(This was written shortly after WDS, so pardon the fact that it’s seemingly outdated.)
This is a difficult post to write.
Not for any grisly subject matter, mind you, nor secret confessions of my (decidedly not Paleo) affection for Thai Iced Tea. This post strikes me painful for the simple fact that I am horribly sleep-deprived as I write it, a product of two factors: the World Domination Summit, for one, and the fact that I’m kind of an idiot.
I’m tired. My eyelids are threatening mutiny as I write this, and I’m pretty sure that my 16oz cup of coffee’s sudden inability to energize me is something to be concerned about. Last night was the first in four days that I clocked in over eight hours of pillow time, though anyone looking at me now — haggard expression, thick shadows under blood-shot eyes — would think I haven’t slept in weeks.
For my first four days in Portland, at least, I wouldn’t argue the point. Consider this post a case study, then, in sleep deprivation, and a pretty emphatic warning about the dangers of skipping one of the few things our bodies absolutely need: sleep.
1. Slurred speech (or: Matt sounds like he’s having a stroke).
I talk funny.
I’ve been teased for years about speaking like an eighteenth-century gentlemen, and (admittedly!) with good reason: I like to sound a whole lot fancier than I actually am, especially with this new “modern-day caveman” angle I’m starting to embrace.
Come the third day of little sleep, though, I noticed a (not-so) subtle difference: I was slurring. I had issue forming even the most basic of words, to the point where some sentences took me three or four tries to get out. I decided early on that this probably wasn’t a good thing and immediately left the conference to go take a nap.
The nap helped, but the problems popped up again intermittently throughout the weekend — sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at night, but always right around the time my body chose to remind me that I desperately needed sleep. The experience was an unsettling one, needless to say, and all the proof I needed to realize that my brain wasn’t functioning properly. I’ve never had so many straight days of sleeplessness before, and trust me when I say that brief periods of mental degradation aren’t something I’m looking to repeat.
2. “Did you get punched in the eye?”
An astute friend noticed something strange below my eye: pink, puffy skin, the sort of swollen look you’d expect after a bar fight. The sensitivity kicked in around day two or three, worsened come day four, and is only now starting to fade, painless save for a sharp sting of pain whenever I absent-mindedly try to rub the sleep out of my eyes (remember that part where I called myself an idiot?).
Puffiness below my eyes is something I’ve experienced before, but rarely with this duration. Considering that it has already receded some after pulling in a full night’s rest, I’m willing to lay most of the blame on the current source of all of my problems: sleep deprivation.
3. Just walk it off!
Oh, how I wished I could.
I’m comfortable with long stretches of walking, normally. I’ll hand credit to the Vibram Five Fingers here, as they made a pretty noticeable difference in my ability to walk for long stretches at a time without discomfort. A funny thing happened, however, on day two: my normally sturdy calves and thighs started to ache, the pain only worsening as the hours progressed and I kept hoofing it around Portland’s sunny streets.
Sleeping didn’t help. The few hours I pulled in didn’t make the situation any better, proving a point that’s generally accepted as common sense: when you don’t sleep, you don’t heal. I never gave my body sufficient time to do repair work, in other words, and thus wasn’t all that surprised when my legs steadily worsened as I headed into day four.
Wrapping It Up
You’ll notice, frankly, that I feel like crap.
It’s my own doing, of course, and I’d call it a testament to the World Domination Summit’s greatness that I didn’t want to hit the sack and miss all of the exciting things going down outside. Considering how consistent I’ve been with my sleep before this, you can imagine I’m all kinds of excited to sleep for a week, emerging far more energetic (let alone eloquent!) on the other side.
We have a tendency, I think, to play fast and loose with the demands our bodies make for sleep. The invention of the alarm clock has let us try and enforce some control on our hours spent in slumber, the result of which should be evident all around: generations staying up later and later, pushing well beyond dusk, and still trying to function when the alarm starts screaming at some early hour of the morning.
I’m living proof of that. Call it a special occasion, if you like, but call it a lesson, too, on the downsides of denying ourselves what we need.
Go to bed. You can watch TV tomorrow, if that’s your thing. Social media doesn’t demand you keep refreshing your Twitter feed, and there’s absolutely no shame in calling it an early night whenever you feel exhaustion coming on strong.
If nothing else, ask yourself this: “Am I smarter than Matt?”
The answer, of course, is a very firm yes.
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