An Ode to Sleep

By Jordan McNeil


You know what’s pretty great? Sleep. I personally am a big fan, even though I suffer insomnia nights far more often than I would like. Sleep is one of my go-to methods of procrastination, and for various reasons.

One, I need a lot more sleep daily to function like even a halfway normal human being — and I mean a lot. Eight hours hasn’t seemed like enough for me for quite a few years now, and I always look forward to the nights that I can set my alarm for 10-12 hours. This possibly could be an indicator that there’s something wrong with me medically, but I’ll just worry about that some other time.

Two, I usually have really weird and crazy dreams. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re horrifying, but they’re always way out there. Which means they can almost be guaranteed to be more interesting and intriguing than whatever paper I’m supposed to be researching or presentation I’m supposed to be preparing. I mean, if the choice was between working on a 15-20 page literary analysis or briefly becoming a secret agent that hunts down the bad guys while flying and talking to goats, which would you choose?

Three, sleep is good for your health. I’m sure you all already know that, have heard it multiple times throughout your lives, but I’m listing it again because it’s true. Your body and brain need to recharge on a regular basis, and sleep is the way to do that; avoiding sleep is the way to get sick. The other week, I pulled two all-nighters in a row — which I would highly not recommend — to finish a hefty assignment, and I was feeling ill, off balance and not fully there for the next five or so days. Sleep is important folks.

But sleep can do more than just simply recharge your batteries and keep your immune system operating. I stumbled across an old article by Elijah Wolfson in The Atlantic the other day called “Why Some People Respond to Stress by Falling Asleep.” I mean, come on, that was pretty much made for me. Most of it focuses on the psychology of “learned helplessness” that changes some people’s fight or flight response to sleep because they have been conditioned through past experiences to believe that there’s really nothing they can do about what’s happening.

It also discusses, though, how sleep helps sort through your daily “data” to find the experiences that are important to commit to memory and discarding the others. This allows your brain to then process the events of the day, which can lead to learning from them. When you’re awake and stressed out, your brain is frayed with all that it is being bombarded with; but once you’re asleep, it’s capable of finally examining the pile of stresses. It’s part of our natural stress response, and what this does is both destresses the body physically and helps refresh your brain to tackle your problems once you wake back up.

So yes, I sleep as procrastination when I’m stressed out on my work, but in doing so, my brain gets recharged and maybe comes up with a few solutions for me to put towards my assignments — and that’s almost like I’m not actually procrastinating at all.