A favored cliché among the live-life-to-the-fullest set – I’ll sleep when I’m dead – has always amused me. Yet my view has likewise been long conflicted. Surely, the time required to restore our corporal selves could be used in more productive endeavors. Napoleon claims to have slept very little. Edison, da Vinci, Jefferson and even Tesla are the same. Did the extra hours add up to their extra edge? Perhaps, but is sleep only about physical recovery?
Sleep also feels good. It rewards a full day with an intentional end. It clears the mind and breaks through intellectual dead-ends even as it allows for vivid dreams and boundless imagination. Now that our boys are older, we have been blessed with the occasional lazy Saturday morning – the likes of which we haven’t really experienced since college. You know the type – waking up about the regular time to the sound of falling rain. After a quick glance at the alarm, with the momentary flash that a deadline is being missed, we realize that the bell did not sound because it needn’t. This is one of those days without the farmer’s market, or a football game, or any of a litany of the sleep-depriving irritations of modern life. Nothing is on the calendar. The family is still asleep. The room is cool and the rain is rhythmic.
So is this a day for the productivity of Napoleon or the whimsy of Sleeping Beauty? If time is at a premium, then is a long and restful sleep an indulgent extravagance, or even a sin? Or, are we fooling ourselves to forgo the stolen moments? Are 12 hours without sleep no more productive than eight hours of toil after a good night’s rest? Sleep might not make me pretty, but it does make me happy.