Extra Sleep - an indulgence?


Many Victorians regarded sleep as an indulgence to be frowned upon. Sleeping beyond eight hours a night was a sign of idleness or the deadly sin "sloth". To some extent we see this attitude prevalent in our 24-hour culture. An article in Psychology Today bemoans how people feel guilty if they sleep too much. ("I must confess that I, too, am a sleeper and until quite recently was riddled with guilt because of it" - Fran Leibowitz, Metropolitan Life.)

People frequently eat and drink well beyond their physical needs - the same applies to sleep. How do we know when enough is enough? There is no scientific or medical answer to that question.

Humans are not alone: most animals will also spend more time asleep when they are overfed or confined to cages and stables, or are otherwise bored. Calling someone who likes to sleep "lazy bones" is a slur.

Many people who work Monday to Friday use weekend days to catch-up on their sleep. It's debatable whether this extra sleep is necessary for recovery. Maybe it is just fun. Even people who get plenty of sleep during the week occasionally indulge in a Sunday morning sleep-in. Supporters of the notion of widespread sleep deprivation of sleep claim that several nights of nine-hour sleeps will make us feel better, but there is little evidence of this.

People might complain to their doctors about primary insomnia and wish they slept more, but many of these same people do not complain of excessive sleepiness in the daytime. Maybe their minds expect more sleep than their body and brain need.

Even when people are sleepy during the day, this is not necessarily due to insufficient bedtime. It could be due to depression, which causes apparent sleepiness even when the patient is getting plenty of sleep. This is why treating insomnia in isolation may not be successful; treatment of other problems could make the insomnia disappear.

"Sleep, therefore, as the chief of all earthly blessings, is justly appropriated to industry and temperance" – Samuel Johnson - 1753

Recreational Sleep

Is sleeping fun? Sure! The extra half hour in bed in the morning, the mid-afternoon nap. Sleep can be one of life’s true simple pleasures, available to people without regard for class or status or wealth. Did you know the Sun King of France - Louis XIV - had 413 beds and sometimes held court from bed?

Here is a Powerpoint Presentation on this topic (about 2 MB)

Appetitive napping.

18th Century English poet Thomas Marton wrote:

On this my pensive pillow, gentle Sleep!
Descend, in all thy downy plumage drest:
Wipe with thy wing these eyes that wake to weep,
And place thy crown of poppies on my breast.

Another 18th Century English poet, Tobias Smollett, wrote:

Soft Sleep, profoundly pleasing power,
Sweet patron of the peaceful hour!
Oh, listen from thy calm abode,
And hither wave thy magic rod;
Extend thy silent, soothing sway,
And charm the canker care away:

Alexander Pope:

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Aristotle, Rhetoric Book 1, Chapter 11:

"The opposites to these are pleasant; and hence ease, freedom from toil, relaxation, amusement, rest, and sleep belong to the class of pleasant things."

John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:

"it is certain that Socrates asleep and Socrates awake is not the same person; but his soul when he sleeps, and Socrates the man, consisting of body and soul, when he is waking, are two persons"

Robert Heinlein:

Waking a person unnecessarily should not be considered a capital crime, For a first offense, that is. 

It's fun to stay up late - Euphoria and Sleep Deprivation

Staying up late makes you feel good. This good feeling disappears after a nap, but it can be used for people with clinical depression as a short-term fix. Patients who get the most from this type of therapy tend to be people whose depression severity varies from day to day.

The connection between short term sleep restriction and euphoria is an intriguing one, although not understood. People with bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) have manic phases during which they sleep little. Natural short sleepers often have a natural exuberance and have been found to be more positive and upbeat than long sleepers.

Legends about sleep.

The Sleepdex Manifesto


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