in praise of eight hours

This article was written for the The Sunday Paper.

We’ve grown up, and in doing so, been liberated from the childhood burden of Bedtime. And, so it goes, the notion of a proper night’s sleep is left to dust with the complementing fairytales. 

For the average tired, overwhelmed-by-life adult, sleep is what happens when we’ve admitted defeat—our stress, worry, responsibility from the day batters us to exhaustion, and so we must surrender. Weary on our pillow, we indulge in a short repose, all the while knowing that the fight will resume when we wake.  

We are not our best selves without sleep: an unavoidable truth, regardless of whether or not we choose to honor it. Depriving ourselves of rest, we risk rendering ourselves incapable of proper human function. Aside from the obvious advantages of sleep (a working brain, a good mood etc.), there is also a certain nameless sparkle that only a restful slumber can provide. A kind of intangible twinkle that reveals itself boldly in our imagination and inventiveness, in our ability to create without heed to the boundaries of reality. 

As we get older, worn down by the trials of adult life, this mystical glimmer becomes harder to reach, and so too our capacity to dream unbounded. Though ever-elusive, the sparkle never disappears completely. Finding it simply requires a bit of un-adult-ing. We’ve forgotten what that is. We can no longer recall what happened once tucked in between the race car sheets of our childhood. How we swam with mermaids in their lagoons; marched behind the lost boys in search of pirates; felt the clouds against our outstretched arms.

While it can’t be certain what transpired in the time between the kiss on the forehead and the call for breakfast, the effect of the mysterious nighttime adventures read clear in our waking hours. In the pillow fortresses shielding us from danger; in the multi-colored skyscrapers constructed from a bucket of bricks; in the lavish affairs arranged for our plush friends. 

In all our adult wisdom, we fail to see that the same imagination which defeated our action figure enemies is worthy of the kind of suit-and-tie promotion so many of us strive for. Grown-up endeavors, regardless of the task at hand, benefit from out-of-box ideas, creative solutions, big thinking. Our likely approach to achieving such success is glueing ourselves to the desk, the screen; searching, scrolling for the answers—efforts that often come at the expense of sleep. Consequently, we decline our invitation to that far off dreamland.  

Bedtime, as seemingly inconvenient as it is to a child, provides the passageway to our most fanciful adventures, without which, there can exist no sparkle. Even our grown-up selves require a bit of pixie dust, and only with sleep will we find it. 

 
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Kelsey Gleason