Friday, November 14, 2008

Why do we sleep? Who knows? Who cares?

Why do we sleep? Nobody knows!
There are many theories, ideas, traditions and explanations.
Medicine and Science describe the function of sleep, but not the reason why we sleep, as having to do with resting the body and muscles that we used through out the day. Or there are theories about memory consolidation, addressing psychological issues, establishing hormone balance. However, a simple, unique explanation or reason for sleep is not given.
Western Religions speak of the soul leaving the body, talking with Angels-Spirits-God, preparing for death, resurrection, or the afterlife. These explanations are very biased towards (usually exclusive) teachings, dogma, or doctrines derived from their Avatars, prophets, and messengers.
Eastern traditions discuss sleep as a "form of nourishment" for the body, or a "superaware" state, or another state of consciousness or preparation for death.
New Agers usually deal with the meanings of dreams and journeys to other realms.
Some say the reason for sleep is to satisfy sleepiness, that is, we sleep because we are sleepy?!
Still, a concise explanation eludes us.


The only animals that have trouble with sleep are those that are specifically bred for researching sleep disorders. Even snoring is rare in the animal kingdom, indeed, only one primate species and one type of bulldog snore! Animals do not seem to have problems sleeping, or at least they do not complain! Otherwise by now, at least in the USA, there were would an animal sleep clinic on every corner!
However, the majority of people who get insufficient sleep, either poor quality, poor quantity, or both, have a host of other complaints. These include fatigue, tiredness, achyness, cranky, irritable, moody, sad, depressed, anxious, forgetful, concentration problems, lack of enjoyment, impatience, intolerance, more physical illnesses, anger, and limited gratitude.
Experientially, one might say, that it appears that sleep helps regulate these physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems.OR, is it the other way around??!
Is it possible that having problems with the mind, body and spirit, or having these out of balance, causes poor sleep? Does having the mind, body and spirit all working well, and in balance result in great sleep?
Who knows? Who could know? Theologians, religionists, monks, New age spiritualist, pop psychologists, doctors, Sleep Medicine Specialists (that was me in my former profession!)???
How about finding out for yourself? Forget all you know about sleep, and try to know sleep...by rejecting all conceptual explanations of sleep in favor of the direct experience of sleep! Learn to view sleep accurately, without the obstructions of all your emotions or intellect! You might arrive at the same conclusion that Eric Chiles, author of the new book for insomnia, Zen and the Art of Sleep
that insomnia is an unnecessary form of suffering originating from one's own effort to obtain sleep. By applying Zen techniques to his insomnia, he overcame it by experiencing his sleep problem free of all distortions!! In essence, he quieted his thinking, and learned the art of seeing and direct experience of sleep and awake. And eventually he realized that sleep, dreaming, and awake are part of the same moving stream of consciousness, and that within this flow will come an inevitable bed-time moment of drowsiness, free to proceed naturally and without effort.
There is, therefore, no"why do we sleep." Sleep arrives simply because it makes sense!!
Gus

1 comment:

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