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With our eyes wide shut

Now we can read the writing on the wall with our sleep-deprived eyes. A half hour snooze during office hours does nothing to refresh you.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2007 00:18 IST

It’s a study that we needn’t lose any sleep over. Because if we did, we are not likely to catch up on our forty winks later. Researchers at Northwestern University in the US find that when animals are sleep-deprived over a period of time, they no longer try to make up for the deficit. So that Sunday afternoon nap in which you try to get some shut-eye to compensate for those late week-nights is not going to help you any. In order to wake up bright-eyed and bushytailed, you just have to go by grandma’s old adage, that of getting in at least eight hours of sleep a night. It is not for nothing that Shakespeare wrote “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care. The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

Yes, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to sleep deprivation. Not only will you look like hell, it causes all sorts of debilitating problems like defects in cognitive performance to poor cardiovascular and endocrine functions. So the message is clear, you can never make up on the roundabout what you lose on the swing. At least now we will go into our nocturnal activities with our eyes wide open. However, this study is a bit of a nightmare for many of us who would merrily burn the midnight oil in the belief that we could get a bit of extra bed time later. This also puts in doubt the efficacy of the famous power nap so favoured by busy executives. Now we can read the writing on the wall with our sleep-deprived eyes. A half hour snooze during office hours does nothing to refresh you. Those who felt that their batteries had been recharged were probably dreaming. This puts an altogether different spin on those 24 by 7 lifestyles that so many beautiful people swear by. Will we need to rethink all this?

For many lotus-eaters this sleep discovery is a dream come true. No longer will we have anyone disapproving of us if we rush home early and dive into bed. In fact, perhaps future employers will be forced to give people compulsory sleep time as one of the benefits of the job. And no one would say we are sleeping on the job. Unlike human beings, we see that animals are more adept at dealing with matters of sleep, many sleep for months on end. Not just the Bard of Avon, many other great men also did not take the sleep issue lying down. Friedrich Nietzche famously said, “Sleep is no mean art, for its sake one must stay awake all day.” On which note, we can nod off for a bit.