'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
I HAVE TO SLEEP ON IT
Does anyone know why we need to sleep? I’d like to know why we spend up to a third of our entire lives lying helplessly in the fetal position and building up a dose of morning breath powerful enough to make the family dog jealous. This seems like an incredible waste of precious time. (I’m on a “precious time” kick, you see. Now that I’ve reached the age where my mailbox gets stuffed with AARP junk mail every day, I’m beginning to notice the rapid passing of time, not to mention acquiring an acute sense of my own mortality. Hey! I told you not to mention that.)
So far I have spent approximately 17 full years of my life totally incapacitated and oblivious to my surroundings. (Go ahead, say it: “And don’t forget to add in all the time you’ve been asleep, too, Dunn.”)
Incredibly, the medical and scientific community cannot explain why we sleep. Oh sure, scientists can peek through a telescope and tell us everything we ever wanted to know about a flickering star eight-hundred-gazillion light years away. But they have no clue as to why we need sleep.
Scientists and medical experts have spent countless hours studying human sleep. I bet they even dozed off a few times themselves in the process. Their observations have yielded a wealth of information about what happens to us while we sleep, all of which I have carefully examined. Well, actually, most of my research consists of vaguely remembering that National Geographic magazine ran a story about sleep a number of years ago, and I glanced at most of the photographs.
I did learn that the mating habits of the red-crested iguana are remarkably similar to that of Ivy League college students. No, wait, that was a different article. OK, now I remember. The sleep article said researchers were amazed to discover that brain wave activity INCREASES while we are asleep. They had previously theorized that sleep was necessary so the brain could slow down and rest. But our brains actually work more when we sleep and less when we are awake. These researchers could’ve come to my office just after lunch time and observed that it is possible for a person to be fully conscious and yet have absolutely no discernable brain waves.
So after all those years and all that research, the experts finally published their extraordinary findings in a landmark New England Journal of Medicine article, entitled: “WHY DO WE SLEEP? I DUNNO.”
One thing that bothers me about sleep is the fact that I need a full eight hours of it each and every night. If I only get seven hours and 59 minutes of sleep, then I’m guaranteed to be stumbling around in a fog the entire next day. (Worse than usual, that is.) Occasionally I meet people who blithely comment, “Oh, I only need four hours of sleep each night.” Wow, that’s like having an extra two months of consciousness squeezed into each and every year. Just think of all the extra DVDs you could watch.
Maybe sleep is nature’s way of keeping our economy strong. After all, a huge percentage of our Gross National Product is made up of sleep-related products: beds, mattresses, linens, pajamas, nightlights, sleeping pills, clock radios, morning disc jockeys, coffee makers, mouth wash, and three-quarters of all television advertising. (And that’s just counting Bob’s “Come on down!” ads.)
Apparently, sleep remains a mystery. As the sleep scientists often reply when asked why people need to sleep: “Not sure. We’re going to have to sleep on it.”
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