“To die, to sleep-
To sleep, perchance to dream-”

—Shakespeare, Hamlet

With what great ease we equate death with sleep! Is it because of the ubiquitous desire to imagine death as a peaceful gateway into an expanse of nothingne­ss, where we may shed our sorrows and our pains? Or is it because we imagine sleep as a state of semi-death, with drea­ms accentuating a parallel existence beyond our wakeful control — a sojourn into another life, so to speak? Is the effortless slip betwixt sleep and death an indicator of the positive associations with sleep that we’d like to extend to death, or of the negative connotations of death that we somehow attach to sleep? In literature, in scripture, indeed also in modern science, sleep is the temple of calm for the soul. But the more we move upward on the ladder to success, the more we feel sleep as an impediment in the frenetic pace of our lives.
About a week ago, I found myself telling my sister that I wished I never needed to sleep. As she gazed at me searchingly, I explained how I wanted to never feel fatigued, never fall ill, never run out of steam — I wished for a fountain of energy that didn’t need replenishment. I wished to write, write and write without pause, every single idea that haunts my conscious and subconscious. To complete all those things that I make resolutions for and end up postponing. After a moment of pure astonishment, my sister remarked: “Well… you’d have to be god.”
Yes, indeed. That statement derives itself from the Quran, which clearly enunciates the qualities of allah, the all-powerful . The creator feels no fatigue, needs no rest nor sleep, feels no boredom, no stress nor burnout. There lies the so­urce of all powers of huma­nkind, the undying fountain of endless energy. But think again of the statement — yo­u’d have to be god. We’re not god. None of us. God, who created us ‘in his own spirit’, created this need — for rech­arge, replenishment and rest. Ever wonder why?
Yes, we know how important sleep is for us. It organises the brain, consolidates m­emory, helps build immunity and so on and so forth. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, which landed on my doorstep less than a week afrter the above episode (by a stroke of cosmic karma), lists a gamut of reasons in favour of getting enough sleep. Suffice it to say, you’d be convinced. But the question still remains — why the need for such a mechanism at all?
I have my own theory for that. Over and above the psycho-biological functions, sleep also creates a beautiful frame of perspective. It tells you the day isn’t ever-lasting and must be followed by ni­ght, there is a time for work and a time for rest. It shows you that neither joys nor sorrows are eternal; that ‘this too shall pass.’ Sleep gives you the benefit of a pause button — a time lapse option in life… because when you awaken, the previous day’s hurts, slights and quarrels feel much less important. And, perhaps, just perhaps, sleep shows you what death might be … a parallel dimension where you feel afloat. A world where you act, feel, experience, emote — all without moving a muscle. Perhaps, that’s why the creator put in the sleep function — to prove to you that there are still dimensions, where you don’t need your body to be alive. Sleep, for there you will dream.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)
Zehra Naqvi