"What do you mean you don't like sleeping" is often the reaction I get from people when I tell them that sleep has never been something I desire. I know many people who's favorite thing to do in the world is sleep. To many people sleep is an escape from the difficulties of life. Their troubles can only follow them into the world of slumber via dreams. And when these people awake they are relaxed and rejuvenated from a fulfilling nights sleep. So when I tell someone with a great sleep habit, that I do not have a good sleep habit, they often look at me like I'm not right.
"It's just what you do; you get up, live out your day, at the end you sleep, and then repeat it the next day". This came from a friend of mine who recently sat down with me and discussed why my sleep habits are not in sync with the rest of humanity. I told her that when I was little I slept like other normal children. My parents would see me rubbing my ears and knew that I was getting tired. Though as I grew up, my desire to sleep lessened. The more aware I became of my reality, the less I wanted to be away from it.
And that's where my problem stems from; my continued desire to stay connected to my personal awareness. Sleep for me is almost scary at times. My eyes become heavy, my brain slows to the point where my thoughts are almost incoherent. It is that moment where your consciousness is taken from you for a brief moment and then next thing you realize several hours have passed, you are in a different position then you were when you were last wake, and if you've dreamt, then your mind is filled with bizarre imagery that have only slight connections to the reality you are now a part of.
To me, I equate the moment before sleep to sinking into dark water. I'm not saying that when I fall asleep it feels like I'm drowning (as a former life guard, I know that drowning is a very violent ordeal). I say this because when you sleep, you give yourself over to sleep. Sleep, like the water in this example, overwhelms your mind and body and takes you away. It almost reminds me of descriptions of alien abductions. People experiencing lost time, not understanding where the last few hours had gone. A complete lack of awareness to their reality. Also, alien abductions are also something I fear.
Now you may be thinking, Kellen, you have to sleep, it's part of life. I do sleep; it's just something I mostly struggle with. When I do give myself over to it, I sleep deeply, and wake up fine. Though more often than not I would rather be doing something creative. Night is my time for writing, reading, making music, etc. And when I do eventually lay my head down, my mind likes to wander. It does what it has been designed to do for millions of years. I attempt to solve personal problems, I create stories in my head, I speak narratives of my life to myself to assess where I am (for more on how I think see my series "Ruminating on my Ruminations"). As anyone who has ever shared a bed, a hotel room, or a tent with me will tell you, I don't fall asleep easily because my mind just will not let go. Though when my mind eventually succumbs to the magic of the sandman and I do nod off I've never been someone who struggles to reenter the world of the living.
That term 'the world of the living' connects to another big fear of mine. My desire to hold onto my awareness of my reality is not just a fear of sleep; it's also a fear of death. I feel I understood death at a very young age. And not because I had a friend or family member die. I was a kid who asked a lot of questions. How does this work? Why does this happen? And when you're a kid who asks a lot of questions, eventually the subject of death comes up. Why do we have to die? What happens to us when we die? My parents, being good Christians, hold me about God and the idea of Heaven. I don't want to say that I was a skeptic as a child, but the idea of our lives ending and continuing in a divine reality, or worse, the one filled with misery and pain, has always been something I have struggled to understand and accept. Lucky, I've got some time to figure out what I believe.
In the mean time, I must spend my days working, writing, performing, pursuing the opposite sex so I can copulate with them to create tiny copies of me to continue my linage of DNA, and eating. And between all of this, I will have to sleep. I must do this in order to survive. "Regular sleep is essential for your survival. Without sleep, you will get sick, and die" she told me, trying to snap some sense into me like I was a junkie. Ironically, earlier she had said "sleep is my drug. I'm an addict".
Sleep for her is just as important as awareness is to me. And as we spoke I began to understand that the longer I had these unhealthy sleep habits the worse my connection to my awareness would be. "You're not 18, or 21, or even 24 anymore. The older you get, the worse it'll be". If I continued to avoid sleep, maybe I'd begin to lose touch with the world when I was awake?
Which makes me remember back to when my grandfather Robert was still alive. I can recall once staying up late with my family, and he would stay awake longer than anyone else. Then sometime in the early, early morning, you'd smell coffee going, and by the time you'd wake up, he'd have a full breakfast ready, read the entire paper, and have started his day off long ago. I asked my father about this, and he told me that my grandfather just was like that. He'd go to bed late and wake up at 4 am and start his day. My grandfather was a product of the great depression, the dust bowl, and years of service to his country in the air force. He was a man of habit, and somewhere along the his life he'd chosen to work hard, and thus sacrifice "healthy" sleep habits.
This anecdote doesn't justify my habits. All it does it make me feel like there's at lease some reason I don't sleep well. Be it genetic, fear based, or just a desire to do things other than dream. For now, when I look at my bed, and think about what it means to me, I attempt to stay positive. Because if my bed only represents a negative space then how will I ever be able to develop positive relations to it?
At then end of our conversation my friend asked me what I was going to do?
"I'll sleep when I'm dead."
So that didn't happen. But it would have been really cool if I had said that, right?