking hours in chronic pain, so sleep if often a refuge for me. There have been times when I’m lying on the couch in the evening and I check the clock only to think, “Oh my god, are you kidding me? I have at last six hours of consciousness left? Seriously?” I just want to zonk out already and stop feeling like crap, because I can’t get much done when I feel like my head is full of sand bags.
So, no thanks, short sleepers. I’m a long sleeper and I prefer it that way.