If you approached someone on the street and asked if they would like to be made unconscious between four to nine hours, during which they would not be able to move, complete tasks or respond to stimuli, they would be a fool to agree that this was desirable. But ask anyone whether someone would like more time to sleep, and the answer will almost universally be ‘yes; in fact; hell yes.’
Why is this contradiction an exception for sleep? Because sleep is, in the parlance of makeup commercials, ‘revitalizing.’ Sleep makes you a better person, just like eating healthy and not joining an extremist religion.
More than that, it is a biological necessity. Everything sleeps. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Not so fast! I learned on Animal Planet that sharks do not sleep.’ False. In fact sharks do sleep. While they never close their eyes or stop tracking divers with their gaze, they do have a resting period where they lay on the ocean floor and suspend some biological processes. (It is thought that they do this by shutting down one cerebral hemisphere while keeping the other active).
So there, sharks sleep. Sharks are very awesome (see: Shark Week). Therefore you should be awesome like a shark and make sure you get enough sleep. Science has shown that people who get the right amount of sleep have better memories, stronger attention spans, perform better in sporting competitions, are less stressed, and experience fewer bouts of depression. They also live longer.
So yeah. You should sleep. But unlike a shark, you going through the world with only half your brain is probably not a good idea—maybe that is why sharks are so cranky.
Yes, we know that the paper is due at the end of the week and yes, we know that the BFA/BA shows are hanging next Monday (Art is hard). We also have the paper deadline on top of our school deadlines, so we feel you there. Your pillow calls out to you in its silky, seductive voice, but the clamor of work keeps you up far past the normal hour. Coffee is your mistress. You visit her at night, when you know you should be at home. Sleep is probably waiting up for you. But instead, coffee in hand, you force yourself to sit uncomfortably and plug away on that cold, cold computer.
If you don’t sleep for a really long time, the left hemisphere in your brain sort of powers down—like a shark; you could become really creative with only left hemisphere power, but you also might start hallucinating and lose a handy cognitive process known as logical reasoning. That is really not enough of a tradeoff.
If everyone just got to take naps, this world would be a better place. No crankiness, less boredom, more time to digest both food and information – who doesn’t want that? How many of you have wistfully remembered around 2 p.m. the naptime you used to have in kindergarten? The Spanish among us wisely continue this practice into adulthood and call it “siesta.”
It’s particularly annoying when professors tell you to sleep. They really do care when they say it, but you still can’t believe them until finals week is over. Not when there is still work to be done. You can only sigh and say, “Yes, I am tired.” Do not curse them when it’s their paper you’ve been working day and night on; just remember they don’t mean it.
In conclusion, the US Army is pretty good at what they do. When they want to torture enemy combatants, they starve them of sleep. That is all.