Finding Time   10 comments

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

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This is kind of an easy question for me because I can almost not sleep during the “midnight sun” period of May 15 through July 15. I can sleep two or three hours a night and feel just fine, energized by the sun, which only goes below the horizon for about two hours a night. We barely experience civil twilight.

Unfortunately, it’s a trick you can’t sustain. You do have to sleep occasionally. The human brain requires sleep because you need to dream. If you don’t dream while you’re sleeping, you’ll start to hallucinate while you’re awake. So while you can stay awake fairly easily here above the 70th parallel during the summer, sooner or later, you have got to sleep to replenish your acetylcholine levels. If you don’t do that, you’re going to end up in the psych ward. It’s usually what happens to bipolars who crash and burn.

I only need about six hours of sleep a night and I can function just fine. In the summer, that stretches to two or three hours a night with about every third night needing six hours. A psychiatrist I worked with in Community Mental Health had a theory that people like me can short ourselves on sleep because we are very imaginative and that is sort of like dreaming while awake. And maybe that’s what’s going on. I don’t know for sure. During those times when I’m not sleeping and other people are, I am … of course, writing or researching for writing. Sometimes I’m reading a book by another author.

The Alaska lifestyle is a little different. It’s not unusual for us to get off work at 5 pm, grab some food from the grocery store and set out on the hiking trail. The wilderness is so close here, we can be in the woods within an hour. And we can hike until midnight because the sun doesn’t go down until about 1 am during the solstice. Then we’ll flit home and sleep until 7 am. It’s not unusual. Lots of people walk around with that glowy look that says they haven’t sleep a full night in weeks. It’s just the way it is.

Therefore, if I didn’t have to sleep at all, I’d probably expand what I am doing now – read, write, research, hike, maybe quilt (in the winter) – although maybe our lawn would get mowed more often or our car washed occasionally. Eight hours more of life would be quite a gift. And, I would definitely need to build some more bookshelves because I’d spend a lot of that extra time reading.

I wonder what my fellow authors would be doing if they didn’t need to sleep.

Posted May 13, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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10 responses to “Finding Time

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  1. It must be very strange living where the sun never goes down in the height of summer, and then no light at all for months on end. Not sure I could cope with that, but then again I suppose it’s what you get used to.

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    • In the spirit of accuracy — even in Barrow (Utqiagvik), the most-northern town in the United States gets light during the darkest part of the winter. The sun doesn’t come up, but it gets close enough that they get civil twilight for about a month on either side of Dec 21. You can see to walk around without street lights, kind of like Fairbanks experiences as “night” in June. The sun dips below the horizon, but not far enough that it ever gets actually dark.

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  2. I love that part of the world, summers are great; but winters???

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    • Summers are great, winters are challenging, but the summers make up for it. It’s kind of like having a kid – the baby makes the mom forget all about labor. And, we have heated houses, so we just retreat indoors and spend the winter doing creative things we don’t have time to pursue in the summer.

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  3. That’s really fascinating about our creativity being similar to dreaming awake. I wonder if anyone has gone deep on studying that.

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    • I keep looking for Dr Feldman-Gonzalez to put out a paper, but he either hasn’t or he’s done it in his native Argentina. My Spanish is okay, but I don’t think I could read a medical research paper in Spanish and get much out of it. The language is too technical.

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  4. As I’ve gotten older, I find I need more sleep. I’m afraid my days of burning the midnight oil are over!

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    • Interesting because almost all the older people I know say they need less sleep, but they tend to get tired earlier in the evening so they get up way early in the morning. I seem to need less sleep, but I’m still a night owl.

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  5. So lucky you are. First – because you live where you can see the Northern light and secondly, you can do just fine with six hours of sleep. Looking forward to reading more. Take care. Anindita from California.

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