Sleep is for Communists
Red States (Get it?)
Long touted as one of the central pillars of good health, in creatures ranging from whales to humans, sleep may in fact dull the brain over time. This hubpage will seek to explore the complex and ancient antagonism between sleep and creativity; the socio-historical and neurological implications of the relationship between degrees of restedness and creative capacity in humans.
My friend and I used to run through the halls at 4a.m banging on random doors: "SLEEP IS FOR COMMUNISTS! "...
To sleep, perchance to dream...
Did you know?
...that Jack Niclaus once had a dream in which he managed to successfully correct a golf-swing which resulted in real-world success?
...that in medieval times it was customary to turn-in after the evening meal, around 8.pm, sleep until midnight, be awoken by the full moon, and spend the "witching hours" of early morning engaged in writing or painting? The mind was considered more supple within this window of time.
...that your brain shows more activity, on more advanced frequencies while sleeping than it does while watching television?
Lack of Sleep as a Medical Disorder
Insomnia, sleep deprivation, and chronic sleep debt are some of the terms associated with an entire cluster of problems relating to the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep long enough to allow the body to restore itself.
These disorders, far from simply being extreme cases of sleepiness, are medically implicated as either causes of, or contributing factors in, several fatal diseases. In fact, sleep's restorative effects on the body are thought to be so profound that going too long without regular sleep can actually lead to a patient losing the ability to properly regulate their heart rate and chamber rhythm. Long term sleeplessness has been associated with hallucinations, psychological disturbances, loss of touch with reality, loss of muscle tone and a general reduction in the quality and reliability of biorhythmic autonomous bodily functions.
While it may be true that lack of sleep changes and, in some cases, disturbs normal bodily and neural functioning, it is perhaps too harsh an act of generalization to outright demonize sleeplessness as fruitless and self-destructive.Sleeplessness does indeed alter the human body and consciousness on both psychological and neurochemical levels, but it is precisely in doing so that sleeplessness proves itself to be elucidating and transformative and asserts its place in the history of human striving as one of our most ancient and primary means of altering consciousness for myriad practical and artistic purposes.
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The All-Nighter Syndrome
Have you ever stayed up all night, essentially missed an entire day's sleep, and continued to function? You might have noticed that, after the initial feelings of fatigue wore off, you were a bit "loopy". Others may have commented on your strange mood. You might also have found that jokes came more easily to you, that your writing or thinking was a bit more fluent albeit somewhat bizzare, and that, in general you were experiencing an increased level of "flow"
This is the very state that many famous artists, writers and other creative types have cultivated intentionally in order to boost their creative abilities. Honore de Balzac is one famous example. This french writer is regarded by many to be one of the first fathers of the novel and of creative short stories in the western tradition. He was well known in his era for his love and abuse of caffeine!
After finding initial success by drinking inordinate amounts of coffee throughout the day and night, staying up late and writing the entire time, his tolerance grew so high that he had to counter this effect by balling up raw coffee grounds and ingesting them whole on an empty stomach.
Although he did self-report an increased tendency to be argumentative with his friends and acquaintances, and though his doctors did eventually rule his early death at age 51 to have been at least party influenced by his extreme habits of non-sleeping, caffeine-abusing all-nighters, he did much of his best work while in this intensive state of sleeplessness and flow. What do you think of that?