I was 18 or 19 years old, sitting around and yakking with some friends, when someone said they hadn't slept soundly the previous night. She just couldn't get sleep for hours after turning in, she said, sounding like this was very much a new thing for her. I hadn't slept soundly for 18 or 19 years.
"How long do you guys usually take?" I opened the question to the group. While the fact that other people slept better than me was not shocking, the answers truly shook me. The average time my friends took to fall asleep was six minutes. Some went to sleep the minute their eyes closed; some took about 10 minutes. I lied and said: "about an hour".
The truth was, and still remains, that I often take about three hours to fall sleep. I call it "unwinding" to normalise it - but, as a broke freelance writer with no work and several idle days, what is this unwinding from exactly? Some days, many days, I don't sleep till 5am. There are a few days when I sleep within 10 minutes and then wake up in an hour and then sleep for 10 minutes and then wake up in an hour again and this goes on… And sometimes I don't sleep at all.
I would call myself an insomniac but I can sleep quite well in the morning - you are unlikely to see me or even talk to me between 7am and 12.30pm and if you do then you won't go away impressed or happy. But it's not like I sleep soundly even in that period; it's not like I sleep well. For one, I have middle class guilt about sleeping half the day away and secondly, I am often running late for a doctor's appointment or a lunch, something or the other.
Plus there are my loving friends and family who have been making the same jokes for decades now. H will often call me after 1pm and say "good morning!" - giggling snidely each time. A will not reply to my text at 1am but call me back at 8am just to show me that he is asleep and awake at the right times and, you know, normal people go to work. Haha so funny but it really isn't. It's no fun when you have no reason to be tired, and hence no sympathy from anyone around you, but you are tired because you haven't slept well for 30 years.
Today is World Sleep Day it seems. Of course many jokes come to mind. (So who are you sleeping with today? is one.) A day in "celebration of sleep" seems like the kind of luxury people with nothing to do and a lot of money to spend will indulge in. But as many of us might know, not sleeping properly is a serious health hazard. Chronic sleep deprivation is the cause behind over 1,00,000 accidents in America each year, over 10 per cent leading to fatalities. We hear of pilots sleeping and planes plunging with alarming frequency these days. But it's not just these major and obviously harmful results of bad sleep that should worry us - there are several research papers out there proving that small and important things can go wrong with sleep deprivation: you make illogical arguments, fight with your partner, have bad sex, feel disoriented and become forgetful.
In simple terms, good sleep means good health and a properly functioning brain - and god knows we can do with more functioning brains in this country. Around 70 countries worldwide are participating in some way to celebrate World Sleep Day, including India, but we are dismissing it by a couple of lectures in obscure locations so that no one can catch them. This is in a country where, according to one report, 87 per cent people have fitful sleep (hello, where are you guys, shall we be friends?) resulting in disorienting days and lost jobs. The Times of India reported recently that doctors from King George's Medical University estimated there are over 40 lakh sleep disorder patients just in the Lucknow district. (Shifting to Lucknow to be among my people).
So yes, some of the jokes on the #WorldSleepDay TL are quite good, but this is no laughing matter. When we can have International Rose Day, I mean. Maybe instead of being amazed by people who sleep soundly every day (every single day?!), we should, us 87 per cent, consider using this day as a good excuse to finally take ourselves to the doctor's and confront the damn sleeping giant.