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Friday, September 29th, 2006

Time Event
12:10a
Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up

Sleep, at the risk of propagandizing, is lovely. Yet despite centuries of fame its popularity has fallen the past few decades. Sleep is often done in a bed, though couches, chairs, and in extreme cases airplane passenger seats can be used. People try moving dozens of times in a night's sleep, which makes it all the more remarkable that most end up in the same houses they started from, but that may just because they didn't have enough boxes to move their stuff with them.

It begins simply: wait until you are reasonably tired, and then go to bed. Get comfortable, relax, turn off appropriate lights, and close your eyes. After about ten minutes, remember it is the last business day of the month and you think your checking account is 250 dollars short for the rent or mortgage. Then get up and rouse the computer, which gets its sleep yet is still not master of its own life, open your bank's web site, and learn its online banking server closed for maintenance ten minutes ago and will not be up for three hours. Return to bed and try to not worry, and twenty minutes later wonder if you locked the front door. Get up to check it, and you can easily find that lost thumbtack you didn't know you owned. Back in bed, you'll find you're not sure if you hear a beeping from the smoke detector warning about the battery, but you suspect you don't have the right size in fresh batteries. With that safely ignored twenty more minutes pass when you hear an alarming sound from the cat, but on investigating you find nothing peculiar, so you return to bed. Ten minutes later you remember you don't have a cat, and investigate that. You can go on like this all night, and will.

How much to sleep depends on how much you need. For most people this is about six to nine hours per day, but some need more. Still, sleeping more than 25 hours a day may be troublesome. Some need barely any sleep; any trivia guide tells of people who haven't slept in decades. You just know these are people who have their tax forms filled in and mailed back the day they get them and who keep their refrigerators in alphabetical order. Napoleon Bonaparte was rumored to sleep only fifteen minutes a day, showing how just a tiny effort can get one exiled in the South Atlantic.

Ever-busier people have been cheating on sleep, often relying on jokes about caffeine to stay twitchy. As giving up responsibilities is unfashionable, the particularly hard-pressed turn to sleep banks, depositing blocks of excess sleep taken when they might be found and withdrawing them for daily uses. Professional sleep traders working on commission can set up connections between you and a supply of professional sleepers working in countries with low hourly wage rates, allowing you to obtain abundant sleep. However, civil rights organizations have often complained about abuses of human rights in sweat-nap-shops, so as always, research into the particular agency you employ is essential.

Trivia: In 1902 the New York Stock Exchange opened its new building, complete with an air-cooling system for the trading floor. Source: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman.

Currently Reading: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.

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