Death’s Counterfeit

                                            Awake, awake!
Ring the alarum-bell! Murder and treason!
Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!
Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit,
And look on death itself! Up, up, and see
The great doom’s image! Malcolm! Banquo!
As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.
-MacBeth, Act 2, Scene 3

DSC02144When I was a baby, I didn’t sleep a lot. My mom says that she always had the impression that I didn’t want to go to sleep because I thought I might miss something. Not much has changed in 35 years. Though I do like sleeping, I always feel like there’s so much to see and read and do and not nearly enough time to fit it all in1!

In one of Dr. Brené Brown’s talks, she talks about the pervasiveness of scarcity – where we always feel like we aren’t enough and we go to bed thinking “I didn’t do enough today”. Given that I’m always trying to do all the things, I’m definitely no stranger to this sentiment – but it usually comes after me staying up far later than I should, thinking, “I just need to read one more article” or “finish one more assignment question” or “write one more blog posting”. (A recent interview with Brown in the Washington Post was titled “Exhaustion is not a status symbol” – which really resonated with me, as “exhausted” is my typical answer to the question “How are you?”). Lately, I’ve been making an attempt to go to bed not thinking that I haven’t done enough. Instead, I’m trying to think “I’ve done more than enough today! Time for some well-earned sleep! There will always be more that could be done, but in the grand scheme of thing, must it be done? Not really. The world will not end simply because I haven’t done every single possible thing that could be done. Part of this is about acknowledging how much I actually do – which is a lot – and part of it is about recognizing my limitations – as much as I hate to admit it – as a mere human.

Comfyness Not only is cutting into sleep time with the thought that “I haven’t done enough” not overly good for one’s mental health, sleep deprivation is also bad for your health. It’s linked to obesity, as well as a host of other health risks. And getting ~6 hours of sleep per night – which I would consider an average’s night sleep during the week – affects your “coordination, reaction time and judgment”, resulting in impairment similar to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% – the warning level for drunk driving ((Source.)).

Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

So, does all this mean that I’m going to get a proper 8 hours of sleep every night now? Knowing me – it’s doubtful. But perhaps I’ll try to be a little more reasonable about it – recognizing that it’s OK if I don’t get everything on my to-do list done and that I’m more effective after a good night’s sleep anyway.

Image Credit: Photo of me & my friend Sheila asleep in the car is my own photo. Alarm clock photo was posted by Guilherme Tavares on Flickr.

  1. Case in point: I’ve started drafting this blog posting on Dec 5, 2011 (!), but haven’t gotten around to actually writing it until more than a year later! []

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